Thanks to Army Major Shannon Way, deployment to Iraq will not force American soldiers to miss the second running of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon on October 2, 2011.
Way competed in the inaugural Wilson Bridge Half and had hoped to compete annually, earning a pin for running the first three Wilson Bridge Halfs. Then he found out he was being deployed to Iraq and would miss this year’s race.
“I will be in Iraq during this year’s race,” Way said in an email to Event Director Steve Nearman. “Any chance you guys would allow me to enter and shadow the race from Iraq? I will send time/gps photos to prove completion if allowed.”
Way just did not want to lose a potential streak of races because he could not attend Year Two.
“I originally emailed you because I was excited about the special promotion for people running the race consecutive years...and I was worried I would have to miss the special award due to my deployment,” Way emailed Nearman this week, during his overseas flight to Iraq.
Way agreed to organize, and run, in a shadow race in Iraq, most likely in Fallujah, some 43 miles west of Baghdad in central Iraq. He asked for one special dispensation, that the race begin 8-10 hours early due to the excessive heat. Granted.
U.S. Forces will not be the only participants. “[I] will even try to line up some Iraqi army runners,” said Way, a civil affairs officer who has served in the Army for 22 years. “By the time of the race, our U.S. footprint will be getting small but would be a lot of fun to work on this sort of project.”
All race participants will receive the same technical t-shirts, bib numbers and popular Wilson Bridge Half finishers medals.
Way is no newcomer to running. He and his wife Gwynne Kinley, an Army Captain and veterinarian, have run the Army Ten Miler and Way has enjoyed several Ragnar Relay-type races. He completed his first ultra this year, a 50K race in Westminster, Md., in 5 hours 35 minutes.
Kinley has committed to the Army Ten-Miler again this year and is considering running the Wilson Bridge Half from Mount Vernon, Va., to National Harbor, Md., while her husband completes the 13.1-mile distance in Iraq.
“I guess I have time to train for 13 miles in October,” she said. “I was planning on driving some of our guys to the race anyways. People say it’s ONLY 3.1 miles more than the 10-miler.”
The race will benefit Autism Speaks, Alice Ferguson Foundation, Back on My Feet, Child & Family Network Centers, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the RunningBrooke Fund and emerging elite U.S. distance runners.