Many of you know, or are aware of, Curt Maples, the Major in the US Marine Corps who has been a flamboyant and popular participant in quite a few recent Badwater Ultramarathons.
Here he is crossing the 2002 finish line with a sword and the Marine Corps flag in hand:
Curt is currently training for this year's race while based in Kuwait, or thereabouts. He and I have been having some very enjoyable correspondence that I'd like to share with you (which he has authorized me to do). Alos here is some of his correspondence from the past few months, plus a few photos that he sent from Iraq. Enjoy his sense of humour and positive attitude!
Note: Curt went back in Iraq in 2004 and posts from that tour are available by clicking here.
December 22, 2002:
I am sitting over here in Kuwait, not too far from the Iraq border. It is good to hear from you, and I am glad you and your family are doing well. While it is not exactly fun being over here at Christmas, especially with a not so fun task at hand, it is an honor and a priveledge to serve such fine people as yourselves and those like you. I am able to do some running here, even if it is just around the camp. Our days primarily involve planning, meetings, briefs, more meetings, training, and additional meetings - When I become President, meetings will be outlawed! Occasionally, we get to go out into the desert and shoot our weapons, which is always fun. We have essentially no contact with the locals - we are not allowed to go into town for liberty due to the potential terrorist threat. Once in a while, we go over to the Army base at Camp Doha. They have a camp that has been there for years and is better established with a nice gym, a food court, a PX, and souveneer shops. Our camp, which is maybe a mile in circumference, has over 1000 guys crammed in here. We initially had about 20 shower heads/sinks for the entire lot of us. I would rather be out 'in the field': While we would not have some of the 'comforts' of Camp Commando (Our camp is so named due to its being next door to the Kuwaiti Army Commando School), at least we would not all be living on top of one another. It is a lot like being on board a ship. As far as the 2003 Badwater race: I want to run! After we conclude our business over here, I am going to run from Baghdad back to Kuwait (150 miles) as a training run IF my boss will let me. It won't have any hills but will be plenty hot, and should be good training for Badwater if they let me do it. The place we train is probably like the terrain at Marathon Des Sables - pure sand! I have to get going now. Please keep in touch.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Curt Maples, Major USMC
December 30, 2002
Yes, you may forward my message to the Badwater list. The enemy already know who I am - my name and photograph were all over the AP Wire Service in early December, and I was in several newspapers as a result. They can put my face all over Baghdad for all I care: I'm sure as hell not afraid of these punks. Besides, having Marines who can run 135 miles gives us a great tactical advantage: If the enemy stands and fights, they will fall where they stand: If they try to run from me, they will only die tired! Some good news on the running front: My symphisis pubitis that plagued me for a year and a half has finally, truly healed and I can train hard again. My speed is improving daily. We ran a 10K here in and around the camp on the 26th. I led the field to the top of the ridge but some of the young, fast guys caught me up there. I still finished in the top ten out of about 500 runners, and second in my age group. I do not like the 10K: Short distances stress me out! I was more nervous prior to the stupid 10K than I was before Badwater. Part of it is the fast pace. The other part is that I am the perpetual 'guy to beat' around here, and people, including my General, expect me to perform as advertised. It is flattering, but wearisome. I do take some measure of pride in smoking the young Marines who are 20 years my junior, nearly all of whom were miles behind me by the time I crossed the finish line. Several Marines who finished near the back were explaining that their slow pace was due to their advanced age: I inquired as to how old they were, and they told me they were 35. I told them that there was still hope for them, as I was 39. I tell everyone I can about the Badwater, and the great people who run it - the Rick Nawrocki's, the Chris Moons, the Dixie Madsens, and the other 'ordinary people' who do such extraordinary things. Anyway, I have to go to a meeting- imagine that! I will give you a yell later. It is a privilege to serve!
Curt Maples, Major USMC
December 30, 2002:
Still doing the Lord's work over here. I will e-mail you as often as I can until such time as we move 'forward' - service may be interupted for a while not to mention I will be pretty busy at that point, but I'll do all I can. It is funny: We have a conditioning hike tomorrow - 7 miles with light gear (helmet, flak vest, canteens, gas mask, weapons, etc..) weighing a total of about 25 pounds. We will hike in soft sand at about a 4 mile an hour pace. Some people are actually worried about completing it, and a few will not complete it. This is one great advantage any Badwater veteran (Or the veteran of any ultra marathon for that matter): No matter how grueling a hike, run, or maneuver might be, it will always be a veritable cake walk compared to the Badwater. Some of these folks, perhaps a sizeable majority, have never really pushed themselves to their limits, and have no real idea of their own capacity for endurance, pain, etc.. Perhaps my ultras have been a subcouncious preparation for the war that I knew could happen. If so, I am thankful for having the opportunity to make such physical/psychological preparations. After all, our nation's Armed Forces, particularly the Marines, are paid to be the most ready when the rest of the nation is the least ready. I am happy to report that yours truly is ready to rock and roll - when I get to Baghdad, Saddam had best be somewhere else! I have to get going now. Talk to you soon.
