By Demi M. Cruz

MWR Marketing

The Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Department hosted the first-ever Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) Half Marathon and 5K run aboard the station May 20 in celebration of Armed Forces Day.

There were 189 runners who stretched and warmed up in the early hours of the morning around the parking lot at Dewey's.

Just after 7 a.m., MU1 David Kraftchak of Navy Band Southeast sang the national anthem kicking off the event. NAS Jax Executive Officer Capt. Michael Connor addressed the crowd of runners prior to the starter pistol firing sending runners out to follow the route for either the 5K or half marathon. 

Connor, one of 114 participants running the path for the half marathon, initiated the idea of hosting the run on base. Working closely with MWR Fitness Director Jill Sheppard and MWR Fitness Specialist Kristen Robinson, the idea evolved into an actual and official event.

"Our MWR team, led by our event planner, Kristen Robinson, did an outstanding job putting on a challenging first-time event," remarked Connor.

"The course was excellent. Runners enjoyed amazing views of Jacksonville's city skyline from the airfield runway, St. Johns River by our marina and the historic homes on base."

Within the first 20 minutes of the race, the first male overall for the 5K run David Hodges (ages 40-49 group) crossed with a time of 20:21.

A few minutes later, the first female overall for the 5K run was Jessica Burke (ages 30-39 group) with a time of 24:11. As all runners and walkers for the 5K crossed the finish line, they received participation medals.

Afterward, finishers from the 5K, along with loved ones anxiously waiting for their half marathon runner to cross the finish line, enjoyed beverages and breakfast burritos provided by Dewey's. 

With an impressive time of 1:28:16, the first male overall for the half marathon run was Brian Shrout (ages 40-49 group). Following Shrout was Joel Nesi (ages 13-17 group) with a time of 1:30:13 and Brock Stefura (ages 30-39 group) with a time of 1:31:10.

The first female overall for the half marathon race was Kim Pawelek Brantly (ages 40-49 group) with a time of 1:35:28.

Coming just behind Pawelek Brantly was Lydia Mcrae (ages 30-39 group) with a time of 1:35:39 and Christina Hart Simpson (ages 30-39 group) with a time of 1:46:22.

Placement medals were awarded just before 10 a.m. to top runners from the half marathon based on run time, age and gender. All half marathon finishers received a finisher coin and every participant was given a towel from an on-site USAA representative at the completion of the race.

"The running community at NAS Jax is quite large and active, and we were very excited to offer this run to the warfighters, family members and their friends," said Connor. 

Armed Forces Day was first officially celebrated on May 20, 1950. It has since been held on the third Saturday of the month of May to honor every service member of every branch in the United States Military.

The daily sacrifices and commitments made by the men and women who serve our great nation are important to remember and deserve our appreciation and recognition. 

Thank you to USAA, a proud sponsor of the inaugural NAS Jax Half Marathon & 5K run.

Neither NAS Jacksonville, MWR nor Jax Air News or any part of the federal government, officially endorses any company or sponsor or their products or services.