It was a beautiful morning for running. Temperate, dry and still.
I ran 4.1 miles at a slow pace, clocking the first mile at 10:45, then circling back to my driveway at the midway point to drink the water I had left there while I temporarily suspended my clock at 22 minutes. Glancing past my back yard as I drank, I saw two soldiers in camouflage run by on the W&OD trail behind my house carrying bulging backpacks, leaning forward and moving at a slow, steady trot.
As I continued my run, I encountered them a few minutes later returning on the W&OD Trail, moving ever forward in a brisk shuffle, running quietly in their soft-soled combat boots. I fell in beside these two lean young men.
"Who are you with?" I asked. The nearest one looked over and politely said, "112th Regiment." The second soldier stared straight ahead, sweat pouring down his face.
"What are you training for?" I asked. "The Ranger Competition in the spring, sir," he answered. "We go 40 miles with 60 pounds that first day." A runner passed us going the other way and called to these two men, "You guys are terrific! Thank you!"
"How far are you going today?" I asked. "Fifteen miles with 45 pounds. We just reached the turnaround back there," the one next to me said.
I was running on the uneven dirt shoulder of the blacktop trail, wobbling slightly due to the undulating surface. The two soldiers running abreast moved over slightly and the closest one said, "You can run up here, sir." (Left: I ran briefly this morning with heavily-laden soldiers like these two pictured finishing a marathon. They always run together in support of each other.)
Instead, I wished them well, bid them adieu and turned off the trail to finish my run, energized by the awesomeness of their presence. I finished my 4.1 miles in 39:21, with a substantial negative split after seeing those guys.