Running man: A Marine with a dream

21 Sep 2003 | Army Spc. Bronwyn M. Meyer

One Marine in the Kuwaiti desert isn't concerned about passing his physical fitness test. He doesn't trek miles and miles through the desert because he needs to stay in shape. He runs for a different purpose - Olympic glory. Before Cpl. Justin Lutz, a 6th Motor Transportation Battalion vehicle operator, and Walpole, Mass., native, came to the desert to support Operation Iraqi Freedom he was training for the 2004 Summer Olympic trials. Even though his plans to compete in the Olympic time trials have taken a little detour, he is still working as hard as ever to see his dream become a reality. Instead of trying to qualify for the 2004 Olympics, he now has his sights set on 2008. For the past five months, instead of pounding the pavement on cool Massachusetts mornings, he ran over sand and rocks, through oppressive heat and constant sandstorms. "I have never trained in this type of environment. The wind is really strong. It's hot, 100 degrees Fahrenheit when it's cool out," Lutz said. "It is definitely difficult to train out here, but I try to not give myself a choice. I make (training) something I have to do."Lutz, a member of the running team Reebok Boston, is training to run the steeplechase. The races to qualify for the 2004 Olympics time trials were held last spring. Lutz was deployed during this time so he was unable to compete, he said.The steeplechase is a 3,000-meter footrace that requires the runner to jump over obstacles such as fences, water ditches and open ditches. "It is a pretty difficult event that requires coordination and, obviously, speed and strength," said Lutz.The avid runner may have missed his chance to compete against potential Olympic athletes this year, but he did race fellow service members during the Camp Doha, Kuwait 5-kilometer Labor Day road race on Sept. 1. Lutz crushed the competition by beating the second place finisher by 2 minutes."I've been trying to keep my training up so I'm at a different [fitness] level than everyone else out here who just runs to keep in shape. I run for a different purpose," said Lutz. A hectic schedule and the unpredictability of life in a combat zone has not halted Lutz' training, but it has slowed it down a little. "There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to run but not being able to because of restrictions such as the weather, or going to Iraq," he said. "I can't run when I am driving."Lutz has been busy during and after the war, but he still manages to run 65 to 75 miles a week."Normally my training is around 85 to 90 miles a week, but it gets busy out here so I can't have a consistent training schedule," Lutz said. Even after a busy day of driving through Iraq, Lutz doesn't take a break. He darts off for a run around the Marine encampment when the 6th MTB stops at a base for the night."It can be tough because driving all day can wear you down, but that doesn't usually stop him," said Lance Cpl. Nathan Murphy.Murphy, a 6th MTB vehicle operator and Barre, Mass., native of Barre, Mass., has watched Lutz train for the past five months."He is a pretty motivated guy," said Murphy. "Lutz has a gift of running and he has to maintain that level [of physical fitness] to be able to compete."Many coalition troops in theater missed pivotal moments in their lives, be it the birth of a child, a wedding anniversary, a holiday with family, or in Lutz' case, realizing a dream."There are a million different things that people have missed out here, some are on a larger scale than others," said Murphy. Although Lutz had to put his Olympic dream on hold, he is satisfied with his role in Operation Iraqi Freedom and glad to be apart of the effort. "I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't get [to compete], but I also knew this would be a unique opportunity to be part of a war, and I am glad to help out," said Lutz. When Lutz returns home he says he will begin training harder than ever so he can be prepared for the Olympic trials in five years."I want to make progress next year, and then really fly the next couple of years, and be ready to go for 2008," said Lutz.