Multinational Forces Compete in Grand Bara 15k
GRAND BARA DESERT, Djibouti (Dec. 09, 2011) - The French general stood pridefully amongst the hundreds of troops standing before him just as the sun started to peek over the horizon. His voice resonated with pride and determination as he motivated the troops before the battle they were about to enter. Each and every person - no matter their rank, nationality or service - knew what had to be done. As three fighter jets providing close air support flew overhead, the men and women broke ranks and surged forward.
Their goal was not a military victory, but a finish line.
More than 1,300 French, Djiboutian, U.S. and German service members and civilians competed in the 29th Annual Grand Bara 15k race hosted by the 5th Combined Overseas Marine Battalion in the Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti, December 8.
At dawn, French Marine Brigadier General William Kurtz, French Forces in Djibouti commander, gave the race participants a brief history of the race before encouraging them to give his or her best.
Moments later, three French Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft screamed above the starting line, officially kicking off the race.
"We don't use a revolver (to start the race)," said French Marine Colonel Oliver Ducret, 5th Combined Overseas Marines Battalion commander. "We use airplanes—it's more fun."
Many of the runners shared a similar enthusiasm about starting the race with a flyby.
"It was an awesome start," said U.S. Marine Captain Melissa Mueller, a race participant and Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa deputy comptroller. "The enthusiasm of the start with the jets—the adrenaline was there, so you kind of had to remind yourself not to go so fast so you have a little bit to carry you through the nine miles."
According to Ducret, one has to prepare for the 9.3-mile race through the desert to complete it.
"I think people can run 8 or 9 kilometers without any problems, but when you pass 10 kilometers, it becomes more difficult," he said. "You have to be trained for the 15 kilometer."
Despite being difficult, running the race through the barren expanse can bring people together.
"Running is kind of a common language," said Mueller, who won first place in the women's category with a time of 66 minutes. "We share the same type of struggles and challenges through a run."
Ducret echoed her sentiment saying, "It is a pleasure to run together."
"Thank you … for coming to do the race with us," he added.