Pushing Through: Sgt. David Mecham of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment crosses the finish line after what he described as the most grueling 10-mile race he has ever run. Mecham was the first U.S. Soldier to finish the race.
Story by: Sgt. Jerry Wilson
(CTZ Public Affairs)
Zabul, Afghanistan – More than 90 U.S. and Romanian Service members along with civilians from Combined Team Zabul signed up to test their running prowess during the Forward Operating Base Lagman Army 10-Miler Shadow run Sunday October 24. Troopers from the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment and their fellow runners pitted their strength and stamina against what can arguably be described as one of the toughest courses in Afghanistan.
The FOB Lagman run was one of six official shadow runs held throughout Afghanistan. The main Army 10 miler is held along the streets of Washington D.C. and is considered the largest annual race of its length. Participation in the Lagman run was not for the faint of heart however and presented each runner with some difficult terrain to navigate.
In addition to cold and windy weather conditions, runners had to fight the altitude running at 5,300 feet above sea level. The course was a tough and rocky one which included a hill with a 23 percent grade that competitors had to tackle not once but six times in both directions.
“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 two of the toughest obstacles during the race were the cold weather and the hilly terrain. He said though his hands were freezing it was the hills of the course that were the real challenge.
“There was one really long gradual hill and three really steep short ones,” Mecham said describing the course. “The long gradual hill was probably the worst one. The three short ones were pretty bad but you could recover quickly from them,” he continued. “The long one was the hardest.”
Mecham finished the race with a time of 1:08:22. Mecham dedicated his run to his wife Gina and his daughter Veronica.
The 812th Battalion Carpathian Hawks from Romania dominated the top three places overall. Corporal Ioan Suciu came in first with a time of 1:02:58. Corporal Mihai Muresan took second with 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 overall first place champion. “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 First Lieutenants Tiffany Monaco and Cinthia Baustista. Both winners said they have run the 10-miler in Washington D.C. and said the run this year was much harder.
Top honors in the 40 and over Masters category went to civilian contractor Danny Harrel. The 61-year-old 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.”
In the end only 61 of the original 95 runners to sign up for the competition completed the full race proving that the Army 10-Mile shadow run at FOB Lagman has truly earned the title of toughest race in Afghanistan.
Victory: Two Navy and one U.S. Army competitor tackle the big hill during the Army 10-Miler Shadow Run at FOB Lagman.