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In Stride with Bozeman from Gunner to Runner

Meet Runner Steve Bozeman! A former Marine who attributes his longevity in the sport to what he learned in the Marine Corps.

“The Marine Corps instilled physical fitness in me and led me to a healthy lifestyle after my discharge in 1970. I even quit smoking in July 1969 in Vietnam as my 13-month tour was winding down.

BozemanHe was ahead of his time, getting into shape just as the country was about to become obsessed with the sport.

So, when the running boom hit in the mid-’70s, He was primed to start a long string of athletic achievements.

I could not have imagined this since I was never an athlete in high school or had any athletic talent,” stated Steve Bozeman.

Bozeman was attracted to the sport not only for the physical fitness benefits,

“I found it was my own “Private Therapy” sessions as I was trying to deal with my Vietnam combat service of two years in the country (1967–1969). During those years I was in intense combat for the Americans compared to other years.” 


Bozeman joined the Marine Corps in 1966 and was honorably discharged in 1970.


He did not complete high school and after the Marine Corps; he was on the journey to complete his education and earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. 

“I started jogging in 1972 to help to deal with the symptoms of PTSD, which I did not know what that was. I just knew that running made me feel good and learned years later about “endorphins and dopamine” and how it helped me deal with stress and feelings of pain.”

During the years of service, Bozeman was presented with two Purple Hearts (For combat wounds) and 15-Air Medals.


It is difficult to know what another person carries around.


Bozeman did not give into various health setbacks and faced them head on and turned himself into a self-made athlete. There was not a goal of Olympic aspirations, but personal athletic achievement. 

The last month this column addressed reality, and I asked Bozeman what was behind the door that no one could enter.

“I was a helicopter door gunner for the first 13 months. I did well over 300 combat and medical evacuation missions, saving Marines’ lives and picking up nearly a hundred dead Marines that left deep scars in my mind of the memory of too much death of young men my age. I was wounded twice and getting killed was a constant fear as we landed in many hot zones of bullets flying both ways and mortars landing as we quickly picked up the wounded and lifted off.

One mission resulted in Bozeman getting shot down on May 4, 1967, with the burning helicopter crashing into a dry rice patty half-mile away.

 I exited with my M60 machine gun by jumping out as we impacted and rushed to a dike. I looked back and saw the one poorly shot Marine that could not get out. I ran back and reached into the burning chopper to pull him out and carry him to safety with other crew members grabbing legs and arms.”

The breakout year for Bozeman was September 1977 with a finish at the Moore and Giles Virginia 10 Miler (Lynchburg, Va.) with a time of 1:04:46 (Pace 10 minutes and 9 seconds per mile) at age 31.

The streak at the event continues today. This was only the beginning.


The following year, Bozeman made it to the big show,


“When I first ran the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM), I fell in love with it because of the new connection to the Marine Corps. I had missed it since my discharge. The MCM course ran through Virginia and Washington with all the monuments, just instilled more patriotism into an already motivated Marine.

Bozeman went on to say,

I wanted to show my love for the Corps and what it did for me. I still felt the pain of those 58,500 who died in Vietnam, and I wanted to honor their sacrifice in some way through running.”

At 32, Bozeman finished the race in a time of 3 hours and 58 minutes and 31 seconds. This was the third MCM on November 5, 1978.  In 2000, he was inducted into the MCM Hall of Fame.


When you develop a passion, it can turn into a positive obsession.


A door had been opened and Bozeman would put it all on the line to see it was going to take him. Each year, he continued to answer the call, and another opportunity presented itself.

Bozeman“I started running “ultra-trail marathons” in 1982 and found that I enjoyed 50 miles, which you have to dig deep at times to keep running.

Being a Marine, I always thought I could cut the mustard to be a “Recon Marine” or even had what it took to be a Navy Seal. That mindset of having to push through the pain and have the endurance and stamina to overcome the obstacles thrown at you always intrigued me.

I found running marathons and ultras gave me confidence that I probably could “cut the mustard” if I wanted to. But that was another life, and I was happy to have the physical and the mental ability to do these sports without being shot at like those military men.”


Bozeman further stated,

“I asked a fellow Vietnam Marine vet who I ran with in Lynchburg to run side-by-side in the 1987 MCM. He was also wounded, and we wore our Purple Heart Medals around our necks. I would carry the giant American flag and he the Marine Corps flag the entire distance, so we did to start the annual “MCM Running Color Guard.” We had such an outpouring of support from other runners and spectators that was so uplifting.

I knew this “MCM Running Color Guard” would be back for years to come if I was able. That did more for me than any psychiatrist sessions could have done for my mental outlook.”

This tradition went on for 31 years and in 2017, the flag was retired and 20 of the years retired Marine, Mark Mishler, was at his side.

