By Staff Sgt. Garrett RalstonFebruary 21, 2011
BABIL, Iraq - Over 100 Soldiers, Airmen, and civilians gathered Sunday on Contingency Operating Site Kalsu in southern Iraq to participate in the Austin, Texas-based Livestrong Marathon and Half Marathon "shadow" run.
The race was organized to bring participants on the base a taste of the central Texas annual marathon and provide those involved with a fun, challenging diversion from normal military missions.
The day's event was organized by Staff Sgt. Mario A. Gomez, the senior enlisted fire and effects coordinator for Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and a native of McAllen, Texas.
"I contacted personnel from one of my favorite running related publications," said Gomez. "They directed me to contact folks with the Austin Marathon for support. Austin Marathon happily provided us with logoed shirts, medals, and a finish line tape for our runners here."
With support in place, the 13.1-mile race began at 7:00 a.m. on Kalsu, mirroring the start time of the race back in Austin.
The course the runners took in Iraq was in stark contrast to the green, tree-lined streets of Austin. Tall trees, grass, and paved roads were exchanged for concrete barriers, mud puddles, and a lot of gravel. Despite the conditions, runners were excited and enthusiastic.
"I was really excited to participate because Austin is where I attended college," said Spc. Colleen E. Cobb, a geospatial engineer for 3rd ACR, originally from San Antonio. "I didn't train very hard for it but I feel I did pretty good. I finished, and that's good."
All the runners remained determined throughout the three windblown laps around the base, smiling and waving as onlookers cheered them forward.
The first competitor to cross the finish line, Spc. Christopher Mwita, Regimental Support Squadron, glided past the finish line at 1 hour, 32 minutes, closely followed by 1st Lt. Justin Messenger of 1st Squadron, 3rd ACR.
According to an Austin Marathon press release, John Conley, race director for Livestrong Austin Marathon and Half Marathon said, "The Austin Marathon remains dedicated to producing these 'shadow races' year after year. Overcoming the tough conditions is a testament to these dedicated athletes and to the importance of providing a way for our Troops to have some sense of normalcy and leisure time during their service."