CAMP ZAMA, Japan (May 23, 2019) - A cool sea breeze and the scenic Yokohama Port served as the backdrop for the Yokohama North Dock Running Festival, which drew more than 1,600 runners to the installation May 18 for the annual event.

The 836th Transportation Battalion at North Dock, along with the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Camp Zama, hosted the event, which included both youth and adult runners.

This year's run was the largest in terms of participation since the event began at North Dock in 2007, said Lt. Col. Gary Whittacre, commander of the 836th Transportation Bn., who counted himself among that number this year.

Whittacre said he enjoyed getting to be part of the event, interacting with the many Japanese runners who participated, and taking photos with them throughout the day.

"[Events like this are] an opportunity for us to be able to have a positive interaction with the community," said Whittacre.

Whittacre said he hopes the Friendship Run and other events like it will continue to send a positive message of "camaraderie and unity" to the neighboring Japanese communities by letting them know they are welcome to the installation.

"We want to be a good neighbors to the community," said Whittacre.

Emiko Ito, a first-time participant in the run, said her friends who ran the previous year invited her to join this year.

"There are so many runners here, everyone from young kids to older folks and families including small kids to old folks and families, and I really enjoyed not only running myself but also watching others enjoy themselves," said Ito.

Ito said she was initially unsure what to expect during her first visit to a U.S. military installation and admitted to feeling a bit wary, but once she saw the inside of the base, she was pleased to find that the friendly people and atmosphere were not unlike that of her own community outside the gate.

Akemi Sasaki, another runner who attended the event with a group of friends, said she had no idea how large North Dock was until she ran the race and the route took her and the other participants through much of the installation. Sasaki said she and her friends would definitely like to return to North Dock for the next running festival in the fall.

"It was an amazing experience for me to be able to run in such a wide open space," said Sasaki.