Service members dig in their heels at Grand Prix’s Sand-Sational 8K run

2 Aug 2012 | By 2ndLt Sarah E. Burns

Onslow Beach has seen its’ fair share of strange beach attire, but the people who flocked to the beach July 21 ditched the flip-flops and laced up their running shoes for the Sand-Sational 8k Beach Run sponsored by Marine Corps Community Sports, part of the Grand Prix series.

The gun went off at the official start time of 7 a.m., sending a record mass of participants across the hard-packed sand for roughly five miles and what turned out to be truly a ‘fun run.’

“This is the most we’ve ever had (at the Sand-Sational Beach Run),” explained Mike Marion, race coordinator for MCCS. Approximately 450 runners of all ages registered for the event, and 372 completed the course, according to

Seven-year old Mark Myers took home a few awards from the race including first place in his division and a team award by completing the course with a time of 47 minutes 22 seconds, equating to about a 9:41 mile pace. While he showed true talent running on the beach, his real fitness passion is fueled with dirt.

“I like the mud runs,” said Myers, who also competed in the Grand Prix series race, ‘Mud, Sweat and Tears five mile run’ last May.

He ran as a member of The Yard Athletic Fitness Club, a team coached by his dad, Corey Myers. The team is made up of 6 to 8-year-olds who train twice a week doing CrossFit type, high-intensity workouts mixed with team building and character discussions.

His training showed results as two of the Yard runners, Mark Myers and Tristan Carmichael, earned multiple awards in the race. “They’re awesome. I’m just so proud of them,” Corey said.

The boys weren’t the only ones to win more than one award Saturday morning. Lt Col. Denise Mull, Combat Logistics Battalion 2 commander, and Col. Henry Mull, II Marine Expeditionary Force Administrative chief of staff, both earned awards in the individual and team categories, all while wearing the barefoot running-toe shoes.

The two have been running together since the Marine Corps Marathon 13 years ago. The combination of four marathons apiece plus time and hard pavement took its toll on their running finesse until the popularity and healing powers of the barefoot shoe arrived. “I love them. I’ve ran two marathons in them and a host of half marathons,” said Denise. “They’re really good for you structure. We were having back and knee pains, and it all went away.”

“I started running barefoot on the beach on weekends and transitioned to these shoes, said Henry. “ And now, no problems.”

Whether it be an outstanding drive or the shoes to keep them running, their accomplishments Saturday were admirable. Denise deployed to Afghanistan the week after the race with the next running event on her schedule being the Marine Corps Marathon at Camp Leatherneck this fall.

In the United States, The Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC will be pleased to have Sgt. Thomas and Cpl. Christine Kunish, the husband and wife duo of the All–Marine Marathon Team, racing in front of the crowd this fall. The couple won first overall male and female, with times of 27:37 and 33:25 respectively, and placed first in the team category.

This race was the first opportunity for the couple to compete in the same category. “It’s amazing to be here with your family,” Thomas Kunish said while holding one of his daughters in his arms. “It’s not about winning, it’s about the girls seeing us running and racing, and doing this as a couple.”

Family, fun and fitness seemed to be the theme of the beachy race. Capt. Roy Fish, Law Enforcement Battalion, and his wife wore Kelly-green ‘Team Fish’ T-shirts while running the race. Their daughter cheered them on wearing a much smaller version of the green shirt.

“We do everything as ‘Team Fish,” explained Fish.

“But as for the competition, you kind of get together with people running the same pace as you, and it is good to motivate each other, keep yourself going,” said Fish’s wife. “That’s another good thing about these races.”

The event was extremely well organized, and there were plenty of refreshments to go around after the race thanks to the incredible volunteers and race organizers. Nature seemed to appreciate their efforts because the tide cooperated sparing many shoes from the waves of salt water crashing on the beach, and the weather remained cool for the runners and race volunteers.

The next event of the Grand Prix Series is the Cherry Point Sprint Triathlon Aug. 25.