Guest Blogger Jeff Johnson

At 5:30 on a cold Sunday morning at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan over 250 runners lined up to compete in the Coast to Coast Marathon.  The participants include soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, state department civilians, and a few Czech soldiers.  Most of the course is gravel and sand and starts at over 7,300 feet elevation with the full marathon gaining and loosing 2236 feet.  The race was organized by the USO and sponsored by sixteen marathons representing the entire country.

Ten races represented the west coast.  Sergeant First Class Peter Fritsch represented Hawaii and ran the Kona Marathon, he is part of the 1249th Engineer Battalion which hosted the Coast to Coast Marathon.  Four races represented Southern California.   Major Samuel Volkman from the 18th Engineer Brigade finished first in the half Los Angeles Marathon and Specialist Luke Jamison also from the 18th Engineer Brigade finished first in the full Los Angeles Marathon.  Sergeant First Class Eteru Ane and Specialist Cecil Wong from the 1-227 Aviation Regiment headquarters completed the Long Beach Marathon; Lieutenant Anthony Nguyen who is part of the 504th Military Intelligence Company ran the Malibu marathon; and Staff Sergeant Harris and four other soldiers from the 623rd Engineer Company marched the San Diego Marathon in full gear.

Four races represented Northern California: Sergeant Justin Duffek from the Sharana Provincial Reconstruction Team ran the Big Sur Marathon; Major Michael Baim from the 18th Engineer Brigade headquarters finished first in the full California International Marathon in Sacramento, California together; First Sergeant Jovanna Meyer of the 1-227th Aviation Regiment finished first in the full Napa Valley Marathon; and Staff Sergeant Orianna Parker and Sergeant Teresa Iguin from the 172nd Support Battalion completed the San Francisco Marathon.  The first finishers of the full Portland Marathon were Captain Jeremiah Beckert and Lieutenant Casey Mason from the 1249th Engineer Battalion.

For some this marathon was a lifelong goal and for others it was a chance to escape the routine of everyday life in a combat zone and imagine they were running in the city of the marathon they chose.  Although this race was run on a Sunday, once the race was complete the majority of the soldiers returned to work.  Captain Ingrid Bruning from the 18th Engineer Brigade headquarters finished first in the full Austin Marathon and represented Texas.

Five races represented the east coast.  Ms. Jennifer Anderson from USAID represented the South and ran the Richmond Marathon.   Lieutenant Brendan Kessler and Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Clark from the 831st SDDC ran the Baltimore Marathon representing the mid Atlantic region.  Lieutenant Adan Rivas and Lieutenant Christina Fenstermaker, both from the 1-227th Aviation Regiment, were the first male and female finishers for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D. C.  Captain Kathy Nowak and Staff Sergeant Alan Maldonado from Task Force Odin represented the Northeast and ran the New Jersey marathon.  Captain Jeff Johnson from the 18th Engineer Brigade headquarters finished first in the half Steamtown Marathon in Scranton Pennsylvania.

The overall winners of the Coast to Coast Marathon were Lieutenant Adan Rivas from the 1-227th Aviation Regiment who finished in 3:40:10 and First Sergeant Jovanna Meyer from the 1-227th Aviation Regiment who finished in 4:29:54.  Thank you very much to all of our sponsoring racing that made this marathon possible.