A long-term commitment
Dedicated Marine intends to complete 25 marathons. This year will be his sixth.
By Mary Dallao
The Marine Corps Marathon is Sunday, October 27, with the Finish Festival taking place in Rosslyn. As an event sponsor, the Rosslyn BID was able to give a few runners free entry into the marathon and 10K. We reached out to the Arlington County Military and Veterans Affairs Committee to see if there were any veterans interested in using our entries. They put us in touch with Marine Bart Skiba, who will be running his sixth marathon this year. We talked with Skiba recently to learn more about him, his training regimen and his thoughts on how to prepare for race day.
Bart Skiba hates running. He says he's more of a swimmer, even though he's run five marathons and completed several triathlons. So why does he run if he hates it?
It's not because he wants to stay in shape or likes a challenge. He runs to honor his friends—25 fellow Marines who were killed in the line of duty when he was deployed to Iraq. With each marathon, he remembers a specific person who was lost.
"All the guys I'm running for were close friends," he says. "I trained a good majority of them. I plan to run 25 marathons as long as my ankle holds out. This year, I'm running for my friend PFC Henry Sanchez, who died in Ramadi in 2006 during combat operations. He received a Bronze Star with a 'V' for his actions there."1
Skiba was an active-duty Marine from 2004-2008, having been deployed to Fallujah in 2005 and Ramadi in 2006. When he completed his service he spent a few years in the Army National Guard before taking on a role with the Department of Homeland Security. His time serving overseas has left him with disabilities that can make physical activity challenging. Yet despite this, he still runs marathons, manages a veteran's charity and attends school part-time in pursuit of his doctorate.
"If I learned anything in the Marines, it's that you are capable of doing things you didn't think you could do," he says. "It's about having the will to succeed. With a marathon, you have to be willing to push yourself when you hit the wall. It's during those second 13 miles that people get discouraged and don't want to put themselves in a position where they suffer. But unless you have an injury, you can do it."
Because of his unusual work schedule, Skiba does most of his training by himself, sometimes setting off on a run at 9 or 10 p.m. Since most training groups meet in the late afternoon, he's often unable to join them, although he does participate in a running group on a Saturday if he's off work. He lives in Ballston, so he runs on Arlington's many trails on the Arlington Loop, often passing through Rosslyn, host of the MCM Finish Festival, and taking in Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, which is home to the finish line.
His advice to first-time marathoners?
"Follow a training plan and stick to it. At some point, you're going to have a day when you don't feel like doing what the schedule says. But push through. Hydration and nutrition are so important, so be sure you feed and hydrate yourself properly at least a week before the marathon. Also, start trying energy supplements, such as gels and gummies, at least a few weeks before the marathon and figure out what works for you. And remember that during the marathon, it's okay if you stop and walk 1/2 mile to catch your breath."
Skiba says he loves running the Marine Corps Marathon because of the amazing support he's always encountered along the route.
"During one of the marathons I did, my knees and ankles were acting up. I had so many people come up to me or stop and offer support along the way," he says. "They weren't worried about getting their best time. My advice is don't give up! And whenever you feel like giving up, know that there will always be people there to push you along."
Bart Skiba poses with other members of Team Semper Fi, which is part of the Semper Fi Fund Charity that supports disabled veterans in sporting events.
1. A Bronze Star Medal with a "V' signifies valor. It is the fourth-highest military decoration for valor.
Related event: 44th Marine Corps Marathon