Red Dragons host 10-Miler while deployed in the Middle East

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and other service members take part in a shadow Virginia 10-Mile Nov. 19, 2016. (Photo by Kenneth Holder, Area Support Group Qatar Public Affairs)

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and other service members take part in a shadow Virginia 10-Mile Nov. 19, 2016. (Photo by Kenneth Holder, Area Support Group Qatar Public Affairs)

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar — Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team held a shadow run of the Genworth Virginia 10-Miler Nov. 19, 2016, at their federal active duty location in Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar. The battalion, also known as the Red Dragons, mobilized in May to conduct security operations.

Sgt. Mikeal Lewis of Covington, a team leader in Company B, organized the race. After running a shadow race while deployed to Iraq in 2010, he decided to set one up for their next deployment.

“[The 2010 race] was my first time running a 10-miler, and I want it to be a tradition for deployed [Virginia] Guardsmen,” Lewis said.

After reaching out to Jeff Fedorko of Lynchburg’s River Runners, Lewis got permission to set up a shadow run of the Virginia 10-Miler. The River Runners also donated 400 T-shirts and bib numbers for the race.

Soldiers from other units at Camp As Sayliyah volunteered and ran in the race, and the total reached 155 runners or ruckers, 40 bikers, and 30 volunteers.

“I’m training for a marathon in Dubai in January, and the 10-miler’s the farthest I’ve ever run,” said Spc Elizabeth Carpenter of 148th Military Police. It was a challenge, but one she says she enjoyed. “My knees hurt, and I got blisters, but I’m glad I finished it,” she said. Carpenter won her race category at 1:27:20.

Lewis also reached out to the Air Force units at Al Udeid Air Base, and 50 Air Force runners joined the Soldiers for the race. Lt. Col. Fe Lobo-Menendez, the fastest female runner of the race at 1:22:43, said, “Why not? As long as my body lets me, I love to run.”

Staff Sgt. Owen with Headquarters Company said was excited to run the 10-miler at As Sayliyah.

“I wanted to do it as soon as I heard about it, and I remembered it from Iraq,” Owen said. He first ran the Genworth Virginia 10-miler in 2014. For him, the Lynchburg race is very much a community event. “My mom used to work for Genworth, and the college sports teams from Randolph Macon and Liberty come out with water and Gatorade.”

Staff Sgt. George Winters with Company C shared Owen’s excitement.

“The route goes through neighborhoods, so there would be people in lawn chairs cheering you the whole way,” he said. While a desert military base is a very different setting, “it’s a small enough base here that you still know pretty much everyone who’s running,” he said.

Lewis said he was proud of the work that went into the 10-miler at Al Sayliyah, and he was glad for the volunteers who helped set it up and the River Runners for providing T-shirts and bib numbers. Never a long-distance runner until the Iraq run, what he learned there inspired him to organize this race for his fellow Soldiers.

“I love to see people doing things they’ve never done before,” he said. “It’s a healthy choice for life.”

Top Finishers:

18-29 Male
1. Skill, Marc – 1:08.23
2. White, Jordan – 1:08.52
3. Sheehan, Bryan – 1:10.59
18-29 Female
1. Carpenter, Elizabeth – 1:27.20
2. Dzierzynski, Amanda – 1:27.21
3. Birch, Tashana – 1:37.34
30-39 Male
1. Prewitt, David – 1:10.00
2. Frith, Mendez – 1:10.58
3. Balisides, Jason – 1:13.45
30-39 Female
1. Laughlin, Erin – 1:31.02
2. Suttor, Jamie – 1:36.22
3. Bolton, Dianna – 1:49.28
40-49 Male
1. Nacionales, Rick – 1:18.06
2. Quesada, Jose – 1:23.09
3. Leslie, Sydney – 1:27.27
40-49 Female
1. Wynn, Kim – 1:48.20
2. Gaudu, Tammie – 1:52.27
3. Mahan, Suellyn – 2:05.59
50+ Male
1. Howitz, Michael – 1:22.53
2. Jensen, Dana – 1:29.36
50+ Female
1. Lobo-Menendez, Fe – 1:22.43

BIKE
Male
1. Welsh, Zack – 28:14
2. Bramble, Michael – 28:15
3. Mayo, Alex – 34:18
Female
1. Li, Bing – 40:30
2. Vielman, Janett – 43:45
3. Finch-Collier, Caryn – 43:57

Written by 1st Lt. Colin J. Cutler, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment