By his own admission, Ryan Lamke may not have trained for the D.C. Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon via the most conventional methods. While his plan was to run the 13.1 miles in a pair of Boot Campaign combat boots, the former Marine spent just one day breaking in the boots before the starting gun went off – for every training run before that, he wore running shoes. He also didn’t spend any of those training runs sporting a military pack, which he wore for the first time during the race. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, then yes, that made things a lot more difficult.

Fortunately, he was O.K. with that.

According to Ryan, finishing the race at all was a big success. “I survived!” he laughs, “that was half the battle right there.” Though he didn’t make the time he wanted (under two hours but finished in 2:10), he was pleased with the result. It was that pack that slowed him down, but Ryan felt it was worth it. “I had trained well before, so the pack made it more fun, more difficult.”

Speaking of the pack, Ryan shares that it weighed about 20 pounds and was filled with half a sandbag. That seems heavy, but a typical military pack weighs around 60 pounds. Given the opportunity to run another half marathon without the pack, Ryan says he would probably opt out of that addition. The boots were tough, too, he admits. “The stride is different. There’s no ankle flexion.” The first five miles were uncomfortable, but after that, his feet went numb. The last mile was hard as well, but even at the slowed pace, Ryan ran the whole thing.

So what was it like racing in combat boots and a military pack at such a large-scale public event? Most importantly, Ryan had a lot of supporters cheering him on. Classmates, friends of friends and dedicated cheering groups were on-hand, and some people even ran with him for part of the way. And of course, there were lots of questions about his motivation and the significance of what he wore, and Ryan took the opportunities to talk about the Boot Campaign. There were several other military runners and even another guy running in a pack – albeit in shorts and running shoes. He and Ryan gave each other high fives out of solidarity.

“There was an outpouring of people cheering on the concept,” Ryan recalls. And as he approached the finish line, the announcers saw him coming and began revving up the crowd for the Boot Campaign. “I’m happy to have done it; it was a surprise to myself to have completed it, and it’s awesome to do it for such a great cause in a public fashion.”

What’s next for Ryan? When his ankle heals from the stress of running in rigid boots, he’ll go back to weight training to gain back the 20 pounds of muscle he lost to trim down for the race. He’ll go back to running a few times per week for stress relief, but he has no plans for another half marathon. And he’ll be participating in the Boot Campaign’s annual Pushups for Charity event, which kicks off May 17, 2014.

“There’s something satisfying about picking up something you didn’t think you could. It was a unique experience, and I’m always glad to help the Boot Campaign out,” he shares.

The Boot Campaign is excited to partner with the Seattle Rock ‘N Roll Marathon and Half Marathon June 21 and the Chicago Rock ‘N Roll Marathon and Half Marathon July 20, 2014. Get your boots on!