Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen run half-marathon

Photos and story by Sgt. Michael Carden
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The pounding of running feet greets the dawn as nearly 1,000 Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen participating in the 13-mile OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon take off from the starting line May 8 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

“It’s a mini-marathon mirroring the Indy 500 … back in the states,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Hartigan, the sports and fitness noncommissioned officer with the 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron and a San Diego, Calif., native. “We are about eight hours ahead of them, but it is just like the big one.”

Runners competed either as individuals or as relay teams of four. Relay teams broke the course into four-mile sections, while other teams ran the entire race together, shouting encouragement to motivate the other runners.

Competitors were greeted with cheers and medals as they crossed the finished line. Every participant also received a hat and a T-shirt for participating.

“It went great,” said Lt. Col. Juan Berrios, a strategic planner with the 210th Regional Support Group, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Ponce, Puerto Rico native. “We started these (races) for fun, but they have become serious business.”

Soldiers with the 210th have not missed a five-or 10-kilometer race at JBB since they arrived last December, Berrios said.

“It motivates Soldiers to run, but it is fun too,” Berrios said. “It’s a huge boost in morale. Days prior to the event, people start talking about it. It’s great teambuilding. When you are away from home, these people are your Family so you need to keep everybody together.”

Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Yerby, a Stockton, Calif. native, was the first across the finish line with a time of 1 hour, 23 minutes.

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to run and compete,” Yerby said. “(I’m) happy to be here and part of the team.”

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Soldiers get a fresh drink of water during the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon May 8 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. More than 1,000 runners participated in the 13-mile half marathon. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Michael Carden)

 

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Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors leave from the starting line during the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon May 8 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. More than 1,000 competitors who participated in the 13-mile race. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Michael Carden)

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Competitors finished the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon held May 8 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. More than 1,000 Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and civilians participated in the 13-mile half marathon. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Michael Carden)