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Thousands turn out for 34th annual Army Ten-Miler

Richard Reeve/ABC7

The Army Ten-Miler is a different kind of road race.

“The atmosphere, the atmosphere is special,” said Charlie Agbert, a runner from Springfield. “This is my twelfth running of it, it’s my favorite race.”

At 8 a.m. Sunday morning, 35,000 runners bolted from the starting line at the Pentagon.

Running tanks, tees and jerseys, in every color imaginable.

A different kind of display of fall colors.

“It was really inspiring to run past people who had their causes on their shirts and the people they were running for,” said Carol Ann Assante, from Crystal City. “A lot of camaraderie, of people cheering everybody on, whether you knew somebody or not. It was really nice that people seemed to be in really good spirits this morning.”

Of course, there was the heat and the humidity.

And a new course, across the Key Bridge, instead of the usual Memorial Bridge route, because of repairs. It's the first time that’s happened in the Ten-Miler’s 34-year history.

“It was bad, it was tough, the humidity is hard,” Agbert said with a wry smile. “But we persevere, we do it.”

It took him 93 minutes to finish the 10 miles.

But he did it.

“It was a little hot, last year they ended up shutting the race down early because it was so hot,” Assante said. “But this year they had lots of water stations and people seemed to be a little more prepared for it.”

35,000 runners.

35,000 stories.

“This time I ran it for my dad and my mom, because my mother is also buried at Arlington National Cemetery,” said Emily Hornak, who traveled from Birmingham, Alabama, to take part in the race.

Hornak was thinking a lot about her father Robert, and her mother, Mary Clare.

Her dad, an Army Ranger during the Vietnam War, was wounded in 1967, and came back to the states to be an instructor at Fort Benning.

He also instilled a love of running in his daughter.

“He got me up every morning and got me motivated to run when I didn’t want to,” Hornak said. “After he passed, it was the one thing that kept me sane.”

The title “Ranger” also jumped out on Alex Whitten’s running top.

On the back was a shield, with a lightning bolt and a star, on a blue background.

“I’m running in memory of Jimmy Regan, James Regan,” Whitten said.

It's a name well known by the Duke University community, especially anyone connected with the school’s championship lacrosse team.

A star college athlete, Regan was deeply affected by the 9/11 attacks.

Friends said he rejected Wall Street offers and law school scholarships to become an Army Ranger.

Regan, 26, was killed in Iraq in February 2007 when an IED hit his combat vehicle.

Whitten says he hopes the Army Ten-Miler will spread the word about leadthewayfund.org.

Based on Long Island, New York, the website helps wounded vets returning home, to get back on their feet.

“(It’s) instrumental in helping a lot of combat wounded vets coming back and re-assimilate into life in the states,” Whitten said. “Guys coming out of combat are now getting assistance within college programs, their undergraduate and post graduate, so it’s pretty cool, pretty cool endeavor.”

Two soldiers from Fort Sam Houston won Sunday’s race.

Twenty-five-year-old Specialist Frankline Tonui won the men’s race with a time of 50:23.

This was his first Army Ten-Miler.

Thirty-one-year-old Specialist Susan Tanui was the fastest women, finishing in 56:33.

She came in first place last year, too.

“It’s a special race,” Hornak said.

After she crossed the finish line, she went to Arlington National Cemetery, to the grave site where her father was buried on February 18, 1998.

She placed her five-sided “finishing coin” on her father’s grave marker.

A loving tribute.

Ten long miles.

The push to win fueled by the boundaries of the heart.

“The Army Ten-Miler totally gave me the extra motivation to be able to get out and train every day and run,” Hornak said. “I’m not only running for my dad, but I’m running for our military.”

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