Any endeavor requires the commitment and dedication to train and the test is on race day. In order to be successful, it requires a support crew to provide the inspiration.


As Bozeman states, “I would run 1,800 miles every year during my prime and completed five 100-mile races, which included ultramarathons.

I completed  26 JFK 50-Mile runs, and the fastest was 8 hours and 19 minutes in 1983. My friend Al Montgomery paced me.”

It is easy to conclude that the sport was the right therapy, as he stated earlier. The only side effects were sore muscles, which he recovered. 



Bozeman adds, “Another good running friend, I. King Jordan and Al were my inspiration and motivation to challenge myself to run the 100 milers.

We all, including my wife, Debbie, ran in many races together each year.

Debbie has completed 100 marathons and my record in 300.”




His sights are set to complete his 45th running in 2023.


In the book, “GRIT The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” by Angela Duckworth, there is a chapter which is parallel to the mindset of Bozeman.

In the chapter, “Grit Grows,” she summarizes four psychological assets which develop over the years and to summarize,

  • “First comes interest. Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do.
  • Next comes the capacity to practice. One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday.
  • The third is purpose. What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters.
  • And finally, hope. Hope is the rising-to-the-occasion kind of perseverance.”

Duckworth closes the chapter with,

“The four psychological assets of interest, practice, purpose, and hope are not You have it, or you do not commodities. You can learn to discover, develop, and deepen your interests. You can gain the habit of discipline. You can cultivate a sense of purpose and meaning. And you can teach yourself to hope.”


Keeping the above bullets in mind, read the following from Bozeman:


“In 1985 I signed up for the first-ever “Double Ironman Triathlon” in Huntsville, Ala., on Labor Day weekend, which was hot and humid. I never completed an Ironman distance, so doing the Double would be a challenge since the space was to swim 5 miles in the Tennessee River.  Bicycle 224 miles, run 52.4 miles continuously, and finish under 36 hours. But, before that race, I had to train longer distances in all three events, and having a full-time job and family was challenging to squeeze in enough training miles.

Having never done the Ironman distance, Bozeman was getting worried about finishing twice that mileage, 282 miles in a day and a half.

 Swimming was my weakness of the three events, and I had to learn from scratch the crawl stroke to compete. I knew then my “Marine” mindset would have to come into play. “Never give up.” (Finish time was 37 hours and 34 minutes)    


All of you reading this can NOT be a Steve Bozeman, but you can be you!


Bozeman would challenge each of you to change your lifestyle and to be the best version of you. You need to make that commitment to select an exercise program and craft a goal and go for it.

Bozeman, through his actions, adds definition to being consistent, insistent, and persistent,

“In running all these marathons, ultras, and triathlons, there are many times due to heat or your body breaking down; you want to stop and drop out as the pain and agony become too much to endure. 

But, becoming a “DNF” (did not finish) always keeps Steve going!

I always refer to my Parris Island boot camp days when the tough get going to remind myself how challenging boot camp. The Drill Instructors always yelled at you that there is no such word as “can’t.” So, you dig deep and try to make it through whatever physical challenge you endured for another minute. It is the same as racing, as you can always walk or stop to rest, but you must push on and get back in the race to finish what you started.”


If Bozeman were in the chair next to you, what would you ask him?


Bozeman stated, “I have many running friends, and on a local level, I always encourage others to run and have fun and enjoy being outside with Mother Nature during any time of the year and do not worry about pace. Be thankful for the health you have, and it is essential to be consistent as you age because the benefits outweigh anything else. 

Every morning I recite this quote by Marcus Aurelius, and if I ever wanted a quote on my tombstone, it would be this.

“When you arise in the morning, think what a precious privilege it is to be alive–to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” That pretty much sums it up. It has been a good life so far.

Semper Fidelis Steve Bozeman!  



*Read more of George Banker’s Interviews on our Blog Homepage. Learn more about Steve Bozeman Here.




  • George Banker

    George Banker was the Operations Manager for the Army Ten-Miler (US Army / MDW), one of the largest 10-mile road race in the United States. From 2003 through 2023, his responsibilities included the operational planning, logistics, community outreach, design of the course, volunteer recruitment, and support to medical and police jurisdictions. Prior to joining the Army Ten-Miler, he worked 25 years at IBM serving in administration and management within the federal marketing environment in Bethesda, Maryland. He is retired from the U.S. Air Force (enlisted grade Technical Sergeant), where his experience included ground refueling supervisor and cryogenic fluids production supervisor. He received 14 military decorations including the Air Force Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal (1969-1989). Since 1983, he has worked as a freelance photographer and journalist, contributor for the Runner’s Gazette, and He is the author of “The Marine Corps Marathon: A Running Tradition”. He is an avid runner, with 136 marathons completed.


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