A Long Distance Goal

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Chad Kellum
  • 319th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Running has always been one of my favorite pastimes, but I never attempted a marathon before. The idea of running a marathon had been formulating in my mind for the past few years since running as part of the cross country team in high school.
I finally decided to take the plunge while I was attending Wood Badge leadership training for the Boy Scouts of America. In order to complete the course, I had to come up with five goals to better the troop I volunteer with, one of which could be a personal goal. So that life goal I wanted to accomplish back in high school was checked off at the 2007 U.S. Air Force Marathon. I began training for the 26.2 mile undertaking in April. Five months of training my body and mind to traverse the multitude of miles before me in September was on the forefront of my daily actions. 

I was anxious as I boarded the KC-135 to head to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 14. On the flight I got to see the Grand Forks AFB mission first hand. Mid-flight the passengers on board were given the opportunity to watch the air refueling of a KC-10. The experience only added to the anticipation of the race. 

I finally arrived at the passenger terminal at Wright Patterson AFB, and then headed to the Ervin J. Nutter Center to pick up my race bib number and all the running equipment I would need. Col. Kathleen Concannon, 319th Medical Group commander and experienced marathon runner, gave me a suggestion to wear sunglasses while I was running, a thought that had never crossed my mind. So, well-prepared for the upcoming race in the morning, I gladly accepted an invitation to dine at an authentic Italian restaurant with Colonel Concannon and fellow Warrior of the North, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Johnson, 319th Air Refueling Wing Director of Staff. That in itself was just one of the memorable experiences. 

After a welcome dinner, the three of us headed back to our accommodations for the remainder of the evening, and of course the anxiety for the next day kept me restless throughout the night. 

Race day came early, 5 a.m. to be exact. I got dressed and, not forgetting my new pair of sunglasses, headed to eat a very light breakfast, a banana. Colonel Concannon, Colonel Johnson and I crept to the car and headed for the main event. 

I'm very familiar with being a member of a select group of people who actually like running, but waiting for the race to start, I realized I and the few other Grand Forks participants were not the only 'crazy' people in the Air Force, as non-runners might refer to us. Several thousand fired up runners were itching to start the long trek, mostly due to the 40 degree temperature. 

While the assembly of athletes was standing in reverence to the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner", an F-15 flew over the crowd, adding to the 11-year tradition of a marathon in our young Air Force. 

The gun went off, and with my headphones and sunglasses in place, my feet sped me off on my long distance goal. 

The miles flew by, figuratively of course, as I and a myriad of fellow runners beside me steadily progressed along the road. There were rolling hills, a scarcity in my training, and plenty of shade. Meanwhile, amidst all the gorgeous scenery of Ohio, more of the prominence of the Air Force shone above. At intervals, a piece of the Air Force air power would fly overhead in salute to the men and women toiling below on that beautiful morning. Also along the route, many volunteers lined the streets, some passing out water or energy gels, and others just cheering the runners on. The Air Force is fueled by the pride of the community, and the gas tank was on full on that day. 

As I drew closer and closer to the finish, the "wall" hit me. Talking to my Dad earlier that week, he warned me of the "wall" or the big hit of fatigue as you run more than 15 miles. I took it in stride and consumed another energy gel to boost me over the "wall". 

The hills going out were, the ones going back toward the finish. With all the remaining will power and energy I could muster, I made it up and back down those horrible hills I ran over 20 miles earlier. I approached the final mile and the victory straight away, but something happened that I did not anticipate. My reliable legs cramped up, and I have to say, that is one of the worst feelings you can imagine. So with cramped legs, I hobbled toward the final stretch. On either side of the road hundreds of spectators and tired marathoners all cheered on the long distance gladiators as they flew down the final triumphant stretch. I welcomed the urging on of the crowd, as I too finally crossed the finish line. 

I, and the many before me, were greeted by several of the Air Force general officers, and given an 11th Annual Air Force Marathon medal. I swelled with emotion and pride; I completed my goal of running in the U.S. Air Force Marathon.