CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Afghanistan --
Running is in his blood, so Staff Sgt. Raymond German Jr.’s passion for the sport began at an early age. The Detroit native began running with his grandmother at a local park while growing up and eventually found his stride running alongside friends on his high school and college cross country teams. Eventually his love for physical fitness found its niche in the Marine Corps, where a 1,000-mile challenge piqued his interest.
It began as the Leatherneck Challenge, a series of mile markers suited to test the endurance of any Marine. By running, biking, cross training and rowing, German could have chosen 236, 472 or 944 miles, but he decided to go the distance and push himself to 1,000.
“It became a challenge between me and one of the watch officers,” said German, the legal chief for the office of the Staff Judge Advocate, 2nd Marine Division (Forward). “He was only out for a six-month deployment, trying to reach 236 miles.”
The competition between the two became fierce as they constantly tried to one-up each other.
“When I'd see him come in off a casual five-mile run, I would immediately go do six miles,” said Melbourne, Fla., native Capt. James Morgan, a government prosecutor with the Legal Services Support Section for 2nd Marine Division. “When I would come in and boast that I just did seven miles in the 110-degree heat, he'd go do eight miles in the 115-degree heat at an even better clip. It was awesome. He is just an animal when it comes to (physical training). Even when he was having a bad day because he wasn't able to talk to his daughter or he hadn't heard from his family in a while, he'd get out there and run his worries away. It was not only awesome, it was inspiring.”
As the legal chief for the SJA it is his responsibility to review and process investigations taking place within the entire Division of 10,000 Marines. German said running allows him to get out of the office and relieve stress; it cleanses his soul and it is where his mind can escape.
“I think about my daughter – she’s about to be seven this year,” said German. “I think about her starting to run and following in my footsteps. I think about things I could do to better myself. My thoughts are random – as I’m running, they’re running.”
For a long time, German used his runs as a way to train for the Marine Corps Marathon (Forward) aboard Camp Leatherneck. With so many miles to go it was necessary for German to spice up his many runs around the base by changing his routes frequently and challenging himself to break personal records on various courses to avoid monotony. When he wasn’t hitting the pavement, he went to the cardio gym to workout on an elliptical machine, treadmill or bike.
“It’s very repetitive, but being able to get out there and not worry about where you are, just worry about your running – you kind of forget that you’re running in circles sometimes,” said German.
He finished the 1,000-mile challenge Jan. 16 with a morning run followed by three miles in the cardio gym … only nine months after beginning. His goals don’t stop there though, as he is training to beat a half marathon time of an hour and 30 minutes.
“It’s about challenging yourself,” German said. “It’s pushing your body beyond its limits. As you get older you always want to put a goal out there in front of you.”
Editor’s note: Second Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.