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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, October 21, 2004

'Honolulu Marathon' planned in Afghanistan

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Each year the Honolulu Marathon welcomes thousands of runners from all points of the globe.

Care packages

Prizes and money are being accepted for the Honolulu Marathon's satellite run in Afghanistan on Dec. 12.

Write: Capt. Ivan Hurlburt at 2-5 IN, HHC, APO AE, 09355.

This year, the marathon is branching out with a first-ever satellite race in a most unlikely place: Afghanistan.

The Honolulu Marathon Association is working with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment "Bobcats" of the Hawai'i-based 25th Infantry Division to stage a full 26.2-mile "Honolulu Marathon" at a firebase in Tarin Kowt, 75 dusty miles from Kandahar.

Capt. Ivan Hurlburt, a battalion signal officer with the Bobcats and four-time Honolulu Marathon finisher, came up with the idea.

In a statement released by the association, Hurlburt said he and 16 other Bobcats who have run the marathon couldn't stand being left out of this year's event.

"We collectively want to keep the tradition alive and run the Honolulu Marathon in Afghanistan," Hurlburt said.

The Honolulu Marathon is the third-largest in the United States, regularly attracting more than 20,000 runners. Hurlburt, who hails from Nebraska, placed an impressive 80th last year.

The Afghanistan race will be scheduled as close as possible to the 5 a.m. Dec. 12 start of the Honolulu Marathon.

Jim Barahal

Marathon association president Jim Barahal said he was thrilled at the opportunity to share marathon day with troops in Afghanistan. "We've always gotten great support from the military in Hawai'i, not just in terms of entrants but with logistics as well," he said.

"There are a lot of soldiers stationed here who have done the marathon that have been deployed. It's great to be able to work with them so that they can still be a part of the race."

Organizers of the event expect as many as 300 runners, including troops from Kandahar and Bagram, Afghan soldiers and civilians, and — in true Honolulu Marathon tradition — several Japanese runners.

Participants will run just under six laps around an airstrip enclosed with concertina wire. Armed guards will be posted around the route to protect the unarmed runners.

Tarin Kowt is on a desert plateau in the central Afghanistan province of Uruzgan, a former Taliban stronghold believed to be one of Osama bin Laden's hiding places.

To give runners the full experience, the association will send official runner numbers, finisher shirts, medals, certificates and banners.

ChampionChip USA/Burns Computer Services, which handles timing for the Honolulu Marathon, is donating timing chips and mats to record a runner's progress and finishing time. As with the regular marathon, family and friends will be able to track a runner during the race on the association's Web site (www.honolulumarathon.org).

Musician Jake Shimabukuro is sending autographed copies of his CDs, which will be played during the race. His latest CD, "Walking Down Rainhill," features the official marathon theme, "Rainbow."

The soldiers also are doing what they can to replicate the marathon's course. A carpenter has secured some palm trees to be placed along the airstrip; the lone hill on the route has been designated "Diamond Head."

Jon Mohammad, governor of Uruzgan, will start the race by firing a 105-mm howitzer armed with an illumination round.

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