Boots laced, football secured. Naval Academy midshipmen plan this year to make their longest run with a game ball to the Army-Navy matchup just outside of Boston.
Nearly 200 midshipmen from the sea service school are set to make the trek from the academy in Annapolis, Maryland, to Foxborough, Massachusetts, ahead of the 124th Army-Navy game on Dec. 9.
The roughly 450-mile journey will cross through seven states and begin the Tuesday before the game, Midshipman Andrew Bacilek, the ball run commander, told Military Times. He and other midshipmen, largely from the academy’s 13th Company, are set to endure frigid temperatures as they take turns dashing with the pigskin up to New England.
“We’re not stopping just because it’s a little bit longer,” said Bacilek, who is set to make his third ball run this year.
Although the Army-Navy game has been held multiple times outside of its traditional location in Philadelphia, this matchup is believed to mark the furthest run for the midshipmen since the tradition began in the 1980s. They did not reportedly jog cross country to Pasadena, California when the game was played there in 1983.
The runners this year again will split the course, with each taking various 8-to-12-mile legs until their scheduled arrival at Gillette Stadium on the morning of game day.
“We’re also the ones driving and navigating and running things behind the scenes, which is something I’d say we take pride in,” said Midshipman Will McCrate, executive officer of the ball run.
He, Bacilek and other company leaders needed to think through the logistical challenges of racing along a route the group has not attempted before, including coordinating vans to follow the runners with supplies and connecting with local police and fire stations in the various towns they pass through.
“What drew me to want to participate in this in a leadership role is this is such a unique event,” said McCrate, who emphasized the camaraderie the ball run builds.
Whether the midshipmen can sustain cheers of ‘Go Navy’ and ‘Beat Army’ through the multi-day marathon remains to be seen.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media