MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- A red Pontiac Grand Am makes its way toward MCLB Albany, but 5 miles away its brake lights start to glow. A 5'4", 130-lb. man steps out of the vehicle and waves as he watches the perfectly tuned car drive off. Wearing running shoes and a stopwatch, this Sailor is armed and ready to fight a black unforgiving beast - the road.
Navy Lt. Steven J. Bowser, MCLB Albany's public works officer averages running 30 miles a month, twice as much as some people run in a year. But if he were asked, six years ago, if he would ever run this much he simply reply "no."
Bowser used to only run about three times a week to keep in shape to run 1½ miles in less than 10 minutes to pass the Navy's physical fitness test. But one day in 1997 after watching his close friend, Navy Lt. Eric Hawn, run the Shamrock Marathon at Virginia Beach, the thought of running a marathon crossed his mind. However it was not until Hawn challenged him to run the next year's marathon that he agreed to run such a long distance, 26.2 miles.
When his friend, a veteran runner, took him under his wing, Bowser's running career started to blossom.
Even though Bowser runs on a regular basis, he admit he doesn't entirely enjoy running. Although there are sometimes when he will lace up his Asics running shoes and take to the blacktop to satisfy his craving to run.
"Training for a marathon is difficult and there are a lot of times when I wonder why I'm doing it," said Bowser. "I'm out on the road running 18 to 20 miles on a Saturday morning, when I could be relaxing by the swimming pool."
Every year Bowser runs at least one marathon, but he said he has different reasons for running in each one. The Shamrock was the first marathon he ran, just to see if he could overcome hours of monotonous running. The next challenge Bowser faced was the Marine Corps Marathon that takes place in the nation?s capital. He chose to compete in that grueling marathon because it is well known and attracts many good runners.
Having several marathons under his belt, Bowser set his sights on a race popular to many competitive runners, the Boston Marathon. He was attracted to this marathon because it is the only open event of its kind that requires runners to qualify to compete.
Bowser competed in the Boston Marathon for the second time April 15. He decided to compete in it again because he wanted to beat his time from last year. But he said his biggest feat so far was finishing a marathon in less than three hours, which he achieved when he ran the Boston Marathon for the first time.
This avid runner doesn't enter marathons to compete against other runners, but to challenge himself and improve his finishing time at every marathon. Bowser was the 730th of 14,578 runners to complete the 2002 Boston Marathon. But this is not what put a smile on his face. Beating his time from last year's run by 2½ minutes with a time of 2:55:19 is what made him happy. But he will not stop there. He plans to return to Boston every year and improve his finishing time and hopes his personal record will be on "the most fabled marathon course in the world," the Boston Marathon.
"When I cross the finish line after running a marathon, it makes all the training feel well worth it," said Bowser.
Running has not only kept Bowser in peak physical condition, but he also benefits in other ways, he said.
People say that it is not good to run away from problems, but this is exactly what Bowser does. At the end of a long and stressful day, if the Georgia heat is bearable, he will run "just to get away from things." Most mornings he runs to work, his legs pumping away while his mind plans out his day. However Bowser admits there are times while running, that his mind becomes totally blank and he just enjoys the scenery.
When Bowser first arrived in Albany he was unfamiliar with his surroundings, like Dorothy in the Land of OZ. After a few short weeks he knew a couple of different ways to get from his house to the base, but he still did not know his new community. Bowser normally runs on base, but after a running a couple of times in downtown Albany, he discovered parts of town he would normally not get to see when driving.
"When you run across a city, it kind of puts things in perspective," said Bowser. "It doesn't seem as big any more. You not only get to know the lay of the land, you realize things are really not as big as you thought they were."
The biggest challenge this marathon runner faces is motivating himself to run as much as he does, said Bowser. When he is training for a marathon his weekends are devoted to running. Even though he only runs on Saturdays during weekends, his Friday nights are spent resting for the 22 mile-run. Also after running for approximately three hours, the rest of his Saturday is spent recuperating.
Bowser runs alone, but he does not win marathons without the help of his loving wife Laura, he said. She is the one who supports him and encourages him to continue running marathons when he sometimes questions what he does. Instead of complaining about the lack of time she spends with her husband because he is running, she cheers him on.