Considering the dramatic bird’s-eye view over Honolulu, Pearl Harbor and vast portions of southern Oahu from the starting point, it’s hard to believe that runners only have one way to go – up.
More than 210 military and civilian competitors of all ages, backgrounds and fitness levels gathered here before sunrise to take part in the Camp Smith 5K Grueler, July 28.
The event gave Marines in different work sections a chance to bond, as well as build esprit de corps, said Capt. Greg Wagner, commander of Headquarters Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.
“It also gives the public who registered (for the race) a chance to see Camp Smith,” said Wagner.
Kicking off a Saturday morning with a challenging 3.1-mile run had at least one of these civilian competitors second-guessing his decision.
“Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing out here,” joked Jim Murray, a 60-year-old Honolulu resident and experienced 5K veteran who has competed in approximately 20 similar events at Camp H.M. Smith.
Despite his initial jitters, Murray finished second in his age group.
“The only flat part of this race is (the starting point). After that, you’re either going up or down,” said Murray, who works as the public affairs officer for the Fleet Logistics Center at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“They’re wonderful races, but they’re painful,” he said. “The hills are punishing.”
Those hills, along with the presence of uneven terrain and roots as runners sprint into the rainforest near the race’s halfway point, prompted event organizers to make safety a top priority.
“It’s fun, and people are out here to enjoy themselves, but safety is key,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Mehan, a hospital corpsman with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. He was part of a team of corpsmen, or Navy medics, stationed at various parts of the course in the event of an injury.
Regrettably, the only “injury” they encountered is untreatable. The Grueler’s difficulty surprised many competitors, and corpsmen don’t carry a remedy for hurt pride in their medical kits.
“I’ve run quite a few (5K races), and this one is definitely the hardest,” said Amy Copple, a native of El Paso, Ill., who is currently on vacation with her family.
The entire Copple family decided to compete because her daughter Moli, a basketball player at Millikin University in central Illinois, needed one more 5-kilometer race to meet her team’s summer quota.
She finished the race with a solid time, but it was her integrity that most impressed the other competitors and race organizers, as well as provided for one of the more light-hearted moments during the award ceremony.
After accepting the second-place award for all female competitors, Copple realized her name was called in error and immediately returned the plaque.
“I really appreciate this, but I don’t deserve it,” she said.
This caught the attention of Col. Brent S. Willson, commanding officer of HQSVCBN, who later addressed the audience and commended Copple for her honesty, vowing to mail her a souvenir as a token of the battalion’s appreciation.
Unforeseen integrity aside, the battalion had something else to be thankful for.
The strong turnout for the event will allow some of the proceeds to offset ticket prices for junior service members during MarForPac’s Marine Corps birthday ball in November.