I received an e-mail last week about an interesting way one sergeant in Iraq boosted morale while encouraging fitness for his troops.
First Sgt. Gavin McIlvenna organized a trail race called “Scramble in the Sand” on Nov. 9 to boost morale for soldiers stationed at Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq.
As an Oregon native, he previously participated in many trail runs sponsored by X-Dog Events in the States and decided to stage his own race at the base in Iraq. So McIlvenna contacted X-Dog about sponsoring the event, and the company agreed to help.
Known for organizing extreme trail runs back home, X-Dog had some cheeky requests, including a camel and some flash bangs (hand grenades) for the course. X-Dog reportedly was dismayed to discover that camels aren't as easy to come by in the desert as they'd hoped, and that explosives and running courses weren't the best mix either!
Still, McIlvenna set up a grueling 7.5 K race. But the run was more about having fun and forgetting the war for awhile than finishing first, he says.
“You're really not out to beat the clock, you're out to have fun in these types of races,” McIlvenna says.
The 300 soldiers got to participate in the event for free and even received goodie bags with T-shirts and homemade cookies.
Some soldiers joined the spirit of the race by painting themselves blue or dressing like superheroes. Reportedly, many shoes were lost on the course that day as well. Here's a link to a video of the event.
Kudos to Sgt. McIlvenna for staging a fun fitness run in the sandy land of Iraq!