GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - Morale Welfare & Recreation Guantanamo Bay held its first Rock 'n’ Roll Half-Marathon Jan. 28.
Fitness director Jen Norton based the run on similar marathons she previously organized stateside.
MWR kicked off the event with a spaghetti dinner Jan. 27 at the Windjammer Ballroom for the run’s participants.
“We held a pre-event spaghetti dinner for those that were registered, so they could get a last minute carb load,” said Alana Morrison, the MWR sports coordinator.
After the dinner, Jacksonville, Fla., band Something Distant performed early at O’Kelly’s Irish Pub, finishing at 9 p.m. so runners could get a good night’s rest. A unique twist to the show was a member of the crowd singing with the band on stage.
“Going up on the stage was fun, I had a really awesome time and it was something different and new out of Guantanamo Bay,” said Hospitalman Tyler Christy. “MWR does an awesome job not only bringing these guys down but bringing down a lot of things that get us out of our barracks.”
This was Something Distant’s first trip to visit the Guantanamo Bay community, who enjoyed the amount of interaction at their show.
“The basis of our band and our show is audience interaction,” said Jeff Congo, lead singer of Something Distant. “One of the best things about coming down here is getting to meet everyone.”
Nearly 100 runners ran in the half-marathon and more than 100 volunteers assisted in the event.
“All of the Guantanamo community was involved,” said Morrison. “The community assisted in everything from security, the hospital providing ambulance support, and cheer stations.”
To motivate the runners Something Distant, Cartel, and local performers played for the runners at designated mile markers.
“This was a first time we player for a marathon,” said Congo. “Every time runners came by we would clap for them and play a little harder. We also played the ‘Rocky’ theme about 20 times today and I think they got a chuckle out of that.”
Civilian Katie Sutton was the first participant to finish the run, with a time of 01:28:40. Sutton is a newcomer to the Guantanamo Bay community, having arrived just last week.
“It was fun and exciting,” said Sutton. “I’ve done a couple of the Rock n’ Roll events in the States but this was much better. Everyone was great, it was well-organized and the people cheering were wonderful. I had a lot of fun.”
In addition to the morning marathon, MWR held a craft fair and community expo for the community.
“Since this was the MWR’s first half marathon we really wanted to make it big and loud,” said Morrison.
Morrison explained the MWR held the craft fair and expo at the same time so that more members of the community could come out and enjoy the run, while learning more about other MWR programs.
Andre Gordon, the manager for MWR arts and crafts, set up the craft fair to feature the work of local artists.
Gordon explained it was a great opportunity for artists to show off their talents while making a little profit.
“We try to have a craft fair at least every three months or whenever there is a big MWR event like the Rock and Roll Half Marathon,” said Gordon.
The MWR expo showed off the various programs MWR offers to the community.
Everton Hylton, a fitness instuctor, represented the gyms and demonstrated new programs and equipment available. The gyms’ booth also held a push-up competition and curl bar competition.
“We’re here to showcase some of the latest exercises we’ve been doing in our fitness programs,” said Hylton. “We want to see everyone out, we want to see fresh faces and we want to get as many people as possible into our fitness, sports and aquatic programs.”
After the morning events, Cartel wrapped up the Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon with an evening show at O’Kelly’s Irish Pub.
“We just appreciate being here. We’ve always been very supportive of the troops since we all have family in the military,” said Cartel’s lead singer, Will Pugh. “It’s really an honor to come play for the Troopers. It really makes us feel small and humbled to be able to do this.”
The Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon was a two-day community event which brought almost everyone out to support the run, participate or just enjoy the events and atmosphere.
“We couldn’t have asked for more community support,” said Morrison. “It was phenomenal. We are really excited about when we’re going to have the next race.”