By Nicholas Holmes
FORT STEWART, Ga. – In Greenville, South Carolina, Sgt.1st Class Augusto Piñeiro, a combat engineer and platoon sergeant with Company B, 9th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, set a new record for the longest distance ran while wearing a gas mask.
The previous record of 41.1 miles was set in Washington D.C. on October 25, 2015 by former Marine Aaron Benningfield, according to Record Setter’s website.
Piñeiro surpassed Benningfield’s record, running a total of 100 miles after completing thirty-two laps on a 3.1 mile course during the Without Limits 3rd Annual Ultra-Distance 100-Mile Challenge at Conestee Park, Greenville. However, Piñeiro ran for more than the glory.
“This wasn’t about me breaking any record, if it was I could have stopped at mile forty-two,” Piñeiro said. “I did this to bring awareness to the organization [Operation Enduring Warrior] by honoring thirty-two fallen Soldiers.”
Operation Enduring Warrior, or OEW, is a veteran operated non-profit organization with a mission to honor, empower and motivate wounded service members.
After a traumatic deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, Piñeiro reached out to OEW which helped him during a low point of his life.
“When I came back I was at a low point in my life. I struggled with PTSD and fought suicide,” Piñeiro said. “By getting involved with Operation Enduring Warrior and the support of my wife, I got through these difficult times.”
Each lap represented a fallen service member that was lost due to combat or the effects that lingered after. He used their faces to push past the pain each mile accumulated.
“I was anticipating the difficulty of this run to take me to the point that I would want to quit,” Piñeiro said. “After every lap I completed, I was handed a photo to carry of the Soldier my next lap was honoring, so quitting never entered my mind.”
Piñeiro started the 100-mile race on a rainy Friday evening at nine o’clock and completed his first sixty miles Saturday morning.
“The first sixty miles I ran by myself. That got my mind in the right place,” Piñeiro said. “Every lap after, my [supporters] were switching out in pairs to running with me, which really helped to keep my spirits up.”
Despite hundreds of training miles logged prior to the event, the stress from the race began to effect his performance during the final hours.
“When he started Friday evening you could see that he was physically and mentally prepared for the event,” said 2nd Lt. Mehmet Bahadir, platoon leader with Company B, 9th BEB. “At a certain point his body began to want to shut down. This is when his heart and mind started working for his body.”
With determination and support of family and friends, Piñeiro completed the race in 37.5 hours.
“Running late Saturday night was the toughest for him,” said Spc. Christopher Martin a horizontal construction engineer and team leader with Company B, 9th BEB. “We were there supporting him. We made sure his mask was cleaned and he had his food and drinks ready every time he came around.”
“The sleep deprivation really affected me on Sunday morning,” Piñeiro said. “A battle buddy of mine from Fort Bragg was running with me holding my arm. He would have to nudge me because I was falling asleep while I was running.”
Piñeiro said he is thankful for the support he received from his family, platoon and OEW.
“It feels great accomplishing this,” Piñeiro said. “I know that if I didn’t complete the 100 miles, my guys wouldn’t have been disappointed in my efforts. Their support motivated me to reach my goal.”
Piñeiro has plans to continue pushing himself physically and raise awareness for OEW and the Soldiers they support.
“My next goal is to complete a triathlon wearing the gas mask,” Piñeiro said. “I want to encourage people to reach out to OEW, or to anyone for help, so we do not have another victim of suicide.”