Bears Watch Runners Finish Eglin Gate to Gate

In Brief:

  • The Eglin Air Force Base Memorial Day race saw unexpected visitors: a momma bear and three cubs, who watched the event from a tree.
  • About 700 participants completed the 4.4-mile run, which honors fallen service members and has been a tradition for 37 years.
  • The race was organized by Eglin’s Force Support Squadron and required nearly a year of preparation, highlighting the community’s commitment to remembrance.

The only unexpected guests at this year’s Eglin Air Force Base were a momma bear and three cubs who watched the racers finish the 4.4-mile run from a tree above Eglin Air Force Base’s splash pad. 


Roughly 20 members of security forces monitored the bears and runners and walkers headed up the last hill – made the turn and crossed the finish line. 


Approximately 700 runners and walkers participated in the Saturday morning race put on by Eglin’s Force Support Squadron, which had more than 100 volunteers from the start to the finish lines. 


The race began 37 years ago when then-base commander and current Mid-Bay Bridge Authority Board Member General Gordon Fornell decided to hold a run on base to honor fallen service members on Memorial Day. 


While Eglin did not have official times for the piece as of publishing – the top runner finished in roughly 20 minutes. 


Captain John DeLucia, with Force Support Squadron, the sustainment services flight commander at Eglin, said the team prepares this race every year for roughly 11 months. 


 “It’s so meaningful because it’s the holiday weekend, right? People could be out on the water at the beach doing a million other things but they choose to spend their Saturday morning coming out and remembering,” DeLucia said, “I come from a military family; this is just kind of part of my upbringing and all these things, but just to see this in the community and everyone come together, it’s like it’s so impactful – to see what’s really important.” 


The Race Itself 

The race course started at the Drug Demand Reduction building (the old elementary school) and made a u-turn onto Eglin Boulevard. The route continued on the main drag until runners came to the All-wars memorial where runnners laid plastic poppy flowers at the memorial site. from there, the runners passed the Eglin Air Control Tower and pressed on to Memorial Trail, where they looped back to the start line. The total distance of the race is 4.4 miles. 


Runners and walkers had to contend with a particularly humid day before they could hit the finish line and start their recoveries. 

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