UPDATE: Afghanistan-Deployed Air Force Colonel Runs Half Moon Bay Marathon

Lt. Colonel Daren Sorenson will be among the 500 runners hitting the pavement at the first-ever Half Moon Bay International Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k and 5k races this morning.

Update 9/25

6:50 p.m. Colonel Sorenson (who has already flown back home to Las Vegas) reports that his unofficial finish time for the Half Moon Bay Marathon is "about 4:37." Official results for Sorenson are not available at this time.

Race results have been reported as follows:

Scott Dunlap wins HMB Marathon (3:00:31)

Adam Daoud wins Half Marathon (1:18:12)

TJ Leising wins 10k (46:01)

To check results for all runners, visit the marathon website here.

1 p.m.: Colonel Sorenson finished this morning's marathon (exact time to come) and described the marathon as "fantastic."

Congratulations to the Colonel and all the other runners who ran the marathon, half marathon, 10k and 5k!

Check back on Half Moon Bay Patch for photos of today's event taken by contributor Stuart Nafey.


When Air Force pilot Lt. Colonel Daren Sorenson takes his first step past the starting line of this morning's debut , it will mean more to him than than just any other race.

"It's going to signify the end of a very difficult deployment and period of time in my life," said the pilot on Friday evening, shortly after flying into the with his own private plane.

Sorenson, who grew up in a small town near St. Louis, Mo. called Cape Girardeau, recently returned back to the U.S. after being deployed in Afghanistan for six months. He is now stationed in Las Vegas as a Commander at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School's 17th Weapons Squadron.

The pilot was also deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross award for an action he led outside Baghdad in April 2003.

"Coming home to complete this race is the end of many months of very hard work," he said.


Training for the race in Afghanistan

Sorenson began his marathon training in March, just about the same time he was deployed.

With two marathons under his belt since 2009, Sorenson carefully considered the unique long-distance training challenges of his new surroundings.

Soaring summer temperatures well past 100 degrees would provide tough training conditions, he realized.

But the weather wasn't the only challenge.

"There were parts of the road that were only separated from the outside by a small fence line which exposed you to possible sniper fire and other insurgent attacks during your run," Sorenson said.

Instead of shying away, Sorenson implemented solutions.

"I ran in the early morning hours before the temperature outside got too hot," he said.

By running in the morning, Sorenson said, most of the local populace was still sleeping, which reduced his risk of getting shot during each run.

"I trained the entire 6 months I was over there," Sorenson said.  "Running over there was difficult to adjust to, as the elevation there was much higher than what I was used to back home."

The base he was stationed at in Afghanistan was up in the mountains and about the same as Denver, Sorenson said.

Though it took several weeks to get adjusted to the altitude, it didn't bother him much afterwards, he said.


The Lucky Entry

Once Sorenson learned that he would be returning back to the U.S. in September, he began searching for a West Coast marathon near Las Vegas that would fit with his schedule.

Once he discovered Half Moon Bay's inaugural race — which fit his criteria of running a marathon at sea-level so as to maximize his chance for reaching a personal best time — Sorenson was ready to sign up.

There was only one problem: The event was full.

Not wanting to give up so easily, Sorenson wrote an email to marathon organizers, who had already been turning away dozens of people since the event was already sold out.

But the colonel's story caught the eye of Eric Vaughan, Executive Director of the marathon. Vaughan was so moved by what he described as the pilot's service to the country and a willingness to "put his life on the line" — that he not only gave Sorenson a spot in this morning's running field, but complimentary entry to the race as well.


Cheering him on — from Afghanistan and around the world

Though some of Sorenson's friends from Las Vegas came with him to Half Moon Bay to support him along the way to the finish line, those still in Afghanistan will not miss knowing exactly when Sorenson reaches each mile marker either.

"I plan on wearing a GPS-capable phone, which will transmit my location real time on the internet," Sorenson said.  

"They'll be able to monitor me during the race," he said.


Hoping for personal best in today's race

"I would love to run a 4:30 [four hours 30 minutes] but that is a very aggressive goal for me. I'll be pushing myself to the limit to try and achieve that goal," Sorenson said. 

"In reality, anything less than a 4:45, I'd be very happy with," he said.


The , Half Marathon, 10k, and 5k race will take place this morning.

Starting times are as follows:

  • Full Marathon: 7:00 a.m.
  • Half Marathon, 7:30 a.m.
  • 10k, 7:45 a.m.
  • 5k, 8:00 a.m. 

For more information, visit the race's website here.

To receive news feeds about Half Moon Bay and the unincorporated Coastside between Montara and Pescadero, visit Half Moon Bay Patch on Facebook and "like" us here. Follow us on Twitter here.


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