MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- More than 200 runners participated in the 20th Annual Ridge Run across the mountainous back drop of the Combat Center’s Mainside April 21.
This is the largest single organized sporting event hosted at the Combat Center, said Lt. j. g. Thomas W. Nelson, assistant Ridge Run coordinator this year, and who will be next year’s overall coordinator.
Participants entered either the 8-kilometer or the 5-kilometer run as an individual runner or as part of a team. Awards were presented at the end of the race to first, second and third place male, female and team for each age group. Age groups were broken down to 25 and under, 26 to 35, 36 to 45, and 46 and over.
Awards were also presented to the first, second and third place team and an award presented to the first overall male and female finishers.
Although there is an entry fee for the Ridge Run, all proceeds went to the Marine Corps Community Services budget for the morale and welfare of Combat Center troops, Nelson explained.
“The Ridge Run is not only to raise funds for MCCS,” he continued. “The main focus is on fitness and getting a good, solid challenge out here in the desert.”
For some like Pamela and Amanda Henderson, the 8K was hardly a challenge. Pamela, 10, finished first in her gender and age group, 25 and under, at 1 hour, 13 minutes, with her sister, Amanda, 11, flew across the finish line right behind her at 1:15.
“We run all the time just for fun,” said Amanda, catching her breath. “We got some help from our PE coach to prepare.”
The two young girls whizzed past Marines and Sailors left and right, leaving a trail of motivation to push the troops harder.
“We kept looking up and seeing them ahead of us,” said Brandon Taylor, 23-year old native of Fortworth, Texas, who saw the girls during the race. “It gave us an extra bit of energy to try harder.”
Taylor was part of a team — dubbed The W’s — comprised of students from the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School who wanted to try the event for fun.
While some participants take part in the Ridge Run for fun or exercise, there are some who came back to defend titles and feed prolonged rivalries, such as MCCES’ and the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital’s team rivalry for the Captain’s Cup, said Nelson.
The Captain’s Cup is awarded to the first place team and is usually a toss-up between MCCES and Hospital, he explained.
And the Captain’s Cup went to … MCCES’ A Team, led by Donald Tolbert, for the second year in a row.
“The team strategy was to sprint to the top of the first hill to prevent getting bogged down by the single file accent and then to hold off all runners until the finish,” said Tolbert. “‘A Team’ went on to defeat our closet rival and successfully defend the Captain’s Cup.”
The second place team trophy went to the Naval Hospital and third place went to a team from the Installation Personnel Administration Center.
The female first place runner, Jessica Souther, Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital, crossed the finish line at 49:10. The first place overall male award went to Kenneth Parisi, Installation and Logistics’ Exercise Support Division, with a run time of 50:03.
“It was an extremely challenging course,” said Parisi. “The hardest part was the last two hills because you've already exhausted yourself and then the hills were made up of deep sand. But I’ve been training, and this was one of my best runs to date.”
This year’s run had a good turnout, but not the largest, said Nelson.
“We would like to see a bigger crowd next year,” he said. “For those who might be intimidated by the course, we build safety into it and it is our top priority.”
While some may be intimidated, there are runners who would like to see a change in the course, said Nelson.
“This has been the same course since the first Ridge Run,” he explained. “We feel it presents just enough challenge and the 5K is good for those who aren’t ready for the 8K.”
The Ridge Run is held the third week in April every year and is open to all Department of Defense employees, civilians and military members.