FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ONE LOS ANGELES MARATHON,
BUT RUN IN THREE COUNTRIES
ON MEMORIAL DAY 2009
LOS ANGELES, California, May 23, 2009 – The Los Angeles Marathon has always
had an international flavor, thanks to the multicultural diversity of the
city in which it is held. But for the first time in 2009, the race will
take place almost simultaneously in three different countries thanks to the
to the Memorial Day date: Monday, May 25.
That's because 400 soldiers at Camp Taji in Iraq, located about 20 miles
north of Baghdad, will be running their own "shadow" Los Angeles Marathon,
with the full approval and support of the organizers of the real Los
Angeles Marathon, starting at 5 a.m. local time (about 7 a.m. Los Angeles
time on Sunday). On the same day, two U.S. soldiers stationed in
Afghanistan will be running a marathon, also with the support of the Los
1st Lt. Jeremy Arnett, an electronic warfare officer with the 56th Stryker
Brigade stationed at Camp Taji, told reporters during a conference call
that "I asked my commander, Lt. Col. Corey Lake, about two days after we
lost one of our soldiers about the possibility of creating a marathon in
the place of having a fund-raiser for the families that are left behind. He
gave me the approval, so I was looking around to see if anybody else was
having a marathon for Memorial Day because that was the day I wanted to do
it, for the soldier, but also for the day of remembrance.
"So then I was looking around and I saw that the L.A. Marathon had changed
its date to the Memorial Day and I e-mailed [Race Director] Nick Furl and
he replied back to me stating that he would be more than happy to help us
out and sponsor us in any way."
The Los Angeles Marathon sent T-shirts, race bibs, finisher medals, Clif
shots electrolyte gels and a large finish banner to Camp Taji, leading to
an enthusiastic response from the troops. "On behalf of everybody were,"
said Arnett, "thank you very much. [It] really means a lot to us. We're
over here, away from our families for a year, some of us even more than
that and it's kind of hard to feel connected to anybody back home. We're
almost completely cut off; obviously, we can in on the phone, we have
spotty Internet. But being able to kind of get adopted like we did with the
L.A. Marathon committee and you great people there, sending us all this
stuff that we never could have gotten on our own, that means a lot to us.
On behalf of 400 runners, thank you very much."
Asked to describe the course for the marathon at Camp Taji, Arnett
suggested "Go out into the middle of the Mojave, blow up about 4,000 Iraqi
tanks and scatter the pieces everywhere, then throw some gravel down and
round around it twice and that's 26.2 miles, very early in the morning –
about 3 o'clock in the morning – before we catch our fire." But he noted
that permission had been given for the runners to wear shorts and the
T-shirts sent by the Los Angeles Marathon, "so we'll be out of uniform for
one day out of our lives."
He also noted the heavy medical preparation for the event, since about 90%
of the soldiers running will be first-time marathoners. "One of the big
concerns was the heat, so we bumped it back to 0500 in the morning. Also,
the wildlife we have around here: we have scorpions and there's quite a few
different types of snakes, for which we don't have anti-venom for any of
them. But to mitigate for the heat, we have over 20 water-points set up, we
do have the Clif Shots that [were] sent and we have a cooling van that's
following the last runner, because we are doing a 13.1-mile loop two
times. There is Gatorade mix, we have good stands with bananas and oranges
and we also have medical personnel at each of the water points. So we have
14 medical personnel and four different ambulances standing by, one of
which is going to follow the fast runner. Also, all of our medical clinics
here will be on standby and they will be prepared for us."
Los Angeles Marathon president Russ Pillar told Arnett and others on the
call in Iraq that "We also want to extend the opportunity ... to come to
Los Angeles and run the Los Angeles Marathon as our guests when you guys
are back here stateside. We want to thank you for your service and send you
a lot of love and a lot of good luck and letting you know that as far away
as you are, you are part of this running community, you are part of our
American community, you are part of the Los Angeles Marathon family and we
are glad to have you."
A grateful Arnett noted the motivation for the event that has created the
largest soldier-marathon yet held in Iraq: "Just Memorial Day alone and
that you're running for one of your fallen brothers or sisters and knowing
that there's a possibility that it can happen to any of us any day. The
hard part is knowing that there is a family that is having to continue
carrying on knowing that that person isn't going to come home. I think
that's what really pushes a lot of people here. I've never been part of a
fund-raiser before, but to do something for somebody else gives me the best
feeling inside. A lot of people are very grateful that it's for a cause
such as the Fallen Soldier Fund and there are people that aren't
participating in the run that are still coming up and donating and there
are donations coming from the States to support the Fallen Soldier Fund."
It's a unique salute by the military to one of its own, and a first for the
Los Angeles Marathon, which has authored many new concepts in marathoning
since the first race in 1986. And now, noted Pillar, "we can probably say,
without any independent verification, but with some sense of certainty,
that this is the first marathon to be run simultaneously in three countries
around the world at the same time!"