By Maj. Al HingDecember 15, 2008
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Approximately 160 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians braved the chilly morning Dec. 14 to run the Satellite Honolulu Marathon in Iraq at Camp Taji, northwest of Baghdad.
The 26.2-mile course weaved its way through the roads of the camp and at some points proved to challenge the runners' mental toughness.
Just over three hours, the first finisher crossed the finish line
Maj. Kurt Kinney, a Utica, N.Y., native, and the battalion surgeon for 1st Battalion 21st Infantry Regiment, "Gimlets," 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, "Warrior," 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, finished first with a time of 3:04:02, The top female finisher, Spc. Navidad Caldron, a San Jose, Calif. native, who serves with Company A, 404th Aviation Support Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, MND-B crossed the finish line with a time of 3:15:46.
"I've run a few other marathons, but this is the first I've won and the first here in Iraq," said Kinney. "I've run the Boston Marathon six times, and the Honolulu Marathon twice (in Hawaii), but to be here with our Soldiers and to win is really special."
Organizer for the Marathon, 1st Lt. Clayton Cole, a native of Gunnison, Colo., and officer assigned to 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd SBCT is an avid runner, but gave up the opportunity to run to focus on executing the event. "This took a lot of effort with a lot of help, but it's a great thing for the Soldiers to be able to run and just step away from their normal missions. We wanted to give the Soldiers goals to keep them running."
Cole said he received support from Hawaii as well.
"With the help of (Hawaii) Governor (Linda) Lingle and the Honolulu Marathon guys (in Hawaii) we got support that reaches over 8,000 miles," said Cole.
The help from service members and civilians who volunteered were invaluable, said Cole. Those individuals set up and manned water and food points to keep runners hydrated and their energy levels high.
One of the runners whose wife is running in Honolulu kept her firmly in his thoughts as he pushed through cramps and the mental challenges.
"Starting around mile 13, I really started to cramp in my legs bad, but I kept going," said Lt.Col. Mark Collins, a Phoenix, native, and battalion commander for 225th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd SBCT. "At mile 20, the only thing that kept me going was thinking of my wife, and knowing that she would be running today."