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Navy commander takes home 34th Marine Corps Marathon

By Lance Cpl. Benjamin Harris | | October 25, 2009

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A 33-year-old Navy commander took top honors at the 34th Annual Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 25 in only his second attempt running the course.

Lt. Cmdr. John Mentzer, an engineering duty officer at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Maine, ran the 26.2 mile race in 2 hours, 21 minutes, 48 seconds. This was his first marathon win in only his fifth attempt, including qualifying for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials at the 2006 Chicago Marathon.

“I felt really good,” Mentzer said. “First couple of miles I didn’t think I was going to feel that good. There are a lot of tight turns, a lot of rolls but I felt superb. That last 10K that was tough though… probably the toughest last 10K I’ve ever had in a marathon.”

Even though he won the race, Mentzer enjoys the camaraderie of the other runners.

“It’s just a fun race,” he said. “It’s a race where any given day there is about 10 or 12 guys who can win it, so it makes (the race) exciting. The guys and gals who run this race, run it because they love running.”

The first woman to cross the finish line was Muliye Gurmu, an Ethiopian native, with a time of 2:49:48. Gurmu, a professional runner, doesn’t usually participate in races without prize money, but did it as a favor for her coach, Sue Bozgoz who is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army.

Dubbed “The People’s Marathon,” many runners pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces, both past and present.

“I don’t want to think for one second what I did was even close to what those men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan do,” said Mentzer, a 1998 Naval Academy graduate. “I mean, they put their lives on the line every day.”

Many Marines from around the globe come to run the race.

“The reason we’re out here is because of the Marines over there and the Marines who came before us,” said Sgt. Ryan Ellis, the first Marine to cross the finish line.

Ellis, a tactical air operator with the Early Warning and Control Detachment, Marine Air Control Squadron 1, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, ran the marathon in 2:39:52. Even though he finished after a number of service members from other branches, Ellis said he was still proud of completing his four year goal of finishing first among the Marines participating in the Marine Corps Marathon.


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