Eagle Base laces up for mini-marathon
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Maj. Jim Girdley could not be at home to participate in the annual Indianapolis Life 500 Mini-Marathon because of a peacekeeping deployment in Bosnia.
So he brought the run to Eagle Base.
Some 300 soldiers started out at Eagle Base at the same time about 30,000 people in Indianapolis did for a 13.1-mile run.
“We wanted it to be a part of Indianapolis Life  Mini-Marathon,” said Girdley, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 38th Infantry Division from the Indiana National Guard. “We wanted it to be as close as possible to that race even though we’re 4,500 miles away.”
Before he departed in March for his nine-month peacekeeping mission, Girdley asked marathon organizers if he could make the run in Bosnia and get credit for it. They not only OK’d it but provided banners, T-shirts, socks, drinks, coolers and even found sponsors to cover the $35 registration fee.
Girdley’s daughter, Melita Funk, opened the race in Indianapolis by singing the national anthem.
“I never thought I’d be doing this,” said Staff Sgt. Joe Garcia Sr. of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 38th Infantry Division.
It was Garcia’s first time to run the Indianapolis mini-marathon.
“I ran it because I want to be able to tell my son that I did it, that he should excel,” said Garcia, of Cleveland. “I always wanted to be a positive role model for him and this is a good way to do it.”
While the mini-marathon in Bosnia lacked the cheering crowds that lined the route in Indianapolis, the soldiers got the community involved as much as possible.
Twelve runners from the Bosnian armed forces put on their running shoes and joined ranks with the American runners. Turkish, Slovenian, Portuguese, Polish, Latvian and Estonian peacekeepers added to the international flavor.
While the atmosphere was festive and upbeat, no one denied that the race was a challenge.
“The distance didn’t seem to ever come to a closing point,” Garcia said.
For those who were not prepared to run all the way, 5-kilometer and relay runs for five-member teams were added.
Though the run brought a taste of home, some safety concerns could not be avoided. Most of the distance covered running trails inside the base.
And while the party afterward put on by Morale Welfare and Recreation was smaller than the Indianapolis party, no one complained about the entertainment — a local band — and a meal at the base’s Minue Park.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Capt. Jimmy Coates of Indianapolis, with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, about his third time running the mini-marathon.
“I’m very happy that I did it,” Girdley said. “I’m very thankful for all the help I’ve had,” Girdley said, still catching his breath.