by Staff Sgt. Brandon PomrenkeISAF
KABUL, Afghanistan – Deployed service members and government contractors in Afghanistan braved the low temperature and high-altitudes of Kabul to take part in the Chicago Marathon, Oct. 7.
Instead of running past the towering skyscrapers and glass-fronted offices of Chicago, these participants ran through ISAF Joint Command’s headquarters camp, surrounded by containerized shops and rooms, concrete barrier-lined streets and chain-link fence topped with razor-sharp concertina wire.
Shortly after the start of the race, the early morning grey skies gave way to a warming orange glow and the runners were on the starting line, got set, and pounded out the first steps of this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, which helped raise money to support St. Jude Children’s Hospital. After the donations added up, the grand total came to more than $12,000.
U.S. Army Capt. John Zimmermann, an Apple Valley, Minn., native, decided he was not going to let this deployment stop his streak of Chicago Marathons. It also allowed him to help raise funds for a cause close to his heart.
“As a father, I can’t imagine anything harder than watching your child fight with cancer or any other catastrophic disease,” he explained.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Timothy Meerstein, who ran his first marathon in 2009, also thought that St. Jude was a worthy cause.
“I saw an opportunity to not just run the marathon, but also to offer support for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Center,” said Meerstein. “This is a great opportunity to help raise money to combat disease and hopefully help eliminate cancer from children’s lives.”
As with any worthy cause, there were difficulties faced by all. The most common obstacles for the marathoners were the air quality, wind and long work hours. Most found themselves training either before the day shift starting waking up or well into the night when the wind and dust had calmed down.
U.S. Air Force Capt. William Boland, a Mendota Heights, Minn., native, trained regularly and pushed himself to become the individual marathon champion. His final time of 3 hours and 19 won him the title of individual champion.
Boland, a logistics readiness advisor to his Afghan counterparts, said,” I’ve always been a big runner, but I’ve never done a marathon and people don’t seem to think you’re a serious runner if you’ve done one. I figured now is a better opportunity than ever.”
After a few hours, the finishers began making their final steps across that sought after yellow line. First to cross the finish was Team PAPA, one of many marathon teams that ran throughout the morning. The unique team from International Security Assistance Force headquarters was comprised of four multi-national members from the U.S., Poland, Portugal, and Romania. The first individual finisher was U.S. Air Force Capt. William Boland, a Mendota Heights, Minn., native, who finished with a final time of 3 hours and 19 minutes.