Fort McCoy News Nov. 24, 2017

RUNNER'S WORLD:

McCoy major, installation's top Ten-Miler finisher,

has history of athletic success

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

As he was finishing the last mile in the 2017 Army Ten-Miler in Washington D.C. on Oct. 8, Martin Wennblom said all he could think of was the last line in the Army officer oath of office — "So help me God."

"I just had to get there and finish the best I can," said Wennblom, an Army major with the 181st Multi-Functional Training Brigade (MFTB) at Fort McCoy. "I told myself, 'So help me God, I'm going to do this.'"

Wennblom did finish and finish well. Whether or not he had divine intervention is anyone's guess. But, out of the more than 35,000 athletes who registered for the race, the 5-foot, 11-inch, 157-pound Wennblom cruised to the 39th overall finish with a time of 55:49. His finish also garnered him a first-place finish in the age 35-39 category.

Maj. Martin Wennblom with the 181st Multi-Functional Training Brigade goes on a morning run Oct. 18 near Rumpel Fitness Center at Fort McCoy.
Maj. Martin Wennblom with the 181st Multi-
Functional Training Brigade goes on a morning run
Oct. 18 near Rumpel Fitness Center at Fort McCoy.

This was his best individual placement ever in an Army Ten-Miler race, he said. It was even better than the time he helped the staff team from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., win the Army Ten-Miler active-duty mixed category in 2012. Wennblom's 2017 time also anchored Fort McCoy's team success, helping the team earn second place in the Reserve mixed category.

"He's our work horse and an elite runner," said Lt. Col Mark Woommavovah, 181st MFTB deputy commander and the Fort McCoy Army Ten-Miler team coach. "He's been an inspiration to all of us to do well."

A memorable finish

From the 2017 Army Ten-Miler, Wennblom said he'll look back at his performance as a major accomplishment and a great memory — from start to finish.

"It was pretty warm during the race," Wennblom said. "The humidity was pretty high. It had rained before and even a little bit during the race. You would think it would have been nice and cool, but it was 75 degrees and humid. It definitely wasn't ideal conditions."

At the start of the race, Wennblom was able to work his way toward the front of the pack pretty quickly. He didn't race to the front — he just set his 5:30-mile pace immediately.

"At 5 miles, halfway through the race, I heard someone yell out to the guy in front of me that he was in 60th place," Wennblom said. "So I knew I was 61st. As the race went on, I could see there were a lot of people who were slowing down. I did a re-evaluation and figured out that I need to pick it up as some folks had slowed after starting off too hard.

"It's a pretty challenging to maintain the pace I had going on," he said. "Also, if you see others struggling, it's easy to get distracted. Thankfully, I was able to stay focused on running my own race and not necessarily worry about what other people were doing."

As he reached the 7-mile point, Wennblom said he got with a pack of six runners who were running his pace.

"As we crossed the Potomac, there was a south wind coming and we would each exchange the lead," he said. "We actually ran pretty well together. At the 9-mile mark, there were three of us together still."

Among those in the pack with Wennblom was Capt. Tim Nelson with the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armored Regiment of Fort Riley, Kan.
"He actually passed me a couple of times on that stretch," said Nelson, a native of Augusta, Wis., and a four-time Division III national cross-country and track champion at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie.

"He's a stellar athlete and a great runner," said Nelson, who finished 38th overall in 55:42. "I think we fed off of each other as we headed toward the finish. … Personally, this was the best I've ever done in this race."


Maj. Martin Wennblom with the 181st Multi-Functional Training Brigade
stretches before running Oct. 18 at Fort McCoy. The major works out
several times a week and maintains a strict approach to his training
for running.



Wennblom gets in a workout on a treadmill Oct. 18 at Rumpel Fitness Center.
Wennblom gets in a workout on a treadmill Oct. 18 at Rumpel Fitness
Center.

Wennblom said he appreciated having Nelson be there to help push him through that last mile. He only learned of their Wisconsin connection after the race was over.

"I just managed to hang on with Capt. Nelson," Wennblom said. "As I hung on with him, I was able to come in with a pretty good time."

Finishing a 10-mile race with a 5:30 average per mile is not an easy thing to do, Nelson said.

"I actually thought he was younger than he is," said the 27-year-old Nelson. "I was impressed at what he accomplished, especially finishing where he did."

Looking back at Wennblom's history as a runner, it appears he's impressed a lot of people along the way.

Early success

As a youth, Wennblom said he'd hoped to become a star basketball player. He wanted to star for the Indiana Hoosiers and live in that limelight.

"That was a dream, but dreams can change," Wennblom said.

In 1993 during his freshman year at Newport High School in his hometown of Bellevue, Wash., Wennblom joined 100 other athletes to try out for the Newport cross-country team.

"I joined because I wanted to get in better shape to play basketball," Wennblom said. "I ended up making the team and doing well because I was rated within the top 35 of 100 runners. ... At the time, I completely had no idea what running was all about."

