‘United We March’ tests endurance of marchers, honors heroes
By Robert Stevens
GUNNISON—Despite challenging terrain and injuries on the trail, the inaugural United We March fundraiser, which took place in Gunnison on Saturday in remembrance of 9/11 and to support America’s heroes, was a big success, said event organizers—thanks to the enthusiastic participants and volunteers.
“United We March 2018 was successful because of the amazing committee and those who participated,” said Justen Mellor of Gunnison, one of the organizers. “The stories of struggling through, whether they finished or not, show the amazing hearts of people and how they love all of our heroes.”
“Ruck” is a military term for a hike, often through rough terrain, and often carrying military gear. The full-ruck race was 26 miles and the half-ruck race was 16.1 miles.
Participants had a choice of racing in the heavy class, which required carrying a 35-pound backpack, or the light class, which didn’t require a backpack.
Only one team, the UVU veterans, entered the heavy full-ruck race. During the race, one racer broke an ankle and another suffered dehydration and had to be hospitalized. Despite those setbacks, some of the UVU Veterans crossed the finish line.
Mellor participated in a Bataan Memorial March in New Mexico in 2017 and modeled the march Saturday in Gunnison after it. (The original Bataan March was a 65-mile march in the South Pacific during World War II, where many American and Filipino prisoners of war died.)
The local march honoring service members, fire fighters, EMS, Search and Rescue and law enforcement, raised funds to benefit the UVU Veterans Success Center; the Utah 1033 Foundation, which provides financial help to law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty; the U. of U. Burn Camp, which helps firefighters and fire victims recover from burn injuries; and Sanpete Search and Rescue, which performs rescues and helps out with a variety of law enforcement functions in the county.
Although the committee is still finalizing numbers, it estimates more than $30,000 was raised.
Jace Sorensen of Salina took first place in the individual heavy class full-ruck race. Camille Mason of Salina came in second.
Sue Williams, 60, of Salina won first place in the individual heavy half-ruck race. Robert Thomson, 44, of Ephraim won second-place in the same class.
Mike Bartholomew, 61, of Sterling came in first place in the individual light full-ruck race. Alyssia Stevenson, 38, of Manti, came in second in the individual light full ruck.
The individual light half-ruck race winners were John St. Clair, 56, from Fairway, Kansas, (first place) and Jayne Green, 46, of Gunnison (second).
In the team heavy half-ruck race, Ash Grove and Christensen Arms came in first and second, respectively.
In the team light half-ruck race, the Gunnison Valley Fire Department won first place and the Gunnison Valley Hospital team took second.
Another race, the Gunnison Hospice Run to Remember 5K, took place at the same time. The winner was Wyatt Monroe, age 11. Second place in the 5K was taken by Valerie Anderson, 30.
Event committee member Mike Wanner said, “This was not one person’s effort but a whole organization. We are so grateful for all the help. There are so many responsible for such a successful event.”
Mellor credited volunteers such as Mindy Coates and Kara Jensen with helping runners stay hydrated along the long march.
“I gotta say [they] outworked and out played us all.” Mellor said. “It was an enormous task to handle water/fruit stations, and they came back dusty but smiling through it all. They were the United We March cheerleaders.”
He also thanked the Gunnison Valley royalty, Manti city royalty, and other “amazing young women who kept us hydrated all day long.”
Second-place full ruck winner, Alyssia Stevenson, said, “Mindy and Kara were the reason I could keep running.”
Volunteer Mindy Bunnell Coats said she and fellow volunteer Kara Jensen cried a few times watching participants push through their pain. “I am proud of every person who started at the beginning,” she said. “I don’t care how far you made it, ‘cause think about it…. you made it that far and that is so awesome! Thanks for letting me be a part of such an amazing weekend.”