MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
"It hurts to a point, and then it doesn't hurt anymore." This quote by Ann Trason, an ultra marathon runner, is posted among a myriad of other quotes from running enthusiasts on Cpl. Christine Kunish's desk. The messages served as constant challenges, reminding her of her goal as she prepared for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., recently.
Her results? With a run time of three hours and eight minutes, she placed 325th overall, while being the 25th female to cross the line. Considering there were more than 30,000 runners, that's quite an accomplishment.
She did not run for the glory, however. She ran to accomplish a goal, to set an example for her Marines and simply for the joy of it.
Kunish is a runner, Marine, leader, wife of a deployed husband and mother of two. While juggling all of this, she finds ways to remain on top of her game.
She began running in middle school with her father, which brought the two closer, though they didn't talk on the long treks.
"It was a quiet time," said Kunish, where she learned that one could be at peace with themselves while running.
When she graduated high school, she attended college for two years. While focusing on her studies, she ran, but not as much as she did growing up.
But after those two years, she found herself in need of a challenge, something that would have a huge impact on her life. She thought of the military, which is a lifestyle her father said she couldn't hack.
Ironically, her father's words are what inspired her. Perhaps it was pride, but she was out to prove him and any other naysayers wrong.
"My father said I wasn't going to be able to handle it, so that's one of the reasons why (I wanted to join)," Kunish said. "But, (when I was looking at the different branches) the Marine Corps recruiter told me that no other branch would challenge me more."
She decided to "one up" her father, which landed her at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., to be a part of the toughest military branch this world has come to know.
So far, the Marine Corps has "kept their end of the bargain," Kunish admitted.
The person who she credits with getting her running again is her husband, Sgt. Thomas Kunish, a former member of the Marine Corps Running Team whom she met, oddly enough, while running in Okinawa, Japan. Having been away from the sport for almost a year, he decided to run a half marathon.
"He did it in an hour and 15 minutes and that really motivated me," she said.
Thomas spoke of a time when she used his "dream books," a log of training regiments that he wishes to do one day. During his current deployment, he called Christine and found she was using those to train with - unaware the books were only musings to him, not concrete plans.
"That's the tenacity and fierceness she has," he said. "It's all her. She has the motivation to do it. Everything she accomplishes is on her own."
He said that he trains now to keep up with her.
"Whichever one of us is slower is the one who's going to be pushing the strollers," he joked.
Kunish has two young daughters. Throughout her pregnancies, she continued to train and run races. While running a 5k, pushing a stroller and simultaneously dealing with nausea and her daughter repeatedly throwing her bottle out of the stroller, she managed to make it through the race, finishing third.
Though she runs to set an example for her daughters, they are too young to see her example right now. So she keeps her fellow Marines in mind, especially the female Marines.
"I want to be that female role model for them," Kunish said. "I want to show them that no matter what, being a female should not limit you. You can do anything."
Despite her hard work, she still faces some scrutiny from fellow male Marines.
"My biggest obstacle is the male counterpart," she said. "No matter what you do, they still don't see you as their equal. You have to push twice as hard to be where they're at and once you get there, you're still not good enough.
"A few don't follow that thought pattern," she added. "They say, ‘Wow, you're awesome. (They) like you as a Marine, and that makes me feel good."
Kunish made it through the Marine Corps Marathon as the third female Marine to cross the finish line. Soon after, the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, performed her reenlistment ceremony on the spot.
As for her future, Kunish plans to remain in the Marine Corps.
"I'm pretty happy with my life," she said. "I like where I've come. I've worked hard to get where I am and I'll continue to work harder."