CAMP COMMANDO, Kuwait -- With approximately 250 opponents, they set off on a journey, some to beat time, others just happy to participate. A few got medals, but most would receive a T-shirt and the pride of having finished the first run of its kind aboard Camp Commando, Kuwait.
On the day after Christmas, the I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward) sponsored a 10-kilometer run that stretched outside the concertina-wired camp and snaked up a ridge for nearly a mile.
Master Sgt. Luis Torres, 41, from Moline, Ill., was the first to cross the finish line, with a time of 41 minutes, 46 seconds, in an event designed to boost morale and build camaraderie. Major Krista McKinley, 33, from Carson City, Mich., was first place in the female division, with a time of 49 minutes, 6 seconds.
"It was just a fun run, to get all the people out there that wanted to do an event together," said Staff Sgt. David Ransbottom, Morale, Welfare and Recreation representative. "We're trying to put something together like the commanding general's cup, to have events for each unit to partake in, and have a little bit of competition between the units here."
Although competitive, the event brought a lot of people together.
"It's a morale boost," said Torres. "It encourages unity. You saw many people running together as a unit."
Challenges of running in the Kuwaiti desert and a surprise change in the weather added to the fun.
"Actually, the weather was pretty good," said Torres.
The desert took a break from the rain and chilly wind gusts from the previous days and greeted the runners with plenty of sunshine and a light breeze.
"The sandy hills at Mutla' Ridge were the breaking point for all of us," added Torres.
"I feel all that finished the race are winners."
Facing younger opponents, Torres credited years of experience with his victory.
"Experience is the key," said Torres. "I spent time with the Marine Corps track team in the early 80s. You learn to see other runners' perspectives, and you force them to run your race."