CENTCOM bases hold fun runs

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, servicemembers were making a run for it.  More than 2,000 participants from four Southwest Asia bases took part in their separate half-marathons and 10Ks, aligning their runs to coincide with the Air Force's annual flagship marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, scheduled for Sept. 18.

Officials at Sather Air Base and Joint Base Balad in Iraq, Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and an air base at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia held their competitions Sept. 5 to 13. While race officials at Bagram and Balad offered only the 13.1 mile half-marathon, officials at the remaining two bases allowed participants to choose between a 10K or the half-marathon.

On Sept. 5, Sather Air Base officials held their marathon and 10K and they were the first.  More than 300 participants turned out to run. One was Navy Lt. j.g. Saulomon King, who won the 10K with a time of 43:48.

"I'm coming off of a (foot) injury and just wanted to see how I felt before getting back into racing," Lieutenant King said. 

Besides his injury, there were other challenges during the run. 

"(The marathon) started out in the dark so the little arrow markers were difficult to see," Lieutenant King said. "Some of the dirt roads had hidden obstacles that weren't that visible when the race began." The arid Iraqi climate didn't help either. "I think I had cotton mouth after the third step.".

Despite the shaky start, Lieutenant King enjoyed himself. 

"I appreciate everyone who puts these races on while deployed," he said. "Running can get monotonous so it's fun to get out with people and compete in events like this."

Six days after the Sather event, on Sept. 11, marathons were held at Joint Base Balad, Iraq and at the undisclosed air base.

More than 350 participants gathered at the Southwest Asia air base to take part in either the 10K or half-marathon.  That race started at 5 a.m., just as the sun was rising. Besides the runners, approximately 100 volunteers turned out to act as road guards, man water stations and set up tables of fruit at the finish line for runners to replenish their energy. 

"I can't say enough about our volunteers;" Stephen Blalock, event coordinator, said, "they all showed up and helped make this event a success."

Almost all the participants wore running shoes and carried nothing heavier than an MP3 player and a set of earphones. Army Sergeant 1st Class Ronsoni Long of the 1-43 Air Defense Artillery Brigade, however, not only ran in combat boots, he also carried a 35-pound rucksack. He finished the 10K with a time of 78:33.

"I've always tried to challenge myself," Sergeant Long said. "And as an Army NCO, I have to inspire my troops. I wouldn't ask them to do something that I wasn't willing to do myself."

Meanwhile at Balad, 600 runners participated in the half-marathon, starting and ending at Holt Stadium there. Since there wasn't the option of a 10K, the participants faced a bigger challenge.

"I've practiced at the Army 10-miler, that was nothing compared to this," said Army Spc. Kristopher Jones of the 514th Support Maintenance Company.

For Senior Airman Bridget Bollinger, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing protocol specialist, finishing the half-marathon meant meeting a goal. 

"Before today, the longest organized run I've participated in was a 5K," she said. "It feels good that I've achieved one of the goals I had set for myself. Now, I'm ready to set some more."

Meeting goals was also on the mind of Airman 1st Class Sashley Wolfe of the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Airfield, who ran in the half-marathon there Sept. 13. 

"I'm running in this half marathon because a future goal of mine is to compete in a triathlon at least once in my life, so this is just a step in that direction," she said.

Airman Wolfe prepared for the run in a rather unique way. 

"My training consists of actually dancing as much as possible, from salsa lessons to country line dancing, even a little dancing in the office," she said. "I know it sounds silly, but it's a great way to keep your mind off how much work your body is doing."

No matter what their reason for running or the distance covered, all the servicemembers got in their daily exercise and enjoyed the company of fellow Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. One Airman, in particular, may have summed it up best.

"We're all out here in the fight, away from our families," said Maj. Dennis Lincoln, who ran in the Balad half-marathon. "So, it was great to be doing this with all my fellow servicemembers; it made the event really memorable."

(Editor's note: Information for this story was provided by Staff Sgt. Misty Slater, 447 AEW/PA; Staff Sgt. Jacob Richmond, 332 AEW/PA and Tech. Sgt. John Jung, 455 AEW/PA).