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Spradlin serves in stride

July 03, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

Kevin Spradlin is easy to pick out on the long, winding road of life.

He's probably the one running.

Cross country running has been a late-blooming passion for Spradlin. And in a sense, he has seen the world by running across countries.

Spradlin admits he's not the best runner, but he makes up for it with his dedication, enhanced by two stints in the U.S. Army.

"I'm a runner who went to the military," said Spradlin, who attended South Hagerstown and Smithsburg before earning his GED in 1997. "I've had a positive military experience. Not everyone can say that. Everywhere I went, there was someone who loved to run."

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You could say Spradlin's guardian angel wears running shoes.

In two tours of duty, Spradlin was deployed to Korea and Iraq and found avid running partners, most of them superior officers, to keep him on the road. It had its benefits.

"There always seemed to be one person to pull me out of the ranks where ever I'd go," said Spradlin, 29. "I was taken out of some of the training regiments to run. Running was my security blanket. Wherever I have gone in the Army or any destination, running has been the constant."

Spradlin's constant almost began by accident.

A reformed video game addict, Spradlin spent most of his formative years working out with a joystick. About the time he was starting to get sick of the routine, Spradlin received a challenge.

"My older brothers, Jeremy and Brian, were running cross country for South," Spradlin said. "My freshman year in 1993, they talked me into coming out and running and I haven't stopped since. I wasn't the best, but when the gun went off, it was me against the clock. I kind of liked that."

Spradlin chased his brothers on South's team that season, just learning the running ropes. By his sophomore season, divorce was splitting the Spradlin family and he found himself at Smithsburg. The change made him a runner forever.

"When I got to Smithsburg, things were different," he said. "There were more kids out for the team than at South and you had to earn your spot to compete. Now, instead of running with my brother (Brian, who remained at South), I was running against him. I got hooked on running the day I beat him. At that point, running became about me."

Domestic issues moved Spradlin around. He attended Smithsburg and later returned to South Hagerstown before dropping out of school. And then things changed.

Spradlin earned the GED, got married and had a child on the way. After trying different ways to make financial ends meet, he turned to the Army.

"I enlisted in the Army for financial reasons," Spradlin admits. "I had a baby coming and I needed to have health care."

With that, the new Spradlin family traveled across the nation, heading to forts in Kansas and Washington. Spradlin trained and ran there, competing in Army events.

In August, 1999, he was deployed to Uijogbu, South Korea, as a bridge crew member for the 50th Engineering Company. An injury ended his engineering work, he earned a Green-and-Gold scholarship and was discharged with orders to attend McDaniel College. He was ordered back to duty in May 2002, heading to Fort Jackson, S.C., for courses to become a paralegal specialist.

From August to December 2004, he was deployed to Altaji, Iraq, with the 593rd Corps Support Group as a brigade-level paralegal.

At every stop, there was running to do. In one instance in Iraq, a training session was interrupted by mortar fire.

"What would my Army career had been without running?" Spradlin said. "It probably would have been much different. I don't even want to think about it."

After his discharge in 2005, Spradlin and his family bounced around the country, finally landing in Cumberland, Md., where he now works. Running is still there, but some of the reasoning changed.

"When I got back, I kept running," he said. "I've taken some time off because life and reality get in the way. I'm 29, but in distance running, I'm still young. I haven't reached my potential yet."

Spradlin has more incentive now, though.

"My son Noah is starting to run," he said. "We're running together every other day. I've always had help with my running, and now, maybe, I can help him."

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