Marine Corps Marathon Organization and haku Showcase Exciting Technological Innovations for Virtual Desert Storm 218-Miler

Written by Cody Beavers

In 1991, more than 900,000 U.S.-led troops traveled nearly 218 miles from the main airport in Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia to Kuwait City, marking the start of Operation Desert Storm and the Gulf War. In honor of the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, also known as the liberation of Kuwait, the Marine Corps Marathon Organization (MCMO) hosted the virtual Desert Storm 218-Miler, where participants had to cover 218 miles between January 17 to February 28. With haku’s powerful technology, including innovative solutions released to power the event, participants tracked themselves on a map of the region that displayed their progressive standings. As participants traced the same route as the troops on the virtual map, they were also presented with achievements at specific milestones, making the experience both meaningful and engaging.  

“With the growth of virtual events, we learned quickly how loyal our customers are and how much they enjoy participating in the virtual events we host,” said Angela Anderson, Deputy Director of the MCMO. “We wanted to keep this momentum

going and we knew Operation Desert Storm meant a lot to so many of them.”

When MCMO approached their technology partner, haku, with the idea of creating a novel and truly immersive experience, haku’s team quickly came together to create user-friendly solutions to support MCMO’s goals from the ground up. 

“Everyone came together as a team to bring this whole concept to fruition,” said Anderson. “haku put the elements and innovation in place to bring our participants together and to help us create a memorable experience.” 

Awareness for the event quickly grew when it was announced on MCMO’s social media pages. Over 600 teams and over 1,000 individual runners registered for the event, which surpassed MCMO’s initial goals.

“The reaction to the event was amazing – people were jumping on this event immediately to get involved,” said Anderson. 

Through haku’s innovative maps and milestone solutions, MCMO fully immersed its participants in a rewarding and exciting journey. By seeing where other teams and participants were on the course map, competition grew among participants and it challenged them to push even harder. Milestones were also placed every 6 miles to reward participants with a badge and included depictions of historical facts, such as important battles that took place. Together, both features created an experience that was engaging, competitive, and gratifying for every participant. 

“Providing the maps and milestones solutions for the Desert Storm 218-Miler showcases what lies as a core value for haku, which is giving our partners the solutions they need to offer unmatched participant experiences,” said haku Founder and CEO Carlos Escobar. “Partners such as the Marine Corps Marathon Organization challenge our team every day to create cutting-edge solutions that keep haku at the forefront of the industry.”  

The Desert Storm 218-Miler drove a sense of camaraderie from military members around the world who were a part of Operation Desert Storm. To build a global community around the virtual event and encourage engagement from participants around the world, MCMO utilized haku’s entire suite of virtual products, including the social wall that gave participants an avenue to share stories and support each other throughout the event. 

“Hosting this as a virtual event enabled people from all over the world to participate,” said Anderson. “We had Desert Storm veterans from countries such as Norway, Germany, Canada, and France participate in the event. It was amazing to see the camaraderie that was being expressed through our social media channels and even by participants calling our office to say how meaningful this event was to them.” 

As virtual events weave their way into a fitness mainstay for people worldwide, the Marine Corps Marathon Organization is looking forward to adding new experiences for its community in the future with haku by its side. 

About haku:

haku is an unparalleled technology partner that forward-thinking organizations are working with to create powerful events and surpass their goals. Through a robust all-in-one platform and modern peer-to-peer fundraising suite, world-class organizations can better plan and promote events, track progress, engage their participants, and move their events and businesses forward - all with haku’s state-of-the-art technology ecosystem and unmatched partnership. haku is trusted by organizations such as the Boston Athletic Association, Team In Training (LLS), Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon Organization, J&A Racing, Houston Marathon, Atlanta Track Club, Philadelphia Eagles, Mercedes Benz Corporate Run, and many more.

To learn more about haku, please visit

About the Marine Corps Marathon Organization:

The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is one of the largest marathons in the world. Recognized as “Best Marathon in the Mid Atlantic,” and the “Best Marathon for Charities,” the MCM honors the honor, courage, and commitment of its participants. Also known as “The People’s Marathon,” runners from all 50 states and more than 50 countries participate in the MCM, the largest marathon not to offer prize money. The 45th MCM will be held on October 25, 2020, in Arlington, VA. No federal or Marine Corps endorsement is implied. Connect with the Marine Corps Marathon Organization on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Flickr. #RunWithTheMarines