By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
It’s that time of year again when a lot of people are lacing up their sneakers and stretching out their legs – racing season has arrived!
Thousands of people race and volunteer at these events every year to build military camaraderie, enhance community relations and, of course, reach fitness goals. They’re popular morale-boosting events. But it’s possible that no one is more into the spirit of them than 66-year-old George Banker.
Banker isn’t the youngest guy on these two courses – he’s definitely not the oldest, either – but he might have the most experience and insight into them. The upcoming Marine Corps Marathon will be his 33rd, making it his 107th overall. He also just happens to be the operation manager for the ATM and the historian for the MCM. So yeah – he knows a good bit about all aspects of the races.
Banker has pretty much spent a lifetime with the military, too. As the son of two Marines and the younger brother of an Army lifer, he naturally joined the military, too – as a member of the Air Force.
“My older brother spent 32 years in the Army, but I told him I didn’t do dirt,” Banker joked. “I wanted a challenge.”
Banker spent 20 years as an airman, including during the Vietnam War. But his real passion didn’t get kicked into gear until his early 30s, when he started running for exercise and ended up picking up the marathon bug.
Nowadays, he tries to blend his love for both by being a race jack-of-all-trades. He’s a mentor, organizer, photographer, journalist and overall problem-solver for the events. That drive has made him a good coach, too.
“I’ll have you getting out there doing things you thought you couldn’t do. Don’t tell me you can’t do something, because if you haven’t tried it, don’t tell me you can’t,” Banker said.
Since the ATM is coming up this weekend, here are a few key things he wants people to know about it:
It’s a great way for civilians to see the military in a different light.
There are areas called Hooah Tents where people can interact with active-duty soldiers and learn about the camaraderie built in the military. And then there’s just good ole-fashioned communication.
“While you’re out there running with 30,000 people, you’re going to talk to somebody. And if you don’t talk to them, they’re going to talk to you. They may not even realize they’re running next to an admiral, because they’re not wearing their insignias,” Banker said.
It’s not just a race.
The Army Ten-Miler is a highly anticipated community event that brings together residents, service members, businesses and even fraternities.
“Some of those same residents may wind up being volunteers that come out,” Banker said. “We may have close to 1,000 volunteers, a combination of civilians and soldiers.”
Really, it’s all about the stories.
“It’s not about how fast you can run it,” Banker said. It’s more about what drives each person to do it – how they balance training with their personal lives and what motivates them.
“Every runner is out there for a specific reason. It’s the stories that really make the event stand out.”
The two races are inextricably linked.
“We had seven people who have won the Army Ten-Miler and went on to win the Marine Corps Marathon,” Banker said. He acknowledged that many of those participants use the ATM as their final tune-up for the marathon, which is only a few weeks later.
Banker has even written a book about the marathon, called “The Marine Corps Marathon: A Running Tradition” – a book that he considers one of his life’s greatest achievements.
“I look at it more as a labor of love,” he said.
Banker will be out there working the ATM course this weekend, not as a competitor but to make sure runners get the most out of an incredible experience. Good luck to him and all the runners in these upcoming races!
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