240th Army Birthday 10k Afghanistan Review!
For millions of Americans and supporters around the globe, June 14th is not only recognized as Flag Day, but for the military and its veterans, it is also the United States Army’s Birthday. During the early morning hours of June 14, over 400 multinational service members, DoD civilians, and government contractors began gathering at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan to celebrate the 240th Army Birthday with a 10k race.
The Bagram Support Group Commander, COL Stephanie E. Gradford provided 1LT Tanner Glodt, of the 414th Military Police Detachment, the opportunity of providing all of the tenants of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan with the 240th Army Birthday 10k run. It was a spectacular event that set the standard for future organized events on Bagram Airfield. The 240th Army Birthday 10k was only a success due to the combined support of numerous organizations to include the US Forces Afghanistan Bagram Support Group, United Service Organizations (USO), Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR), and Military Auto Source (MAS).
Bagram, Airfield offers an amazing opportunity for running as you can run upwards of 10mi without double backing on any of the roads. This provides a perfect stage for any number of races from a 5k to even 24-hour races. While there are many opportunities to attend races, I have found that the majority of races here at Bagram are very much like the secret race scene that you would find in Fast and the Furious. Very rarely do you hear about these races and when you do, it is usually because you see a group of runners barreling down Disney Drive towards the finish.
The 240th Army Birthday 10k was definitely the exception, and in my opinion was the best-organized and executed race that I have been a part of at Bagram Airfield. This wasn’t simply a race, the organizers did an absolute fantastic job at the planning and execution and made this an actual event!
For several months leading up to this day, there were flyers posted all over Bagram announcing this monumental race that would include free shirts, prizes for the winners, guest speakers, and even a birthday cake! In the past, if I heard of a race, of any distance, that was my queue to toe the line with the rest of the runners and use it as an opportunity to set new Personal Record (PR), which I have done twice since I arrived in Afghanistan. With the significance of this race and celebrating the Army’s 240th birthday I wanted to do a bit more; While I am a government contractor in Afghanistan, I am also a retired Infantryman and hold the United States Army close to my heart.
I reached out to SKORA Running and talked to them about the possibility of sponsoring the race. My original plan was to personally offer a pair of shoes to the winner and asked SKORA if they would match my offer. Instead, SKORA came back and offered to provide a pair of shoes for both the male AND female overall winners! I was absolutely elated by their support for me, the race organizers, and our military service members and civilians here in Afghanistan. After speaking with the race organizer, 1LT Tanner, we were set! There was a race, amazing prizes, and I was going to have the opportunity to represent SKORA Running and give out some free shoes, talking with people about Tailwind Nutrition and handing out samples, and just engaging with people! I was EXCITED!
I arrived at the event around 4:30 AM to link up with 1LT Glodt and chat with the many runners from all around the world that were all beginning to flock into the Warrior Bazaar to register for the race and pick up their race packets. The 3d Infantry Division Band was also at the registration performing for everyone. This really added to it. The band didn’t only perform your typical military-type pieces, but also incorporated some fun and entertaining pieces. Two pieces that jumped out at me in particular was the theme song from Super Mario Brothers and Game of Thrones! There was a mix of runners wearing their race event shirts for the 240th Army Birthday 10k, unit t-shirts from their respective military units, Physical Training (PT) uniforms, or random civilian running attire by those civilians partaking in the race. The field was comprised of runners from all walks of life and all fitness levels to include those running in body armor and even walking. Regardless of how they completed the 10k, the important part is that they DID complete the 10k.
Prior to the start of the race, 1LT Glodt and COL Gradford briefed everyone on the safety on the course, what actions to take in the event of any attack, and thanked everyone for his or her support and attendance. In addition to the race organizers, Maj. Gen Mike Murray, deputy commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan – Support also addressed those in attendance and spoke of the significance of this race taking place on the Army Birthday. After MG Murray finished his speech, I was invited up to the podium to introduce myself and announce the prizes I was offering to the overall male and female winner. Once all of the introductions and announcements were finished, there was only one thing left to do and that was to start the race!
All of the participants gathered outside at the start line preparing to race. With this race taking place in Afghanistan, the organizers don’t have access to sophisticated timing or individual timing chips, the winners are based on who crosses the line first. This is not uncommon so those runners that were there to win arranged themselves on the line in the front of the pack. Many of them lined up with their hands strategically placed on their wrists ready to start their own watches. Before long, the race announcer, a Specialist in the United States Army, grabbed the megaphone and prepared the field… GO!
The 10k course, which actually ended up being a little over 11k consisted of “Warrior Loop”, an out-and-back course that took the runners past a small arms firing range to “four corners” where they turned around and headed back for a final lap around “Warrior Loop”.
41 minutes after the race started, at the sign of our first runner, the 3d Infantry Division Band once again began performing pieces to cheer on the finishers as they crossed the line and add to the esprit de corps of the event.
The overall male winner of the race was Andrew Unsicker, 38, of Elkhart, Indiana with a time of 0:42:00. Andrew is a Major in the United States Air Force and an attorney. Andrew’s preferred races are marathons and half Ironmans and his goal is to get a sub 2:40 marathon and sub 11:00 on an Ironman!
The overall female winner was Martina Skalova, 25, of the Czech Republic with a time of 0:44:11. Martina is a 2LT in the Czech Army and a representative of the Czech Army Pentathlon team and competed in Rio at the World Championships in 2013! While a member of the Pentathlon Team, her favorite discipline is the run. Her preferred race distance is 5k and 10ks, but has the utmost respect for distance runners. 😉 Like many runners, she uses running as a way to clear her mind!
The best part of the event for me came when Andrew and Martina crossed the line and I had the honor of presenting them each with a pair of Tempos that were graciously provided by SKORA Running! I look forward to their first run and can’t wait to hear their feedback!
Until next month… Get out there and find your run!
A special thanks to SKORA Running and Tailwind Nutrition! This was a great event!