Satellite race includes soldiers in Afghanistan

CHARLESTON—For the second straight year, Knights of Columbus Council 704 incorporated American soldiers serving overseas into their annual Turkey Day Run & Gobble Wobble.
Known as satellite races, it is a growing trend, a way to reach out to men and women serving their country far from home and help them feel connected, especially over the holidays, said Rob Wills, race director.
“Thanksgiving can be an especially tough time for soldiers who are away from their families so we’re happy to be able to provide something for them to look forward to on that day,” Wills said.
This year the Turkey Day Run partnered with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, stationed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
The group consists of members of the United States Marine Corps and United States Navy.
Several of them are from South Carolina, including Summerville native Lt. Brian Mannino, who is a graduate of the College of Charleston and MUSC.
It was through the pairing of Mannino and Wills that made this race possible.
“When I was in Charleston, I participated in a lot of the local races including the Turkey Day Run,” Mannino said.
This year, the lieutenant ran the race in war-torn Afghanistan, along with about 85 of his comrades.
Caroline Morris, media director for the race, said they sent T-shirts, bib numbers and banners for the start and finish lines to the unit. For security purposes, the 5K is confined to the base.
“We try and make it as festive as possible for them,” she said.
The Turkey Day run was the third satellite race the group participated in and Mannino said it goes a long way toward buoying the spirits of soldiers.
“It gives all of us a chance to think about something else for a little while,” he said. “Running road races is something that a lot of us do at home and running satellite races here gives us a feeling of being tied to something familiar and comforting. It also brings us together for a common interest outside the military, reinforcing camaraderie.”
In Charleston, the annual run set a new record with 5,554 runners and walkers who crossed the finish line. Morris said they weren’t able to compare race times between the two locales, but Lt. Col. Tyler Zagurski of Mercer Island, Wash., won the satellite run.
Regardless of where they finished in the race, organizers hope their participation will remind America’s bravest that many people are thankful for their service.

Caroline Morris contributed to this article.