NATICK, Mass. -- When you think about reaching out to people, extended arms usually come to mind, but it turns out that legs can be just as handy.

Those lower limbs got plenty of work June 23 at the Natick Soldier Systems Center, which hosted its inaugural 5-kilometer cross-country race as a means of embracing the communities surrounding the 78-acre installation in this post-9/11 age.

"The objective is outreach to build bridges where, over the past 10 years, we've built fences," said Lt. Col. Frank Sobchak, Natick garrison commander, prior to the race. "In (Massachusetts), we probably have one of the most supportive populations where I've ever been stationed."

Sobchak, a runner himself, thought a race would be an ideal way to thank local residents for their support through a common bond.

"In the military, physical fitness is a big part of our life," Sobchak said. "It's a staple of the identity of Boston and Boston MetroWest. It's home to the mecca of runners -- the Boston Marathon. It's the granddaddy of all marathons. The marathon runs right (through) Natick."

At 3.1 miles, the NSSC 5K Fun Run/Walk was no marathon, but the course, which included the installation's fitness trail and streets, along with some off-post roads, provided plenty of variety for runners and walkers alike.

Brendan Cairney of Medway and Anya Price of Natick ruled the NSSC course, winning the men's and women's divisions in 15 minutes, 48 seconds, and 16:55, respectively.

Cairney, a 31-year-old former Natick High School and University of Massachusetts runner, led the entire way and breezed to victory.

"I liked it a lot," said Carney of the course. "I slowed down a little bit in the midsection, but I picked it up in the end."

A recent Tufts University graduate who ran track and cross-country there, Price, 22, finished second overall and dominated the women's race.

"I think they did a good job in incorporating … the trails and using the neighborhood," Price said. "I think that was a good way to change things up."

One didn't need to be an elite runner to enjoy the event, however. Andrew Kinross of Natick and his children, John and Katie, crossed the finish line together in first place during the 1-mile run/walk that preceded the 5K race.

"They've done some runs before," said Andrew of his children. "(Katie) runs the 1-mile at school."
Andrew said the family had never before visited NSSC.

"That's why we wanted to come here," he added.

Others obviously felt the same: The event drew 125 runners and walkers. All proceeds went to the NSSC Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program.

As Sobchak pointed out to participants before the race, Natick is the only active-duty Army post in New England.

"We want to kind of show you what we do," Sobchak said. "We are your Army."


1. Brendan Carney, 15:48

2. Kevin Persaud, 17.14

3. James Johnson, 17:22


1. Anya Price, 16:55

2. Kat Whitten, 17:14

3. Stephanie Brockert, 20:08