Airmen compete in Boston Marathon Iraqi style

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
  • 407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
People at Contingency Operating Base Adder were buzzing with excitement at 5 a.m. April 18, as runners anxiously awaited the start of the annual Boston Marathon-Iraq held for the fifth time here.

More than 300 servicemembers and civilians from throughout the area of responsibility ran the perimeter of Ali Base and COB Adder, a 26. 2 mile course, trying to qualify for next year's race in Boston. Some runners wanted to try their hand at a half or full marathon for the first time. Others, not registered for the event, wanted to run to support their wingmen or show their support by passing out water at various stations throughout the route.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest marathon in the world. This is the fifth time the Boston Marathon Association has sponsored the event at COB Adder. Servicemembers with qualifying times this year will be able to run in next year's race in Boston.

One Airman not running in the event came out to support his running coworkers.

"I'm not a runner so I figure the best I can do for my team members is show them and other Air Force members running in the race my support," said Airman 1st Class Pablo Velez, a member of the Joint Contracting Command Iraq and Afghanistan-Regional Contracting Center Tallil. "I plan to stay here until they cross the finish line even if I have to drag them across it." 

Col. Mark Ware, the 407th Air Expeditionary Group commander, has been training for this day for the past six months.

"It's been a lifetime goal of mine to run in the Boston Marathon, he said. "The last time I ran in a marathon was 28 years ago. My plan for today was to finish the race in less than three hours and 45 minutes and I did that with a run time of 3 hours, 30 minutes. I will definitely compete in Boston next year."

The first Air Force member competing in the male category of the half marathon completed the race in 1 hour and 31 minutes. Staff Sgt. Damien Harris, 407th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron recreation center manager has been an avid runner beginning at a very young age.

"I've always been a runner since I was 5 years old," Sergeant Harris said. "I've done several half marathons throughout my life and compete in 5/10K runs at every base I go to. I'm so glad I ran, I was able to represent my squadron, my leadership, the Air Fore in general and my family. I'll continue to run in events like this for as long as my body will let me."

The overall winner for the COB Adder-based Boston Marathon was Maj. Harland Peelle, a Defense Contract Management Agency team lead deployed from the Pentagon to Forward Operating Base Delta, Iraq. He completed the full race in 2 hours, 54 minutes and 31 seconds.

"I've participated in several marathons before," Major Peelle said. "When I heard about this one, I wanted to come out and compete. It's pretty nice being this year's overall winner, but I did it for fun."