Submitted by Jeff Johnson
It is 5:30 am on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sharana in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan and a group of runners is about to run a 13.1 mile loop of gravel roads, hills, and sand at 7,500 feet elevation. These runners are part of the Dusty Toes Running Club and they run on FOB Sharana seven days a week. The Dusty Toes are a club sponsored by the United Service Organizations (USO) that is open to anyone who wants to run with a group or needs a battle buddy. There is no minimum training or racing requirement, just a group to run and have fun with. The club is open to soldiers and civilians, enlisted and officers, the only requirement is that you want to run.
The Dusty Toes use running to bring a sense of normalcy to the combat zone. In addition to hosting one long run and one short run every morning, they participate in at least one racing event a month. During the month of July the Dusty Toes supported the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Wounded Warrior 5K Run. The event was a great success and raised over six thousand dollars for wounded EOD service members and their families. In August the Dusty Toes participated in the satellite Oregon Hood to Coast Relay. Three teams competed on FOB Sharana and the winning team finished the 200 mile relay in 30 hours and 24 minutes, only 10 minutes ahead of the second place team. As a farewell for the 623rd Engineer Company, Nebraska National Guard, who will be returning home soon, the Dusty Toes sponsored the satellite Lincoln National Guard Half Marathon. The Dusty Toes also sponsored the shadow Army Ten Miler in late September. Footage from the race will be shown at the actual Army Ten Miler in Washington D.C. in early October.
All of these events are a train up for the USO’s Coast to Coast Running Festival in early October. The running festival includes a full and half marathon and the USO has coordinated 16 marathon sponsors from across the country to provide a bit of home for every soldier, sailor, airman, and marine. This event is made possible by the Austin Marathon, the Baltimore Marathon, the Big Sur Marathon, the California International Marathon, the Long Beach Marathon, the Los Angeles Marathon, the Kona Marathon, the Malibu Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, the Napa Valley Marathon, the New Jersey Marathon, the Portland Marathon, the San Diego Marathon, the San Francisco Marathon, the Richmond Marathon, and the Steamtown Marathon. Thank you for all of your Support!