Ohio Army National Guard members who can’t be in the state for this month’s Akron Marathon plan to lace up that day for their own version of the footrace thousands of miles away at a base in Kuwait.
The “shadow race” around the U.S. Army’s Camp Arifjan on Sept. 28 is expected to include about 300 runners for the full 26.2-mile marathon, the half-marathon or a 5-kilometer race, and they’ll get some of same perks and the 15,000 runners at the Akron event. A formal finish line is being shipped to Kuwait, and finishers will receive medals and shirts.
Because of the time difference, the race in Kuwait will begin in the evening there. Temperatures there could top 100 degrees, giving runners there a much warmer experience than their fellow athletes in Ohio, said 1st Lt. Kevin McGee of Akron, who helped organize the race.
“The Akron Marathon’s sponsorship of this race has really lifted the spirits of our brigade,” McGee told the Akron Beacon Journal. “Running builds resilience, and having a piece of our home delivered to us here in Kuwait adds to our soldiers’ optimism and connection.”
Spectators in Akron’s Canal Park stadium that day will see a piece of the action as photos and video from the overseas race are broadcast on the scoreboard along with those from the local event.
“It’s wonderful to know that deployed soldiers will be able to run this race with us,” Akron Marathon’s executive director Anne Bitong told the Akron Beacon Journal. “And because of the technology that’s available to us through Canal Park stadium, the shadow run won’t seem that distant.”
Akron Marathon race director Brian Polen told WEWS-TV he was glad the organization could help provide a “taste of home” for the soldiers.
“If they had their way, of course, they’d be home with their families,” he said. “They’d be free to run a marathon anytime they wanted, but they don’t have that.”