U.S. Army Europe, Romanian Soldiers run rugged 'shadow Ten-Miler' in Afghanistan

By U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
Oct. 27, 2010

Sgt. David Mecham of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment crosses the finish line of the Forward Operating Base Lagman Army Ten-Miler "shadow run," Oct. 24. The run was one of six runs conducted in Afghanistan that "shadowed" the annual Ten-Miler run on the streets of Washington D.C. each year. Mecham, who described the event as the most grueling 10-mile race he has ever run, was the first U.S. Soldier to finish the race, with a time of 1:08:22. (U.S. Army photo)
Sgt. David Mecham of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment crosses the finish line of the Forward Operating Base Lagman Army Ten-Miler "shadow run," Oct. 24. The run was one of six runs conducted in Afghanistan that "shadowed" the annual Ten-Miler run on the streets of Washington D.C. each year. Mecham, who described the event as the most grueling 10-mile race he has ever run, was the first U.S. Soldier to finish the race, with a time of 1:08:22. (U.S. Army photo)

ZABUL, Afghanistan -- More than 90 U.S. and Romanian servicemembers, joined by civilian employees from Combined Team Zabul tested their running prowess during the Forward Operating Base Lagman Army Ten-Miler "shadow run," Oct. 24.

The FOB Lagman run was one of six competitive runs conducted in Afghanistan that "shadowed" the annual Ten-Miler run on the streets of Washington D.C. each year as part of the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting.

The Lagman run was not for the faint of heart, and challenged each runner to navigate some difficult terrain. Troopers from U.S. Army Europe's 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment were among those who pitted their strength and stamina against what some competitors described as one of the toughest courses in Afghanistan. In the end only 61 of the original 95 runners to sign up for the competition completed the full race.

In addition to cold and wind, runners had to fight the altitude, running at 5,300 feet above sea level on a tough and rocky course that included one hill with a 23 percent grade competitors had to tackle not once, but six times.

“It was probably the most difficult 10 miles I have run in my life,” said a breathless Sgt. David Mecham, the first U.S. Soldier to cross the finish line. “In my life I have run about 30 or 40 of these races, and this was the toughest one so far.”

Mecham said the cold and the hilly terrain were the run's greatest obstacles. While he was able to deal with his freezing hands, he said, the hills were a real challenge.

“There was one really long gradual hill and three really steep short ones,” Mecham said. “The long gradual hill was probably the worst one. The three short ones were pretty bad, but you could recover quickly from them.”

Mecham finished the race with a time of 1:08:22.

The "Carpathian Hawks" of Romania's 812th Infantry Battalion dominated the top three places overall. Cpl. Ioan Suciu came in first with a time of 1:02:58. Cpl. Mihai Muresan finished second at 1:04:16, and Staff Sgt. Claudiu Suciu took third with a time of 1:05:52.

“The altitude and the hills made it a very difficult race,” said Ioan Suciu. “The first laps were the hardest and the other competitors made it a very close race.”

There was a tie for first in the women’s category. Finishing the race with a time of 1:22:32 were 1st Lts. Tiffany Monaco and Cinthia Baustista. Both said they have run the Ten-Miler in Washington, and both agreed the run here was much harder.

Top honors in the 40 years and older "Masters" category went to Danny Harrel. The 61-year-old contractor finished the race with a time of 1:30:40 and a very sunny disposition.

“It was a great run and a beautiful day for it,” Harrell said. “It was 10 miles, but the weather was great.”