140 marathoners claim leis in Iraq
An Army sergeant wins the isle-inspired race in Camp Victory
Gunnery Sgt. Michael Myers had never run a marathon.
But when the chance to be in the first-ever Honolulu Marathon satellite race in Iraq came up, he decided to enter as a way of feeling closer to his wife and three children.
"If it was just any old marathon, he wouldn't have run," said Myers' wife, Stephanie, who has lived in the islands for about a year. "But it's the Honolulu Marathon. There is a connection to home."
The 26.2-mile race started at 6:30 a.m. yesterday in Baghdad, which was 5:30 p.m. Saturday in Hawaii. Organizers said it was about 40 degrees when the marathon began.
A fire engine sounded its horn to start the race.
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Williams, 46, of the New York-based 10th Mountain Division, won the marathon in 2:59:57. Twenty-four-year-old 1st Lt. Lauren Koban, a lawyer with the Army's 101st Airborne Division from Kentucky, won the women's race in 3:38:30.
Myers finished in 3:37, his wife said. "I was surprised," she added. "He'd never done anything like this."
Some 187 runners -- including Marines, soldiers and private contractors -- signed up for the race, and 140 finished. Finishers got a T-shirt and lei, just like those who ran in the Honolulu Marathon.
"It boosts their morale, and it gives them a moment of normalcy in an otherwise dangerous situation," said Pat Bigold, Honolulu Marathon spokesman. "If they feel a kinship to the Honolulu Marathon, they're extended family."
Initially, there were plans to hold the race last Sunday to coincide with the marathon in Honolulu.
But concerns about security leading up to the Iraqi national elections pushed officials to postpone it for a week.
The marathon's course was set up inside Camp Victory in southwestern Baghdad. Runners started with a 1-mile lap and then ran four 6.3-mile loops.
The organizer of the Iraq race, Marine Lt. Col. Jim O'Donnell, was the last marathon runner to cross the finish line.
The 47-year-old has run the Honolulu Marathon five times but finished the Iraq race in 6:20:00 because of knee injuries, according to the Associated Press.
"Finishing was not a question in my mind," he said, "but I didn't want to be the last runner across the finish line."
Staff Sgt. Ryan Taniguchi, a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, finished in 3:56:50. His brother, Keola, finished the marathon in Honolulu last week in 3:27:05.
Last year, an Army captain organized the first satellite Honolulu Marathon at Afghanistan's Firebase Ripley, a remote camp near Tarin Kowt in the central Uruzgan province.
A total of 184 soldiers and civilians ran in the 2004 race, which finished about three hours before the Honolulu Marathon kicked off.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.