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The Grand Prix Series, which started in 1993, kicked off its 2012 race series aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune with the All-Terrain Four Mile Challenge, Feb. 11.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Lia Adkins

Grand Prix Series challenges runners

16 Feb 2012 | Lance Cpl. Lia Adkins

The sweat is dripping off your chin, burning your eyes and your muscles are screaming for you to stop, telling you they can’t handle any more. They’re ready to give out, but there’s still another mile left and quitting is not an option.

It’s the experience most people dread, but can lead to complete satisfaction when it’s over; running. As Marines, running is at the base of most unit workouts, but running monotonous distances or routes gets dull and can take the fun out of it. So, to help make running exciting again, Marine Corps Community Services’ Semper Fit Division aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune kicked off its Grand Prix Series for 2012, Saturday.

“We started the Grand Prix Series in 1993. We had about six races the first year and about eight races the second year,” said Mike Marion, French Creek Fitness Center manager. “We’ve averaged between six and seven races per year since then. Some years, we’ve gone up to 12, but there were some years we’ve had to cancel due to deployments. However, we always make it up the following year.”

The Grand Prix Series doesn’t just hold runs, but physically tasking courses that challenge participants. This year, Semper Fit Division has 18 races scheduled in the MCB Camp Lejeune area and neighboring cities, including New Bern, Jacksonville, Wilmington and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

“What we’ve done in order to give everyone a bigger variety of runs to do, is paired up with (MCAS) Cherry Point and with some of the races from the local community, including Hope for the Warriors, Diligence Dash and the Battleship Half Marathon,” said Marion. “These are open to the public, and, that way, those who live in places such as New Bern have a run right there in New Bern and don’t constantly have to drive down just to participate.”

The Grand Prix Series works on a point system. Runners receive points for simply finishing each race and receive additional points for placing in any category. Each race has awards for the winners of multiple categories: five different age ranges, overall female and male, overall masters female and male, and teams. The points are tallied at the end of each year for the End of Year awards, which recognizes the overall champions. Nearly 100 medals are given at each event.

“Our most popular runs right now are the mud runs. So this year we’ve added a couple additional runs,” said Marion. “(Saturday’s run was) All-Terrain (four mile challenge) on trails at Courthouse Bay, but when you come to the X-Treme Endurance Challenge at Camp Devil Dog, that’s going to be just like one of the tough mudder (runs). It’s going to include obstacles (such as) a rope (challenge), mud pits and obstacles to run over. That will be a little bit more extreme than the run at Courthouse Bay.”

While most of the runs are conducted in wooded areas or trails, some of the larger races may cause road delays and lane closures. For example, the Run for the Warriors held in Jacksonville causes delays along Gum Branch Road every year.

“There will be closures for the Marine Corps Half Marathon, from Russell Marine and Family Services Center, down Holcomb Boulevard, around officer housing and back up to the schools. That’s our biggest road closure aboard the base,” said Marion. “We never actually close a road completely, we just either have delays or we go down only one lane. We try not to close anything, but we will announce delays.”

Road delays are typically announced on the MCCS Semper Fit Division and base web sites.

“Another thing is, people think, ‘Oh, it’s a race, well I’m not fast enough to run a race,’” said Marion. “And I thought that for a long time until I ran my first 10K race in New Jersey. Then I realized, ‘Hey this is fun. I don’t have to be fast.’ I even had an 80-year-old woman beating me. You realize it’s more of a fun thing, and you don’t have to win.

“Some people are very surprised, because when they come out here and see there’s only one or two people in their age group, they might go home with a medal. Then everything changes, it’s a little bit of extra motivation when you get out there and see what everyone else is doing,” continued Marion. “Next thing you know, you’ve gotten five points for every race, and possibly placed a few times, and you’re eligible for the End of Year awards. It’s really rewarding.”

The next race scheduled is the Cherry Point Half Marathon at MCAS Cherry Point, March 24. For information on the Grand Prix Series and a run schedule, visit