Troops run from Baghdad to Orlando

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau
  • 321st Air Expeditionary Wing
What has two big round ears, a tail, 69,168 feet, more than 900 legs, and 50,000 eyes on it? That would be the Disney Half Marathon Heroes Race in Baghdad, Iraq.

More than 450 U.S. service members, as well as individuals from several different countries, participated in the 13.1 mile race and ran in unison with more than 27,000 people at the Disney Half Marathon Jan. 8, 2011, in Orlando, Florida.

The idea originally came from Maj. Devin Traynor, the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission Air Force director of test and engineering, when he first arrived in Iraq. He noticed when he got here that there were a lot of people that ran on base.

At the same, time leaders were trying to think of ways to get people in the U.S. to realize that we still have troops in Iraq.

"I thought about the Disney run I had done in January 2010 with my wife," Major Traynor said. "I thought that this would be a great opportunity to get another run in for the troops. It started kinda with grand ideas and we found the right people to make it happen."

The 14-year Air Force veteran, who is deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., contacted Disney through a co-worker and started planning from there. With help from the U. S. Forces in Iraq public affairs office they were able to get a video uplink to Disney and stream live video of the race to the actual half marathon in Orlando. Because of this, they were able to synchronize the races.

Not only did Major Traynor run in the race, but his wife ran in the race in Orlando simultaneously. Using electronic training watches, they paced themselves to finish the race together. Mrs. Traynor finished the race two minutes before he did.

"For being 7,000 miles apart, two minutes isn't bad," he said. 

"It was fun for the troops, it was fun for me and my family, but the biggest thing that came out of this is that there are now 27,000 people who may not have realized, and now know that we are still here in Iraq," Major Traynor said.