Army Lt. Col. Ron Cole, 49, a public health nurse with the Army Public Health Center, doesn’t exactly look the part of the long-distance runner. He’s a big guy.
This 5 feet, 10-inch tall former professional body builder and wrestler will tell you his physique is more suited for short bursts of speed, but he loves distance running. This year marks an important milestone for Cole — he’s turning 50 and he’ll be competing in his ninth Army Ten-Miler in October.
“Age is not on our side always and I’m not the smallest of guys,” said Cole. “My joints have been in the military for 28 years and pounding the pavement has had its toll, but my motto for this year’s race is ‘Forged at 50’. I’m not slowing down, I’m getting better with age, and I’ve gotten creative with the knowledge I’ve learned over the years to either keep the pace or even improve my pace.”
Cole, who also serves as the APHC Performance Triad action officer, understands the importance of sleep, activity and nutrition. He hopes to improve on his best 9:30-minute mile ATM pace by incorporating the 10-mile training plan (linked to this article) offered through the ATM website and endorsed by APHC’s health and fitness experts.
“One of the things I’m doing is incorporating the Performance Triad of sleep, activity and nutrition as well as some of my weight training background and personal nutrition experience to enhance my muscle endurance as I prepare to run,” said Cole.
Cole plans to run hills, incorporate treadmill sprints, follow a good sleep and nutrition plan, and do some cross training to optimize his performance.
“I live in Havre de Grace, Maryland, which has a lot of hills that I also use for shorter sprints instead of resting on the inclines,” said Cole. “I also like to cross train and do walking lunges with weights in the hallways during my breaks from my desk.”
Cole was first introduced to the run through his then girlfriend and now wife Shanekia, who was training for the run in 2006 as part of the Kirk Army Community Hospital Team at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He trained with the team on some of their practice runs and cheered her on at the finish line.
Lt. Col. Ronald Cole, a public health nurse with the Army Public Health Center, hydrates in between exercises June 21, 2019, in preparation for competing in his ninth Army Ten-Miler in October. Cole is following the APHC-expert recommended Army Ten-Miler training plan as well as APHC guidance on proper hydration.
(Photo Credit: Graham Snodgrass)
The two married in August 2008 and planned to compete together for the 2009 race, but Shanekia was diagnosed with cancer in October 2009, and he ended up doing his first ATM that year with no training or preparation, which he does not recommend.
“The race was going well until I reached mile seven, which was the entrance of the 14th Street ramp,” said Cole. “The ramp is about a 1 degree incline and continues to rise at 1 degree for approximately 2 miles.”
It was at that moment that Cole felt like a pack of gorillas had jumped on his back and he wanted to quit. However, he looked to his right to find a wounded warrior changing his prosthesis; this sight made him realize that he had nothing to complain about.
“So I started running from that point on and every time I wanted to quit — he was my motivation,” said Cole. “So that first run wasn’t my best run, but it was my most inspiring.”
Cole is committed to running the race every year until he can no longer run. He also does this to honor Shanekia, who suffered complications from chemotherapy and can no longer compete in the race, but remains one of his biggest supporters. She is now free of cancer and helps with his meal prepping and comes out to cheer every run.
Cole’s story and commitment to the race have motivated some of his co-workers to make the run.
“His energy and spirit and story of why he runs has also inspired me to run the Army Ten-miler this year,” said Joanna Reagan, an APHC registered dietitian who recently retired from the Army. “Although I’ve run it in the past, Lt. Col. Cole has inspired me to shoot for my own personnel best this year.”
The two train together, which Reagan says helps keep her motivated.
“We are holding each other accountable with our running plans, trying to eat eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day and getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night,” said Reagan. “Having a ‘running buddy’ really helps with accountability and commitment.”
Cole hopes to keep running for years to come.
“The energy of the Ten-Miler keeps me enthusiastic and motivated to run,” said Cole. “Every time you’re running it may be painful, but along the course of the run you’re surrounded by at least 30,000 other people and you feel you want to do that again.”
The Performance Triad website at https://p3.amedd.army.mil/performance-learning-center/nutrition is a good resource for nutrition, nutrient timing and hydration recommendations for this year’s ATM competitors.
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.