December 31, 2002
I almost forgot: You may pass my e-mail on to the rest of the extended Badwater family. I will reply for as long as I am able. We did a 7 mile conditioning hike, as I mentioned in the last e-mail. The hike itself was easy enough, but I stepped in a soft spot in the sand and sprained my ankle. I kept up and continued to drag/push others along, and the ankle did not really hurt until we finished. Then it stiffened up nicely. I wrapped it in gauze and duct tape and it is good to go. Again, drawing on my many ultrarunning experiences, I have learned that duct tape can fix ANYTHING (Sprains, strains, stress fractures, blisters, lacerations, warts, protruding nasal hairs, hernias, and, if all else fails, heamerroids)! My fellow Officers (All normal, non-ultramarathon-types) encouraged me to seek medical attention (Perhaps they were implying that I need psychiatric assistance) but I declined, citing my extensive experience in self-help projects. Gotta go - Have a Happy New Year!
January 19, 2003
My e-mail is spotty at best lately and I cannot currently get on the website. Watch the news - I don't know when I will be home. I hope to be home in time for the race and would certainly like to run if I am. As for my new application compared to last year's, I now have 3 Badwater finishes and 2 buckles, I am a year older, and considerably uglier. Also, I smell like I have done an out and back, as our current location has no showers (Use a canteen and a rag). I have worked hard to adapt by convincing myself that bathing is over-rated anyway. I did get a chance to run today. Initially, I got to run every day. We had a 10K back the day after Christmas: I came in 9th out of about 500 and second in my age group. As at Badwater, I went out like a rocket and led the field for the first few miles. The winner only beat me by less than a minute. I don't like short distances and don't really enjoy the competition part so much (I was more stressed by this than by an ultra!), but was happy with my performance. Out here, I have to look out for wild dogs, some of them rabid. They run in packs and are viscous, totally wild. I may be tasked with eradicating the ones in our area, as they really are a danger to our men - one of my friends got bit in Desert Storm and had to get rabies shots. Anyway, I do what I can, but don't get to run nearly as much as I would like. I ran into a Col. in the British Army who'd heard of Chris Moon - he really is famous there, as he should be. It is cold here now, but I keep telling the others to 'hold that thought': In another 2 months it will be considerably warmer. Assuming I am home in time, the heat should be a great preparation for Badwater. Please tell everyone hello. It is an honor and priveledge to be over here serving.
Curt "THE MAJOR" Maples
January 29, 2003
I have already gotten a couple of emails, and they are greatly appreciated. It's funny: Some of the guys here get depressed / homesick if they think of home. I think about it whenever I can and encourage them to do the same: If you forget about home, you will forget what you are fighting for in the first place, which is our country, friends, family, and way of life, all of which we want to protect. Our sacrifices are nothing compared to what may happen to our folks back home if we don't fix this guy's clock once and for all. This keeps us all going strong. Again, I thank you and my extended Badwater Family for their support.
February 25, 2003
It has been a while since our last correspondence. I do not know how consistent e-mail will be (It goes up and down constantly, and may not be accessable from here on out) so I wanted to drop you a line. I want to thank you and extend that thanks to my Badwater family. Their support is invaluable in terms of morale. My morale and that of my Marines is as high as it can be: We are absolutely ready to do all that our nation, our President, our friends, families, and the American people ask of us. We take this obigation freely without hesitation or regret: We are honored and proud to serve. Our nation's security and perhaps the future of the free world is directly dependent upon our efforts, and rest assured, your Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, and Sailors will make you all proud. For those so inclined, pray for our forces and our country, and continue to support us in our efforts and eventual return home. I appreciate all you have done for me and everyone else associated with Badwater, and, God willing, I will be there to run in July. Please pass this and my thanks on to the rest of the Badwater family. Thanks again!
