KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Sept. 24, 2014) -- More than 700 coalition Service members showed up before the sun rose on Kandahar Airfield here, Friday, to run a shadow run for the 30th annual Army Ten-Miler.
The run served a dose of healthy competition while promoting esprit de corps. For many, it provided a goal to strive for over several months and a link to tie those who ran to their families and communities.
"For me, this serves as kind of a connection back home. Running is something I use in my life that ties me to my community and family. My family likes to exercise, so it always makes me think of them and folks back home," said Maj. Christopher Hallows, a native of New York, who serves as an operations officer for 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
Sgt. 1st Class Steven Church, a native of Ogden, Utah, who serves as the Morale, Welfare and Recreation director for Kandahar Airfield with the 209th Digital Liaison Detachment, 7th Civil Support Command, said it's important to give people serving in Afghanistan the opportunity to participate in events like the run to give them a taste of home.
"It gives them a goal and, any time you have a goal, it gives you a purpose," he said. "It makes time go by faster and it makes you feel better about yourself."
The shadow run on Kandahar Airfield is one of nearly a dozen runs scheduled to kick off before the actual Army Ten-Miler, which will take place in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12. Before the run began, Col. Steve Gilland, who serves as the chief of staff of Combined Joint Task Force-1, Regional Command-South, gave a short history of the Ten-Miler.
"The Army Ten-Miler was first started in 1985, and was originally just a fitness event. It has since evolved into the second largest 10-mile run in the United States," Gilland said. "Over the past 13 years, these shadow runs have been conducted to commemorate the Army Ten-Miler. This will be the 30th annual run since it started, but only 29 have actually been done, as there was one cancelled due to the 9/11 events in 2001."
To make the run feel more like the actual Ten-Miler, pictures of memorial sites from Washington were placed throughout the course.
"This being a shadow run, we tried to emulate actually running in Washington, D.C.," Church said. "So we have all of the monuments around D.C. at the exact same mile marker, as if you were running it there."
Aside from the good camaraderie the run provided, the run also provided a way for Service members to momentarily get away from a heavy workload.
"Missions that Soldiers are doing on a daily basis can be very stressful," Hallows said, "and this allows them to get away from the daily grind, to compete, and to escape for a moment."
Once the race was complete, an awards ceremony was has held at the boardwalk area where trophies and prizes were given to the top three male and female runners.