Written by Maj. Brandon Bissell
5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Public Affairs
Clarksville, TN – Most people consider completing a half marathon or full marathon once in their lifetime a major achievement; and rightfully so.
In the case of Marc Dibernardo, a staff sergeant with the U.S. Army, competing in these events, in what most would consider extreme conditions, is a way to raise awareness and support to causes that are very dear to him – wounded warriors.
What is so extreme about the way he competes in races you may ask? Consider the fact that he races wearing either a gas mask or full military gear (including helmet, body armor, and boots). It is safe to say that either of these scenarios would cause significant impairments for the average racer.
Dibernardo has broken world records wearing both.
The latest, which has yet to be officially confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records, was completed Saturday at the Go Commando Half-Marathon in Clarksville, Tennessee. Dibernardo, wearing full military gear, completed the race in one hour and 51 minutes. Nine minutes faster than the record established by Guinness.
For Dibernardo it started in 2003 at Fort Benning, GA, while assigned to the 36th Engineer Battalion. The unit conducted NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical) Olympics in which unit personnel would compete in events utilizing their NBC gear. The goal – individuals gain familiarity with their equipment.
Dibernardo became more than just familiar with his equipment. He became comfortable with it.
His first world record came in May 2011 when he completed the North Shore Marathon in 3 hours and 49 minutes in a gas mask. His second world record was at last year’s Go Commando Half Marathon, completing the course in 1 hour and 35 minutes while again wearing a gas mask.
If you ask Dibernardo about the records he will simply shrug his shoulders and provide a short explanation because what he would rather discuss are the reasons why he competes in the first place.
In his personal capacity Dibernardo has devoted a majority of his time supporting organizations that focus on aiding wounded warriors; organizations such as Team RWB (Red, White, and Blue), Team Wounded Wear, and the Green Beret Foundation. These types of organizations attempt to enrich the lives of veteran’s by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
“My hope is that these records will grab the public’s attention and garner additional volunteer support towards these programs,” said Dibernardo. “These records are great, but they are only a means to the end, which is to help our veterans.”
When asked what new challenge he intends to seek out in the future, he quickly responds with wanting to complete a triathlon wearing a gas mask and then down the road maybe climbing Mount Everest.
The reason is quite simple.
“Folks always come up to me and ask me why I race the way I do. That simple question opens the door for me to talk about my causes,” stated Dibernardo. “If I can make just a couple of folks at each race aware of how they can help or assist, then the sweat and effort is completely worth it.”
It is safe to say that we will continue to see and hear Marc Dibernardo finding new and unique ways to not only challenge himself, but more importantly raise awareness.