Good luck, Godspeed, and Semper Fidelis,
W.C. 'Curt' (aka 'The Major') Maples, Badwater Runner #13
Major, United States Marine Corps
April 1, 2003
It has been a while since I could send anything, but here is my update: We are still rocking and rolling over here! I cannot believe the media's assesment of the situation: They make it sound like we are Custer at Little Big Horn! The fact of the matter is, we are kicking the hell out of them. For the sake of historical comparison, ponder this: At Normandy, thousands of men were dead or wounded before we had even gotten accross the beach. Here, we have captured about 1/3 of the entire country, destroyed huge ammounts of the enemy's weapons/ammunition, and cost the enemy thousands of men (killed, wounded, captured), at the cost of very few of our own men and women. It is bad when our people are hurt, killed, or captured, but this is not a softball tournament: It is a war, and casualties are a part of it. We do all we can to minimize them, both amongst our people and the innocent civilians, but casualties are a fact of life in war. The enemy has, at times, been fanatical, but this should not be confused with being militarily effective. They have fired lots of ammo, but they are about the worst shots in history in terms of rounds fired compared to actually hitting anything. As I stated before this ever started, they don't scare the Major one bit, and I am even less impressed with the enemy's fighting ability than was previously the case! I am proud to be part of an effort that is multi faceted in its objectives: We are freeing a people from a tyrant - saddam is a BAD guy. We denying this BAD guy the ability to threaten other people, including Americans and Iraqis, with poison gas, germ weapons, and maybe even nukes. We are preventing this same BAD guy from sharing these bad weapons with the same nice people who brought us 9/11. We are not bullying the Iraqi people: We are going to historically extraordinary lengths to spare them, and we have been successful much more often than not. I can proudly say we are good, fair, and decent people who gave our enemy a choice, which is a hell of a lot more than the terrorists gave our people on 9/11. I believe our cause is just and I believe in what we are doing, which is ultimately protecting the American people - people should never forget that. We will fight, sacrifice, and we will win, all we need is for the American people to stand firmly behind us and have faith in eventual victory for our cause. One thing is certain: This experience will prepare me for Badwater in different ways: Sleep deprivation is a fact of life. Heat is coming - 100 degrees is expected later this week. Hydration discipline - I am drinking lots of water and NOT throwing it up like I usually do! I don't get to run much, but I will be ready (If I am home in time) and expect to do well. Please pass this message on to the rest of the Badwater folks - I am doing fine, the Marines are doing fine, and we appreciate your continued support. Thanks again.
P.S - I smell like I have done an 'out and back' at Badwater- Send soap (preferably LAVA and a fire hose) and fast! For fun I am going to start mailing my dirty clothes to people I don't like back home. If the UN inspectors were here, they would classify my socks as a biological weapon of mass destruction!
April 25, 2003
I hope you and the rest of the Badwater Family are well! We are still mopping up over here, actually shifting to humanitarian operations and restoration of order/services. I now have frequent interaction with the Iraqi people, and it only re-affirms my belief in the righteousness of our cause. We are still searching for the weapons Iraq had/has: It is a big country and it would be easier to hide them than most people realize. More importantly, we have freed a people from a tyrant that was responsible, sometimes personally, for the deaths, torture, and misery of thousands of people. A man who oppressed his own people, and would have rejoiced in the destruction of our own, had we allowed him the means to do so. The people in the town where I am currently located are nothing but grateful for our arrival. The only ones still opposing us locally are brutal thugs who's very survival is at stake now that saddam is gone - the people are turning on them. We are living on the campus of a small university in a town to the south of Baghdad. It was looted and damaged by local thugs, including deserting Iraqi soldiers, most of whom discarded their uniforms and ran away. What the locals could not use, they often destroyed: One small classroom was literally waist deep in ashes, the remains of textbooks. We gathered the remaining books and set them aside for future use. We are already working with the local community to repair the damage. Our doctors are working in the local community providing medicine to people long denied access to decent medical care. We still have to be cautious, as there remain some anti-American elements.
I am responsible for the security of our base, and conduct security operations in the surrounding area. Yesterday, we went to a railroad yard to see if we could make use of the rail lines. The facility is decrepit by our standards, but is operational. A few minutes after we arrived, the welcome wagon showed up to meet us: No less that 50 kids came running out to greet us, wanting to shake our hands and asking for candy. I felt bad, because I had nothing to offer them. They had an old soccer ball, and I kicked it with them and bounced it off my helmet, to their amusement. Today, we went back and I took a box full of goodies - I thought I was going to lose my hand trying to give it to them. I will try to take them some more tomorrow. We may never win over some of the adults, but if we can show the children that we're the good guys, we will plant a seed that will bear good fruit in years to come. Nearby were a few abandoned tanks - old Russian built T-55's, no match for the Marines that stormed through here like a juggernaut. The crews often abandoned them rather than face certain death by fighting.