It was about that time where Wennblom started becoming addicted to running, so to speak. "I just enjoyed it and the challenges of doing well in this sport."

After his first cross-country season ended, Wennblom said he joined a city cross-country team — the Cascade Striders youth boys team. The team was "packed with talent," he said, and went on to win a national title in the Junior Olympics.

"That's the only national title team I've ever been a part of," Wennblom said. "I haven't won a national title since. But, I have been on some incredible teams since then and have had great success with all of them."

Through four years of high school, Wennblom participated in cross-country every year as well as in track and field. In cross-country, he ran a 5,000-meter race at every meet. In track, he ran 800-meter, 1,600-meter, and 3,200-meter races. "I also played some basketball in there, too," he said.

The success from his high school running career then helped him earn a spot on the college cross-country team at South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D.

"I had some opportunities to run for several different colleges, but I decided that I wanted to be back in the Midwest so I chose the South Dakota State 'Jackrabbits,'" said Wennblom, who was born in Sioux Falls, S.D. "Going there meant I had the opportunity to run for a very historic program. In 1997, when I went there, they had just come off of a national championship, so I wanted to win a championship and be a part of that history."

In college cross-country, runners completed a 10,000-kilometer race, and that proved to be strong challenge for him.

"You could say I was running an Army Ten-Miler back then," Wennblom said. "Seriously though, when you're an 18- or 19-year-old kid, the adjustment to that longer race is pretty tough. It really takes a couple of years to get adjusted and really do well."

In three of the four years Wennblom was at South Dakota State, Wennblom was on teams that participated in national championship meets.

"We actually did well every year I was there," he said. "Our best finish in those national meets was ninth."

Paul Danger, the former head coach for the South Dakota State cross-country team, said Wennblom was leader on the team when he coached him in the late 1990s.

"In our program, running was a byproduct of the entire program," Danger said. "Character and attitude were solidified first among our team members because we knew that would help provide a foundation for success. Marty knew that back then."

Danger said Wennblom became a bonafide leader for the college team, something he really appreciated. When Danger became the coach in 1998, he said the team had seven members. By 2001, when Wennblom graduated, Danger said Wennblom helped him recruit more people and the team grew to 21 members.

"He was never our No. 1 (runner)," Danger said. "I suppose the best runner could be a leader, but Marty was and is more than that. It takes a well-defined spirit to have people follow you because they see your dedication and work ethic. He has that and has carried that great enthusiasm he has into his Army career."

Joining the Army

Every year that he was a competitive runner for South Dakota State, Wennblom also was prepping himself to join another team after graduation — the U.S. Army team.

"When I got there, I joined the ROTC program," Wennblom said. "And by 2001, I received a commission as an officer in the Army and went to my first duty station at Fort Carson, Colo."

Once in the Army, Wennblom said the focus on fitness and running was different than in college or high school.

"I've always tried to stay active," Wennblom said. "Fort most of my time now in the Army, running has always been just a part to all the things we have to do. The running we do, as Soldiers, is about whether or not you can carry the load required of a Soldier. It's about battle fitness, resiliency, and strength."

In the 16-plus years he's been in the Army, Wennblom said he's enjoyed it tremendously even though he's had 37 months of deployment time in Iraq between 2003 and 2007. Through it all, he's kept on running.

"In recent years, I've tried to be on the Ten-Miler team at every installation where I have been stationed," Wennblom said. "I was on the Fort Irwin (Calif.) team, then I was on the West Point, and now I've been a part of the team at Fort McCoy."

Wennblom said he will remain a part of the Fort McCoy team as long as he's here, but he's also working on competing in other running events. With the support of his brother Matt Wennblom, who has been his coach since 2013, Martin is planning to run his seventh marathon in 2018.

"My brother has been my coach since we trained for the Boston Marathon in 2013," Wennblom said. "I was able to improve 22 minutes and run 2:37:39 at Boston. He and I also started focused training this past June, and we've been able to accomplish some great workouts over the last six months with our short-term goal of running a fast half marathon this coming spring and running a full marathon in California in December 2018. In between those races, I look to run in some local races to keep my speed sharp against those younger runners."

Future in coaching?

Wennblom not only likes to run with younger runners, but he also enjoys coaching them.

"I love coaching — I would love to do that after the Army," Wennblom said. "Coaching at South Dakota State would actually be a dream job for me."

Teammates on the Fort McCoy Army Ten-Miler team said he was a great help too. And, his old college coach also said he has what it takes to be an excellent coach.

"His enthusiasm and dedication is contagious," Danger said. "He was a leader on our teams and would make a great coach."
Wennblom said his possible plan to coach is just a plan right now. For now, he said he'll continue to encourage, support, help, and build up fellow Soldiers and others to do well with running and in other things in life.

"I'm really into teaching and sharing my experiences about running, track and field, cross country, and the Army," Wennblom said. "I could probably talk anybody's ear off if they are interested about the sport of running.

"But I also have future leaders to help mold and that will include the sport of running with many of my fellow Soldiers," he said. "I'm just getting started, so help me God."