First Wave Philly Marathon
Rob Powers records participants at Hohenfels' 2nd Annual First Wave 5K chanting the countdown that will start the Philadelphia Marathon in Pennsylvania.

HOHENFELS, Germany -- Though the 2nd Annual Philadelphia Marathon First Wave Warrior Race 5K took place more than a week before the world-renowned race in Pennsylvania, participants in the Hohenfels event also played an active part in the race back home.

Video footage and photos from the First Wave run were broadcast on giant screens set up along the course of the marathon, and the Hohenfels contestants even provided a video countdown to start the Philadelphia event.

"This is the second time that Hohenfels has been honored to be partnered with the fantastic city of Philadelphia," said Lt. Col. Kevin J. Quarles, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels commander. "We just want to give a great big shout out to Philadelphia. We're proudly serving here, and we're really proud and honored to be able to start your race for you!"

The First Wave runs are the brain child of Rob Powers, official announcer of the Philadelphia Marathon and founder of the Warrior Tours, whose mission is to help build the resiliency of American's armed forces by connecting world class Americans and events with the troops.

"We came up with the concept of first wave racing as a direct result of my job," said Powers. Billed as "America's Voice of Running," Powers has been announcing races for more than 22 years. "I just got tired of going to these huge running races that I'm hired to announce and getting handed a tiny little slip of paper on race day that would have maybe a first and last name and maybe a time as the results from the shadow run that took place the same day somewhere in the world."

"I'd open up the paper in San Francisco and read three columns worth of reporting on the San Francisco marathon," said Powers, "and then I'd read about half an inch on the third quarter that might say, 'Oh and in Afghanistan, the San Francisco marathon was run and was won by an Air Force lieutenant in a time of whatever,' and that would be it."

Powers' solution was to stage First Wave races, sometimes months before the corresponding stateside marathon.

"We come over, meet the troops, spend time with them," said Powers. "We collect the results, photos, video, and hand it over to these various race committees and allow their media teams to incorporate these stories, these images, into the race weekend's media blitz."

Powers said that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter devoted a huge portion of the press conference Friday night on the eve of the Philadelphia marathon to showing videos and photos of the First Wave race. Powers himself gave a briefing to the press core on this year's event, speaking on behalf of Warrior Tours and USAG Hohenfels.

"We're not just coming over here to put on another T-shirt run," said Powers. "We're coming over here so that the members of this community know how important they are, and incorporating their heart and soul into one of America's major international marathons."

First place finisher Capt. Luke Mercier, Joint Multinational Readiness Center Falcons Aviation Support Team, said he didn't know the garrison event was getting so much attention. He just came for the run.

"It's a good connection back to the states, though," he said. "My sister lives in Pennsylvania. Maybe she'll catch a little of it on TV."

Mercier finished with a time of 18:34.

First place in the female division went to 13-year-old Amanda Elliott with a time of 20:36. Elliot placed 4th in cross country at the Europeans held the previous week.

Powers said this was the first time Warrior Tours had returned to the same location for an annual event, "and the mayor wants to see this Hohenfels relationship just to continue to roll on."

"Mayor Nutter is the first mayor I've run into that has not only let me know that the mission of warrior tours is one he embraces and supports, but as well allows the Philadelphia Marathon - the city's biggest outdoor event - to ring with freedom, ring with our troops, and the pride that that city has for America's Armed Forces," said Powers.

Spc. William Stevens, Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, appreciates the sentiment.

"Some of us are overseas two or three years," he said. "So to bring a piece of home like this means a lot. Some of these kids are away from their families for the first time, and it means a little bit more to participate in something like this."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16