Another benefit of my current location is that I can run again! Operations prevented me from getting any running for nearly a month. Now I run every day. The only problem is that I have no running shoes. I either have to run in sandals or combat boots. The major problem with sandals is that the sand/grit gets between my feet and the sandals themselves, having the same effect as would sandpaper. I run with the boots, my green issue shorts and green t-shirt - if I went to the beach dressed like this, they would surely kick sand in my face! I sleep up on the roof of a building - its a lot cooler up there, and the rooms that we would sleep in were chemistry labs, and still reek of spilled chemicals. I surely appreciate all the support of my fellow runners/Badwater Family: I promised that we would defeat our enemy, and we did. Now, we must build the peace, and we are doing our best. Rumor has it that I will be home in time to run - what a homecoming that will be. I am already building a crew comprised of Marines with whom I have served here in Iraq, and we are planning an all-out frontal assault on the course, which, unfortunately, is a foe far more resolute than was the Iraqi army! Again, thanks for all the support/prayers offered on behalf of me and all the other Marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors. We could not have done it without you!
May 22, 2003
I will be there. I am now at 70 miles per week in soft sand and temperatures up to 116, feeling great. I should be home the first week of June if all goes well, which then leaves me June and part of July to train hard. I am very sorry to hear about Mr. Scott McQueeney. He was one of the Badwater Family that remembered me when I was far from home, and I am saddened by his passing and his family's loss. He was right on the money about everybody dying - it is life's one certainty, the end of it. Well, its not how you die, but how you lived that people will remember, and he was obviously a hero to a lot of people, most importantly, his family. Years ago, my best friend's father had a poem by Jack London up on the wall of his den. I do not remember the entire poem, but I do remember the last few lines: "Man was put here to live, not to exist. I shall not spend my days trying to prolong them: I shall use my time." Mr. McQueeny seems to have had the same philosophy, as he led a good, meaningful life that touched a lot of people. I think it would be fitting to remember him again on race day. Anyway, my time over here appears to be drawing to a close. Please say hello to the folks at the heat training clinic, and let them know that I am having one-man clinic over here in the sandbox. Thanks again for everything. Can I be #13 again?
May 29, 2003
Well, if all goes according to plan, I should be headed home in the next few days. It has been a long ordeal, and the many letters of support from the extended Badwater Family made it all a bit more bearable: I will not soon forget the support from all of you. As things have worked out, I will be home in plenty of time for the race, and I am currently doing all I can to prepare for it. It is already quite warm here, and we have had several recent days that approached 120 degrees. I have no pavement or even hardpack roads to run on, just soft sand. Unfortunately, every time the wind kicks up, so does the sand, which can make for some miserable running conditions, but, this will only enhance my readiness for Badwater. I am still putting a crew together: Some of those previously accounted for are no longer available due to operational commitments. I am sure things will work out. I will give you a yell when I get home. Again, please pass my heartfelt thanks on to everyone. It was a pleasure to serve.
June 3, 2003
I know my mileage is back up to par: The best indicator of this is the fact that several of my toenails are black and soon to fall off, a sure sign of lots of mindless running! On Saturday, I knocked out sixteen miles in 100 degree heat, soft sand, in just under two hours. Today, I chased a big lizard, but he escaped. Although I am not getting the really long training runs like what we normally do at the clinics, I do have a solid base of around 70 miles a week now, in good heat. Getting more time off is not the issue, but it is so BORING running just around the perimeter of my immediate camp that 3 hours is about it. I would run outside if they let me, but they are worried that I will hurt myself - they wring their hands so much they will surely develop carpal tunnel or something like that - ridiculous worry warts - Bah! Anyway, I am pumped about coming home and running in another desert - Death Valley at least has mountains, plants, and toilet paper (I have dubbed Kuwait/Iraq/pretty much the whole region as 'The Land That Hygiene Forgot'). Anyway, if all goes according to plan, I will give you a yell in a few days from my own house. Thanks again for everything!
July 1, 2003
Greetings fellow members of the Badwater Family!
I got home a few weeks ago and have been unwinding. I have been getting used to running again here at home - it got down to 60 degrees and I thought I would freeze to death, as it was about 60 degrees colder than what I was used to. I suffered a dislocated shoulder Saturday night at a welcome home party - Marines tend to get sort of rowdy. I popped it back it (This was sort of painful), and it is fine today and it does not hurt when I run, although pullups are a 'no go' right now. Enough of my babblings: It is great to be home and I look forward to seeing all of you soon. Thanks again for all your support, prayers, and thoughts over the months. If you want to yell at me before the race, you can reach me at WJameniram@cs.com.