ABOARD USS GERMANTOWN (NNS) -- Crew members from the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) took part in San Diego's 20th Anniversary Bay Bridge Run May 14, despite being three months into their deployment and thousands of miles from the actual event.
Cmdr. John Deehr, Germantown's commanding officer and an avid runner, came up with the idea of using the ship's treadmills to replicate the distance and various grades of the challenging and scenic four-mile race.
"While deployed to the Arabian Gulf, many crew members find it difficult to get out and exercise, mainly because the weather is extremely hot and there is limited space to run on deck," said Lt. Cmdr. Kerry Hollenbeck, Germantown's medical doctor and Health Promotions Committee (HPC) leader, who also served as the race coordinator. "We wanted to find a way to motivate our Sailors and Marines to exercise regularly."
Since Germantown has only seven treadmills aboard, the HPC capped the number of participants at 65, and in less than two weeks, all the slots were filled. Runners could run individually and/or as part of a five-man team, with the team's top four times counting toward the overall team time.
"Despite having to run the race in the ship's anchor windlass and the extreme heat, the committee did a fantastic job simulating running over one of San Diego's premier landmarks," Deehr said. "From having all the runners wear bib numbers to having fresh fruit, bagels, cookies, Gatorade, and plenty of fresh water for all the finishers at the finish line.
"This was a great event for everyone that participated and really got the crew motivated to improve their running times," he added.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jorge Vega, from Bravo Company's 3rd Platoon finished the race in first place with a time of 24:41, while Germantown's "Team Ensign" led by Ensign Casey Cazes' time of 26:39, won the team with an overall time of 1:54:46. Other winners and awards were separated by age and gender categories.
"I volunteered for the run to support my Marines," Vega said. "It was challenging, but I had a great time, and I'm looking forward to getting my free T-Shirt."
"I thought the course was pretty challenging," said Damage Controlman 1st Class (SW) Rebecca Osmundsen. "The Health Promotions Committee did a great job making the run feel as real as possible, given the fact the treadmills can't simulate a downgrade similar to the bridge. In a way I think we actually had more of a challenge than running the actual course."
After the race, Germantown held a post-race/halfway-home steel beach picnic that included an awards ceremony, where all the first place finishers were given gift certificates towards the purchase of athletic/running gear and all the participants were congratulated for the efforts.
Overall, the Virtual Bay Bridge Run had its positive impact on the crew. The event helped promote the Navy's emphasis on physical fitness while also bringing a touch of home to deployed Sailors and Marines.
"The Health Promotions Committee tries to find ways to promote fitness as part of a broader approach to healthy lifestyles. Hopefully, programs like this will result in not only improved PRT scores, but also better overall health," said Hollenbeck.
Besides exercise tools, Germantown also offers classes in nutrition, smoking cessation, and other health promotion courses, all of which are geared at molding and maintaining healthy Sailors and Marines.
For more news from around the fleet, visit www.navy.mil.