By John Budnik
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska, July 14, 2015 – Underneath his quiet and cool demeanor, Army 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 realized his passion for running in high school in Huntsville, Alabama. As a cadet in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, he did lots of running to prepare for physical training tests. It wasn't long before he was attending Auburn University and, in his free time, participating in ultramarathons –- distances longer than the standard 26.2 miles.
Now, Farris said, his lifestyle consists of athletics and racing individually and for groups such as the All-Army Triathlon team and U.S. Military All-Endurance Sports team.
“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.
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 in Olympic distances, male applicants must have a confirmed time of less than two hours, seven minutes; for females, it's two hours, 35 minutes. Previous experience as an armed forces team member or past collegiate racing is a bonus.
Expanding Skill Set
Farris keeps his skills sharp while contending for triathlons with the U.S. Military All-Endurance Sports team, a non-Defense Department entity. The program is a division of the nonprofit 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.
It's not just natural athletic prowess that sets Farris apart from other competitors -- it's also his willingness to apply proven exercise physiology principles, 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.”
More Than Winning
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 near Wasilla on Aug. 2.
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 [machine] without going insane, but still obtaining the miles you need to stay competitive,” he said.
Maintaining that competitive edge can pay dividends on race days, but it's not all about victories. Farris said his most memorable moment as a triathlete came when he was 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.”