CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — NATO Kosovo Force soldiers of Multinational Battle Group East kicked off a National Guard marathon May 2.
More than 70 soldiers pre-registered for the marathon at Camp Bondsteel, which coincided with the annual National Guard marathon held in Lincoln, Neb. The top finishers are now eligible to qualify for the National Guard marathon team.
Army Sgt. Luke Mostoller, a soldier from Las Vegas, Nev., who works with the 160th Finance Detachment from Phoenix, Ariz., had previously qualified for the team and came in first on the grueling 26.2-mile trek at Camp Bondsteel.
Mostoller finished the event in 3.28.18, Army Capt William Abbott, of Gilbert, Ariz., was second in 3:58.27 and Army Lt. Col David Skalicky, of Bismarck, N.D., was third in 3.59.38. In the women?s division, Army Capt. Anna Wittrock, of Moorhead, Minn., was first in 4.13.38, Army Sgt. Jesica Geffre, of Bismarck, N.D., was second in 4.24.19 and Army Staff Sgt. Kim Lohse, of Windom, Minn., was third in 5.14.18.
Mostoller previously ran six marathons and is a three-time qualifier for the National Guard?s marathon team.
"I originally thought I?d miss out this year because I was here in Kosovo," Mostoller said. "I knew there were some people running on post and I thought „why can?t there be a marathon here.?"
The course took participants on a run around the base, starting and ending at the MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) Center. The route included a portion up and down the locally-infamous "Radar Hill." Those completing the entire 26.2-mile course got to take on that challenge twice.
The undulating, hilly nature of the course created a 200-foot difference between the minimum and maximum elevations.
Skalicky, who helped coordinate the Camp Bondsteel event, and is now a veteran of seven marathons said, "This is by far the hardest course I will ever run a marathon on."
Although the track was exceptionally challenging, both Mostoller and Skalicky said the way the whole thing came together was a blessing.
"We heard that Mostoller was with the Guard marathon team," Skalicky said. "So once we got to Kosovo we were looking for a time that would work for everyone.
"I called Luke and asked him if he knew the date of the National Guard marathon," said Skalicky. "He said it was the second of May and told us to get in touch with (Army) Sgt. 1st Class Mike Hagan, the National Guard marathon coordinator in Lincoln, Neb."
Skalicky said it was Hagan who had the idea to get the two events to coincide and who also approached the Lincoln (Neb.) track team to see if they would be able to sponsor a few Camp Bondsteel soldiers for the event.
"It ended up that the track team was able to support everyone who registered – which ended up being more than 70 people," said Hagan. "So at $70 apiece, it was a huge blessing for them to do that. They also agreed to send us shirts and medals, which are engraved „Camp Bondsteel 2010.?
Hagan also offered to provide trophies to the first-, second- and third-place runners – both male and female.
"He threw in some incredible rewards," Skalicky said.
"They put out a promotion code that people here could use to register for the race," Mostoller said. "That made it so that we didn?t have to pay."
Mostoller also plans on running the Pristina, Kosovo half-marathon this weekend, as well as possibly running the Disneyland marathon later this year.
Mostoller said he was incredibly pleased with how the event turned out.
"First of all, I was really impressed with the amount of people who came out," Mostoller said. "Regardless of how fast people did it, it is a huge accomplishment to get out there and finish a grueling run like that. For a lot of people that did it, it was their first time either doing the half or the full marathon. That?s inspiring to me."
Two of those first-timers were Army Spc. Justin Quinlen and Army Spc. Nicole Frohlich.
Quinlen, a motor pool sergeant from Bismarck, N.D., said it was the first marathon he has ever run.
"It?s a great accomplishment," he said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would run or finish, but I?m glad that I did it."
Frohlich, an administrative specialist from Mandan, N.D., said she never thought she would run a marathon.
"I?m sore now, but once the pain goes away the bragging rights will be worth it," she said.
"I?d be running past people going the other direction and they had smiles on their faces – it really helped me keep going. It was really cool, really special," Mostoller said. "Before the marathon, as a group, we sang the national anthem together. Something about that song -- I had goosebumps -- and after it was over, I was like, „let?s do this.?"
Skalicky said the marathon at Camp Bondsteel was an extremely positive experience.
"What really warmed my heart was that some of the folks really got into the spirit of it," he said. "There were some females from the (personnel shop) who had pictures of babies on their shirts – they were „The Crazy Mommas?. Another group – „Wiggin Out? – had the hippy hair and peace signs on their shirts. That?s really what running is all about – just getting out there and having some fun."
Skalicky said that the Camp Bondsteel community banded together with a world-class effort, ensuring the first-ever National Guard marathon run outside the United States was a huge a success.
"The support that was put together on base was some of the best support I?ve seen in any race," he said. "There were fruit and water stations set up about every two miles. If I started getting hot or needed a break or needed some energy, there was a water station in sight. There was a good crowd at both the beginning and the end. It was really a great event."
Multinational Battle Group East is a U.S.- led unit, commanded by Army Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann. This Battle Group is comprised of nearly 1,200 Soldiers, including Task Force Hellas and Task Force POL/UKR (Polish/Ukraine) and Turkey. The charter mission of MNBG-E is maintaining a Safe and Secure Environment and providing Freedom of Movement for the people in Kosovo.