Brothers in Arms: World's largest 10K run visits Army Camp in Middle East
by Army Spc. Curt Cahour
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - About 2,000 service members and civilians participated in versions of the Peachtree Road Race July 4 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and July 3 at Camp Victory, Iraq, and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
The three desert runs are subsets of the original 6.2 mile road race, which is held annually in downtown Atlanta, Ga., to celebrate Independence Day. The stateside race run by the Atlanta Track Club typically draws about 55,000 participants and is considered the world's most popular 10K road race.
Minutes before the run's 5 a.m. start time in Kuwait, contestants mingled near the start point stretching, chatting and posing for photographs against a backdrop of patriotic tunes such as James Brown's "Living in America."
Mark Woelzlein was actually slated to run in the Atlanta version of the race. He had to cancel his plans, however, when he received orders to deploy to Camp Doha with his unit, the 335th Theater Signal Command, an Army Reserve unit based at Camp Doha. He found out about the Patton's Own run about a week ago during his in-processing brief. Mr. Woelzlein, 43, was one of 13 335th Soldiers who left Doha at 3 a.m. to make the trip, he said.
So why would someone want to brave the desert heat and rise in the wee hours of the morning for a run?
"Just for the excitement, the challenge," said 40-year-old 335th Soldier Mark Benton.
Bryan Abregano and Steven Ronquillo, both of the 487th Field Artillery, a National Guard unit from Oahu, Hawaii, got up at 3 a.m. to drive from Kuwaiti Naval Base to attend the run. Though they weren't competing, the pair made the trip so they could cheer on their squad leader Joe Kanwale.
The event was the creation of Brig. Gen. William Johnson, director of movement and distribution management for Coalition Forces Land Component Command. General Johnson, an Atlanta native who has participated in each of the last 26 Peachtree races, got the idea for the Patton's Own race last year while deployed to Kuwait.
General Johnson wasn't about to let his deployment prevent him from participating in the run, so he mapped out a 10K course at Camp Arifjan, completed his run, and sent the results to race proprietors back in Atlanta. Back then, he was the lone participant in Kuwait. This year, however, he worked with Atlanta Track Club staff to broaden overseas participation, he said.
With a starter pistol in one hand and a cell phone in the other, General Johnson kicked things off while talking to race proprietors who were standing at the start point in Atlanta.
Robert Schnell, a 32-year-old with the 158th Corps Support Battalion, a National Guard unit from Arizona, finished first overall with a time of 34 minutes 5 seconds. Second place honors went to Michael Paul, a 27-year-old 335th member who came in with a time of 37 minutes 2 seconds.
The track club waived the usual $20 fee for overseas participants and provided complimentary Peachtree T-shirts for race participants, General Johnson said. (Courtesy of Army News Service)