MCAS FUTENMA, OKINAWA, JAPAN --
MCAS FUTENMA, Okinawa, Japan. — With gyms shut down and large-scale physical training together suspended for many Marines, units across the Corps have found unique ways to keep Marines active. For Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (VMM-262), it’s meant creating The Flying Tiger Running Challenge.
“VMM-262 started The Flying Tiger Running Challenge on April 1st to promote physical fitness and combat these unique COVID times through individual fitness, motivation, confidence-building, and good old competition,” described VMM-262’s Sgt. Maj. Paul Hannaway.
“The goal is to run 75 miles on the road (no treadmills) before the end of April. Those who complete the challenge get bragging rights and a Flying Tiger Running Club t-shirt, and those who run 100 miles get a “100 miler” shirt. Proof of run completion via fitness Apps is verified by staff non-commissioned officers or officers in charge. I thought that only a dozen or so would sign up, but it resulted in half of the squadron voluntarily participating from the commanding officer down.”
By late April, the squadron has already logged over 3,800 miles.
“To put it into perspective we’ve run from MCRD San Diego out to MCRD Parris Island and we’re now over halfway back as a squadron. We’ve got a little over a week left and are on track to make it back to San Diego and then some,” said 1st Lt. Sam LaPorte.
“18 Marines and three sailors already completed the 75-mile challenge and three Marines have run close to 200 miles each,” said Hannaway. “The Marines’ motivation has been contagious. Night crew Marines are crushing half marathons at midnight after their shift. One Marine on the Body Composition Program lost two percent body fat in ten days.”
“I wish it was my idea. I actually got it from a gunny I worked with at my last billet,” 1st Lt. Sam LaPorte explains. “This is something he initially put together, and I realized it would fit our operational tempo. The amount of hours we work makes whole squadron physical training sessions hard to logistically set up already, with Marines being in and out all the time.”
LaPorte describes this challenge as an outlet for Marines to set their own goals and milestones while being able to compete with other Marines in the unit that they may not usually train with under normal circumstances.
“This challenge captures the resiliency of 1st MAW Marines, their continued passion to pursue excellence, and the warrior spirit that exists in all Marines,” added Hannaway. “We are finalizing our fitness challenge for May and it looks like 1,250 pull-ups will be the task, along with running 50 miles and virtually completing the ‘Murph’ challenge prior to the Memorial Day 96.”
LaPorte also claims that in the future there will be a long term six-month-long fitness challenge, allowing Marines to develop long term goals and fitness plans.
The current challenge leader is Cpl. Kyle Daly, a Marine who grew up in Southern California and graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism before joining the Marine Corps.
“Initially, I wasn’t planning on making this a career; I just wanted to serve,” Daly stated. “My dad was in the Marines and it’s kind of a family legacy thing. I’m currently looking at the officer route for the future.”
“I’m a big-time runner. I’ve done half marathons, marathons, and two ultras before I joined the Marines,” said Daly. “I’m not a fast guy, but I love the endurance of running. It’s kept me in shape all these years, and I’m on the older side, actually being 31 years old. So I have to keep up with these younger guys. Running has always allowed me to stay in shape and compete with other Marines that could be 10 plus years younger than me.”
Daly hopes to set the example at the highest standard by clocking in an astonishing 200-plus miles a week before the challenge deadline.
“I would’ve ran a lot had this competition not happened, but I wake up motivated to go running because of this challenge,” Daly said.