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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Afghanistan marathon ready to run

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Capt. Ivan Hurlburt and other Hawai'i-based troops deployed in Afghanistan don't want to miss running the Honolulu Marathon.

Photo courtesy Capt. Ivan Hurlburt

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Most first-time race directors have a hard enough time getting a handle on road closures, package pickups and Gatorade mixing. Capt. Ivan Hurlburt has to worry about rocket and mortar attacks, too.

Hurlburt, a battalion signal officer with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment "Bobcats" of the Hawai'i-based 25th Infantry Division (Light), is attempting to stage his own version of the Ho-nolulu Marathon at remote Firebase Ripley in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, often referred to as the birthplace of the Taliban.

With as many as 300 troops and civilians from around the country set to participate in the unprecedented race, Hurlburt has had his hands full making sure the fire base's airstrip — where runners will run about six laps for a full 26.2 marathon — has ample protection on race day.

A quick reaction force will be on hand to respond should an attack occur.

"This is a team who is in full gear standing by with armored Humvees ready to roll out the gate on a moment's notice," Hurlburt said in an e-mail message.

All of the guard towers at the facility have been briefed about how the day will proceed, and a few will double as water and aid stations.

Hurlburt said he is looking into having holes dug along the course so runners have somewhere to flee if rockets or mortars are fired in their direction.

Check stations for weapons will be available at the start and finish of the race, but military participants can run with their M-16A2s, M-4s, M-9 pistols, or sniper rifles if they choose.

"I don't think too many directors have to wrestle with those topics for the average marathon," Hurlburt wrote. "But we have to — we need to — ensure the security of all the runners and make sure they are comfortable and aware of the security around them."

The race will start at 10:30 a.m. Afghanistan time on Dec. 12 (8 p.m., Dec. 11 in Hawai'i). The real Honolulu Marathon starts nine hours later, at 5 a.m. Dec. 12, in Honolulu.

Hurlburt and several other Bobcats are Honolulu Marathon regulars, and they didn't want to miss this year's race, even though they're stationed in Afghanistan.

The Honolulu Marathon Association is supplying official runner numbers, finisher shirts, medals, certificates and banners.

ChampionChip USA/Burns Computer Services is donating a computer-chip timing system that will allow family and friends to track each runner's progress.

Hurlburt said he just received a shipment of Jake Shimabukuro CDs from Hitchhike Records (Shimabukuro's "Rainbow" is the official marathon theme), as well as some prizes for the winners from corporate and private donors.

Hurlburt is still accepting donations for the race. Instead of monetary donations, which are difficult to handle from Afghanistan, Hurlburt said he'd welcome running suits, Nalgene water bottles, running socks, running hats, shorts, running shirts, and similar items that can be used as raffle prizes.

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2461.