This past Saturday, on a surprisingly warm and sunny day, participants of the Zimmerman Fitness Challenge tested their endurance and strength. The event is held in the spring each year in memory of the University of Maine and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Navy graduate, 1st Lt. James Zimmerman, who was killed on duty in Afghanistan in 2010.
The Zimmerman Challenge began in 2012 and usually brings in over 300 people, including participants and volunteers. Participants are not limited to UMaine students, with many members of the local community and students from other schools coming to take part.
“It is a way to commemorate who he was, what he stands for and the impact he has had on the community,” Mark Talvacchia, a third-year mechanical engineering student and the Navy ROTC officer in charge of the event, said.
Talvacchia was on the winning team during last year’s Zimmerman Challenge.
Though the tasks are challenging, families are welcomed to participate in groups of four.
For a year leading up to the event, a roughly 25-person group organizes the logistics and other basic planning. As the event is about honoring Zimmerman in the community, there are a range of people involved in it. The group in charge of the planning consists of ROTC members from the army, navy and Marine Corps as well as UMaine veterans and volunteers from the local area.
The challenge itself includes running three miles with an assortment of military style challenges at various stations along the way. Some of these challenges included low crawls, buddy carries, push-ups and many other competitions. The mud pit, a usual staple, was not included in this year’s challenge due to recent poor weather.
“It went great, it was an awesome experience. Even if we didn’t come first it’s about finishing it for the guys who didn’t make it home” Mike Comrie, a third-year international security student at UMaine, said.
Depending on one’s motivation or self-perceived level of fitness, they can choose from the three levels of difficulty: hardcore, motivated and family. This simply determines the pace at which participants complete the course and the number of sets one has to do at the different exercise stations.
Among the groups participating this year was a team of Army ROTC from Husson University.
“I’ve wanted to run in it the last two years but didn’t have the opportunity. So, this year I had the time and decided to run it with my friends,” Jason Smith, a fourth-year criminal justice student and member of the Husson University team, said. “I knew it was for a great cause and wanted to make the most out of it.”
As a part of this event, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and UMaine Veterans Association put on a barbeque that participants were welcome to after they completed the challenge.
“This year we really pushed out on the fundraising and have people donating for the event from Texas, Tennessee, Washington and all over the country,” Talvacchia said.
The money raised at this event then goes towards the Zimmerman Memorial Fund that helps new Marine officers from UMaine.