A soldier from San Diego has made a bit of history in Afghanistan. Last Sunday, Army 1st Lt. Mike Baskin won the first marathon run there. It took place at Forward Operating Base Ripley near Kandahar and was designed to coincide with a marathon in Honolulu, the home base of many of the participants.
Troops were flown in by helicopter from all over Afghanistan to participate in what the Afghan National Olympic Committee confirmed was the country's first marathon. To make runners feel more at home, soldiers erected plastic palm trees along the race route.
It was Baskin's first marathon, too, and conditions were anything but usual. Hilly terrain and the elevation of 4,400 feet were the least of runners' worries. There was the threat of attack as they raced without protective clothing or weapons in an area that was once home to the founder of the Taliban. "You've got to be careful where you step," runner Jill Stevens told one reporter. She was the first woman to cross the finish line.
Baskin completed the 26.2-mile course in 3 hours, 12 minutes, 15 seconds – coming in 15 minutes ahead of the next finisher.
Now, Baskin, 24, has another dream about to come true. Instead of returning to San Diego for R&R after eight months of deployment, he is heading to Israel next month, courtesy of Taglit-birthright israel. This 5-year-old group has sent 70,000 young Jewish men and women from throughout the world on 10-day, all-expense-paid trips to Israel to connect with their heritage. "Everyone I know who went," says Baskin, "says it is a life-changing experience."
Angels bearing gifts
It sounded like a great gift. A stockbroker informed the San Diego Natural History Museum this week that a stock gift of $100,000 had been placed with the broker for the museum. After rejoicing at that good fortune, the director of development called to thank the donor and learned that a mistake had been made. The gift was intended for another San Diego museum. Great news for that institution, but the Natural History Museum was left with no stock in its stocking . . . At a national conference on philanthropy in Florida, Kate Adams heard a keynote address by a top Salvation Army executive. Adams soon realized the model donor around whom the speech was centered was no stranger. but the late Joan Kroc, whose generosity has benefited San Diegans for years . . . It paid big time for 19-year-old University of San Diego freshman Jenna Jay to go shopping. She won a four-day trip to Sweden for two during her first visit to the IKEA store in Mission Valley. Jay credits her mom, visiting from Indiana, for encouraging her to enter the IKEA/Volvo-sponsored contest.
San Diego seen
Actor Michael Douglas visited Legoland in Carlsbad yesterday with his son Dylan, 4, and some family friends. Mom, Catherine Zeta-Jones, missed out on the Coastersaurus excitement because she's filming the final scenes of "Zorro II" in Mexico . . . It will be raining golf balls over the Chargers practice field at noon tomorrow. A rescue helicopter is letting loose 600 golf balls to practice for a golf ball drop planned for Jan. 18 at Torrey Pines Golf Course during the Buick Invitational. To raise money for a regional fire and rescue helicopter, the S.D. Fire-Rescue Department is selling golf balls through the Century Club – one for $10 or 6 for $50. Prizes go to the ball or balls landing in the target hole and closest to it . . . High marks from across the Atlantic: The Times of London has just named five California colleges among the top 25 universities in the world. UCSD made the list, placing 24th. Harvard was No. 1, followed by UC Berkeley, MIT and Caltech. Stanford placed seventh and UC San Francisco was 20th. UCLA ranked 26th of the 200 universities listed.
One way to get a flu shot is to leave the country. Three San Diego County residents – Maria Chavez, Pablo Jimenez and Enrique Morones did just that last week. They had a meeting with President Vicente Fox in Mexico City, then headed to San Luis Potosi to meet with Secretary of State Ernesto Derbez. Normally the refreshments are coffee and pastries, but during a meeting break the San Diegans were offered flu shots – and accepted.
Diane Bell's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays. Fax items to (619) 260-5009; call (619) 293-1518; e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or mail to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Box 120191, San Diego 92112-0191.