Through the throngs of spectators lining the Marine Corps Marathon course, Marine Maj. Anthony Garofano will have his ears open. Underneath the canopy of cheers, he’ll listen for an unmistakable sound.
“At certain points, she’ll be out there and, if she’s crying, she’ll be easy to hear,” Garofano said of his newborn daughter, Helen.
While training for his first marathon, Garofano fit in runs around a demanding schedule as an active duty judge advocate general for the Marine Corps, his commitment to organize a running club for Capitol Hill staffers and preparing to be a new dad.
In spite of all that, everything went pretty smoothly, thanks to his understanding wife, Christine, and co-workers.
“My office has been incredibly supportive the whole time and there’s only one run that I went on with my cell phone in my hand just in case I needed to stop early,” he said. “Otherwise it’s been very smooth. My runs are early enough that Chris doesn’t even know I’m going.”
Garofano was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer in 2004 and began serving as an active-duty service member in 2008. Through his job, Garofano ended up in charge of the Capitol Hill Running Club this year. During training season for the Marine Corps Marathon, the Marine Corps liaison office organizes the club, setting up a training plan for the race, water stops and support for the weekly long runs. Since he was coordinating training for a group of 20 to 30 Hill staffers, he figured this would be a good year to tackle the marathon himself.
“It was sort of in the back of my head — I don’t want to, but I (also do) want to run a marathon — so taking on this club was the opportunity,” he said.
The group meets Tuesday and Thursday mornings, with a long run on Saturdays.
“That doesn’t interfere with work schedule, but it ruins your Friday night a little bit,” he said. “(But) when you’re 32 and you have a baby, there’s not much Friday night left to ruin.”
Luckily, his wife understands the demands of both the club and marathon training.
“I’m really lucky to have a wife who’s so understanding about the commitment to the running and the club and who’s healthy enough to not have an issue,” he said. “This could be a lot more difficult without people being supportive.”
In addition to his time working as a fellow for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose district includes Marine base Camp Pendleton, Garofano has also served as a military prosecutor and a battalion judge advocate who deployed with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion to southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2010. While overseas, he helped the troops handle legal matters, like rules of engagement or dealing with detainees. Now, he works in the Marine Corps House liaison office, educating and informing members of Congress about the Marine Corps.
He’s had some training interruptions —missing his 18.5-mile long run the day his wife went into labor in late August, and a week to adjust to Helen’s sleeping schedule. He had to miss a few runs when traveling where it was unsafe to run, but wasn’t worried about it affecting his overall training. The weeks he’s had to miss long runs, he said he’s felt just as strong going farther the next week.
“If I missed several weeks in a row, then I’d be concerned, but missing one or two long runs doesn’t fill me with terror,” he said. “Maybe that’s ignorance.”
His travels have given him a few unforgettable runs all around the world. One of his favorites was during a trip to Guam, where he got to run along the beach. And another run in Hanoi, Vietnam, which was so humid that his watch face fogged up as soon as he stepped out of his hotel.
“It was about 6:30 in the morning; it was like the entire city was outside exercising, whether it be Tai Chi or playing badminton, or there was a muscle beach set up, with guys doing bench press and sit ups,” he said. “It was really cool to see so many people outside exercising at the same time, it was a neat community spirit thing.”
Garofano has spent years running, but is tackling long distances for the first time. He was a sprinter at Middlebury College in Vermont. Since then, he’s mostly lifted weights, gone on multi-day hikes and run just enough to pass the annual physical fitness test for the Marines.
“Every year the Marine Corps makes you run three miles to make sure you’re still in shape; that was the standard for me prior to this year,” he said.
As a result, every week’s long run is a new milestone as the farthest he’s ever run in his life.
“A lot of it has been mental,” he said. “I’ve gotten to the point if I can do 17.5 miles, I figure as long as I can keep it up I can suffer through 26.”Although Garofano has managed to fit almost everything into his weeks, one thing that has suffered has been spending time with friends, though he said they’re all understanding of the time spent running and with his new daughter.
“My friends and Chris’ friends may think we’ve abandoned them, but I think we’ve got a pretty good excuse,” he said. “The combination of running and baby has certainly reduced the amount of going out to dinner, but everyone understands.”
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2014 RunWashington.