YOKOHAMA NORTH DOCK, Japan – The Yokohama North Dock Running Festival, which returned here for the first time in four years, drew nearly 1,000 competitors for its 5K, 10K and half-marathon races Nov. 4.
The 836th Transportation Battalion, headquartered at North Dock, presented awards to the winners. The unit’s executive officer said the installation was excited and privileged to have runners back for the competition.
“It’s an opportunity for the U.S. Army in Japan to provide the local community with a positive message of camaraderie,” said Maj. Steve Truong, assigned to the 836th’s Surface Department Distribution Command.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Alex Nestle, assigned to the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 51 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, placed second in the men’s division 5K and said he enjoyed the nice view the course provided, which included the backdrop of Yokohama City. The cool breeze coming in from the bay made it even better, he said.
Nestle trains often for triathlons but said he is always looking for running races to join. In addition to the North Dock run, he also competed in an event held last month on Sagami General Depot. The on-base runs welcome Japanese competitors, which both makes for better competition and gives the host-nation guests the chance to familiarize themselves with a U.S. military installation, Nestle said.
“It’s really good to have events like this that help forge intercultural relationships and to have cultural exchanges with others who have common interests,” he said. “It connects people.”
Harumi Yamada placed first in the women’s division 10K and said she found out about the event by accident while browsing social media. She was eager to compete because she had never been to a U.S. military installation before.
Yamada lives near North Dock and said it was a unique experience seeing Soldiers and other Americans working as staff at the event and hearing English spoken everywhere she went. She also enjoyed the course and said she is sure there are a lot more local runners who would have competed if they had known about it.
“I’d like the U.S. military to regularly host these bilateral events so that we have more chances to see what their installations look like and to get us familiarized with them and the people,” Yamada said.
Any time North Dock hosts events that welcome Japanese visitors, Truong said he wants the surrounding community to know they are always welcome. The installation is always looking to build the relationship between the two, he said.
“From what I saw during the event, it seemed pretty positive, and I hope this engagement will continue to grow in the future,” Truong said.