By Scott Prater
Airman 1st Class Cory Marion had already finished a trail run, kayaked for 12 miles and rumbled over a 20-mile mountain bike course when he found himself dangling over a canyon.
The jagged, rocky earth lay hundreds of feet below and, Airman Marion, near the point of complete exhaustion, was tasked with pulling himself across a climbing rope to safety on the other side.
He eventually finished that 60-mile adventure race course in 11 hours 55 minutes. He placed 11th out of 16 competitors, and at 23, was the youngest to complete the 12-hour course.
Adventure racing is still new to the Global Positioning System Spacecraft Systems Specialist, but he’s hooked already and he’s learning with each competition.
Airman Marion, Schriever’s Athlete of the Quarter for the second quarter of 2009, plans to compete along with three 2nd Space Operations Squadron teammates this fall in a premier adventure race called Wilderness Challenge.
A Pittsburgh, Pa. native, Ariman Marion has been running for most of his life. He played baseball and ran cross country in high school and competed at cross country while attending Westminster College in New Wilmington Pa.
After completing a history degree at the University of Pittsburgh, he enlisted in the Air Force. Following basic training in Texas, and technical school at Vandenburg Air Force Base, Calif., he arrived at Schriever during March of last year.
It didn’t take long for him to find people who share his passion for fitness and running. He joined a group called the sunrise striders, who meet each Tuesday and Thursday mornings between 5:30 and 6 a.m.
“The nice thing about running is it’s pretty cheap,” Airman Marion said. “You can find groups of the same athletic ability, or maybe a little better, and it’s nice to have that social atmosphere. That’s mostly what keeps me doing it.”
Though he says running helps reset his stress level, Airman Marion also enjoys competition. He often runs in local events, like the Garden of the Gods 10-mile run, and he finished second in the Schriever Duathlon June 8, an event that combined running and mountain biking.
It’s only recently that he discovered adventure racing. Capt. Joseph Reveteriano gave him the scoop about the sport last summer. He learned that adventure races often combine running, mountain biking and other outdoor events into one competition. Captain Reveteriano also told Airman Marion that he would be competing in an event called the Muddy Buddy in Boulder that August. Airman Marion decided then that he would also compete in the event. He even challenged Captain Reveteriano, saying he could finish the course with a faster time, which he eventually did.
“The great thing about adventure racing is you get to do a variety of events,” Airman Marion said. “For instance, at the Adventure Xstream this past May, we started with a trail run, then mountain biked, then kayaked, then had to work our way through an orienteering course before entering a tyrolean traverse course, which is basically a rope suspended across a canyon. Once we pulled ourselves across we had to jump on our bikes and complete a technical descent down to the finish.”
It’s clear the sport provides competition in a new kind of format, but Airman Marion says it also provides motivation. And it could become the key aspect for some people who are looking for something different as a way to keep fit.
“It’s harder to get into shape than it is to stay in shape,” Airman Marion said. “This is a fun way to maintain a baseline level of fitness so that there is some sort of motivation, either through competition or just the events themselves. You then have something to train toward.”
Airman Marion is currently training to compete in the Wilderness Challenge, an adventure race that takes place this October in West Virginia. He’ll join Captain Reveteriano, Capt. Stephen Toth and 1st Lt. Caitlyn Diffley to form a Schriever team which will compete against other four-person teams at the event.