By John Budnik
USACE Alaska District Public Affairs
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON – Underneath his quiet and cool demeanor, 1st Lt. Marcus Farris is ready to be unleashed on race days. A disciplined athlete, he has trained for many hours to represent and compete as a member of the All-Army Triathlon team.
Farris, a quality assurance representative in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District’s Construction Division, said he did not realize his passion for running until his Junior ROTC days while attending high school in Huntsville, Alabama. Back then, preparing for physical training tests introduced him to the sport. Once his engineering studies began at Auburn University, he started participating in ultra marathons – distances longer than the standard 26.2 miles.
Now, his lifestyle consists of athletics and racing for groups such as the All-Army Triathlon and U.S. Military All-Endurance Sports teams as well as individually, he said.
“There are some days that feel like workouts and some that feel like I am playing outside,” Farris, 25, described. “It is good to see that your training pays off now and again.”
On June 7, he competed for the first time with the All-Army Triathlon team in the 2015 U.S. Armed Forces Championships hosted by the Leon’s World Fastest Triathlon at Hammond, Indiana. According to the race results, he finished 17th out of 40 male competitors from all four branches, including members from the Canadian military. Farris completed the Olympic standard triathlon distances of a 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike ride and 10 km run just under two hours. He trailed the leader by nine minutes.
As part of the Army’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program, All-Army sports are available to active-duty, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, according to its website. Soldier-Athletes must complete an application process to be considered for each activity, and to compete at national and international levels. Some of the teams include basketball, boxing, bowling, golf, rugby, soccer, softball, triathlon, volleyball and wrestling.
Making it on a team roster can be as competitive as race day, Farris said. Specifically for triathletes, male applicants must have a confirmed time of less than two hours, seven minutes, and two hours, 35 minutes for women in Olympic distances. Previous experience as an armed forces team member or previous collegiate racing is a bonus.
Additionally, Farris keeps his skills sharp while contending for triathlons with the U.S. Military All-Endurance Sports team, a non-Department of Defense sponsored entity. The program is a division of the non-profit organization American Service Members Amateur Sports Inc. Its purpose is to support amateur athletes, while teaching endurance sports and activities for active-duty, retired and veteran military members, he said.
“This was a team created by service members for service members,” Farris said.
Along with his natural athletic prowess, Farris’ willingness to apply proven exercise physiology principles in order to improve sets him apart from other competitors, said Graham Wilson, triathlon coach for the endurance sports team.
“He is a focused individual,” Wilson said. “Once he sets his mind on a goal or mission, he will do everything in his power to achieve it.”
Within the next two to three years, Farris said his objective is to continue training and competing with the best.
“I am trying to earn a pro card to race at the professional level, but I still have some work to go,” he said. “Short term, I will be racing in the International Triathlon Union’s World Triathlon in Chicago (in September). That is my biggest race of the year, other than the All-Army sports team.”
Meanwhile, Farris broke a seven-year-old record July 11 in the men’s 50-mile time trial at the 13th annual Fireweed 400, according to an Alaska Dispatch News report. In preparation for the World Triathlon, he will race in the Olympic-distance Alaska State Triathlon Aug. 2 near Wasilla.
“All-Army officers are athletes and are expected to be in good shape,” said Capt. Stephen Austria, project engineer at the district’s Northern Area Office near Fairbanks and Farris’ colleague. “I think it is pretty cool that he takes the next step and tries out for the (All-Army) team, trains as a serious hobby and does very well.”
Since moving to Alaska in 2013, Farris’ greatest challenge has been adapting to indoor training because of the long, dark and cold winters.
“It turns into a mind game of how long you can stay on your trainer without going insane, but still obtaining the miles you need to stay competitive,” he said.
The time and effort Farris puts into training for athletic events pays dividends in other areas of his life as well, like focusing better on his job, he said.
Furthermore, Farris said his most memorable moment from his experience as a triathlete was the opportunity to stand on stage during a ceremony that honored veterans before the Armed Forces Championships. The special moment made quite an impression.
“It was all very patriotic,” Farris said. “It was a pretty cool moment right before the race. You remember what you are representing and that it is not just a sport, but everybody you are doing it with. They are your competitors, but they are your brothers-in-arms as well.”
Although he admits the food at the recovery tent is what he thinks about during the home stretch of a grueling race, Farris’ determination pushes him to the end of each competition.
“When you see the finish line, all of the pain you are going through does not matter,” he said. “You focus on finishing. Sprint and give it all you have. Once you cross the line, and you are completely spent, you had a pretty good race because you did not have anything left.”