by: Leland Kim
(KHNL) - While tens of thousands of athletes here in Hawaii gear up for tomorrow's Honolulu Marathon, half a world away runners will mark a different kind of memorial, mile by mile.
This is the third year the Honolulu Marathon is taking place in Iraq. It was brought over to the desert by Hawaii-based troops who wanted to bring a piece of the island to Iraq. It's a way for husbands and wives to connect despite being apart, and for soldiers to honor fallen comrades.
Command Sergeant Major Allen Haynes is running the Honolulu Marathon. How can he do that when he's stationed in Iraq? His unit is running it at the same time but half a world away. He isn't doing it alone. His wife Lilia is running the marathon here in Honolulu.
"It's totally exciting to both of us and I'm very, very proud of her," said Command Sergeant Major Allen Haynes, a non-commissioned officer stationed in Iraq and a participant in the Honolulu Marathon in Iraq.
Lilia says her husband inspires her.
"Yes, I am so proud of you, too, and thanks for everything," she said. "You are my motivation. I'm doing this for us. And I hope I just can finish."
Captain Nicole Powell-Dunford helped bring the Honolulu Marathon to Iraq.
"The 25th Infantry Division has a long history with the Honolulu Marathon," said the Army flight surgeon with the 2/25 Aviation Task Force Diamond Head. "So, it's a little piece of home for us."
She said the toughest part about being in Iraq is missing her family, and her husband Mike surprised her during the satellite interview.
"Hey, honey," said Mike Dunford.
"Oh, Mike! I didn't know you were coming!" said Captain Powell-Dunford. "Honey, I love you. Thank you so much for everything you do every day."
The runners in Iraq cherish this opportunity to do this race with their spouses.
"I'm glad I'm part of this, even though we're apart," said Command Sergeant Major Haynes. "It still feels like we're running together."
And the troops appreciate Hawaii's aloha spirit.
"And all your support on race day, we're eager and excited and looking forward to this event, and ultimately to return to you again," said Captain Powell-Dunford.
"I love you and I'm looking forward to seeing you, too," said Mike Dunford.
Staying connected with loved ones half way around the world through the honolulu marathon.