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Twenty-four hours after accepting the Army-Navy game ball during the spirit rally at West Point, N.Y., the U.S. Military Academys Marathon team ended its long-distance relay run as they entered Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
After 150-miles, the road-weary travelers exchanged handshakes, hugs, words of appreciation and called it a night. The team would make the moment more official Saturday when they returned to the stadium again with the world watching the ceremonial handoff of the game ball.
In 1984, volunteers from the Corps of Cadets made the first delivery of the Army game ball. That tradition faded away until the Marathon team revived it in 1994 and theyve been running the ball ever since.
Every team member who ran the Richmond Marathon in November earned a spot to compete in the Boston Marathon this April.
It was warmer out this time, which is good, Class of 206 cadet Tiffany Matthews said. More hills, but not bad.
Shes already looking forward to three more years of running the game ball.
I cannot wait to do this again. Matthews said. This is a blast, so much fun.
Her running partner, Meg-Ann Braun, however, had done her share of five Army Ball Runs, having had an extended stay at the academy for double shoulder surgery.
The fifth and final time its awesome as always, Braun said.
When Marc Samland (2016) thought he only had about five or six miles left in him, he ran much further even running in place for a bit while the convoy figured out a detour route around the heavy main road traffic.
Once I started going I couldnt stop, Samland said. It felt great and the countryside was beautiful. Its been great seeing people from these different states and just being out there is unique. Generally, people are supportive. I passed an older lady who was running and she was cheering me on.
Midshipman Tom Rowland would seem the perfect target for ridicule the sole runner from the exchange program with the U.S. Naval Academy. However, Midshipmen have long been welcomed onto the Marathon team for the semester they attend West Point and are treated no differently; but the idea of handing over the Army football to a Navy runner does bring up conspiracy theories.
At times the journey seemed more than just about a football or even football game; part extreme team-building exercise and part goodwill tour. Every stopping point turned into an occasion to meet the public and represent the U.S. Military Academy.
Maj. John Dvorak completed nearly 20 miles at the end of the trip. The assistant officer-in-charge ran alone at times, but eventually filled the middle lane of the road with the entire team. Dvorak held the game ball above his head to get a response out of the pedestrians and motorists.
The adrenaline just carries you out there, Dvorak said, joined by the entire team for the last few miles. This is the part that makes it all worthwhile bringing it home.