AF Marathon results demonstrate changing fitness culture

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Laura L. Valentine
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Few people run just for fun. Even fewer run long distances for the enjoyment of it. For the 26 Team McConnell runners who competed in events at the Air Force Marathon Sept. 17, 2011, their reasons for competing varied from the love of running to first time achievements to every point in between.

The Air Force Marathon is held annually at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. This year was the 15th annual race and drew a record of more than 13,000 participants. In addition to those at Wright-Patterson, more than 3,000 people participated in same day races at deployed locations worldwide.

Events included a full marathon, a half marathon, a 10-kilometer race and a 5-kilometer race.

Team McConnell runners, spanning a wide range of age and rank, participated in the full, half or 10K race.
"I decided to run because I thought it would be good competition," said Airman 1st Class Devon Thomas, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "And it was fun."

Thomas was the only runner to win a challenge set forth by Col. Ricky Rupp, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander. The challenge, made to all runners during a team farewell, was that a day off would be awarded to any runner who beat Chief Master Sgt. Michael Edwards, 22nd Air Refueling Wing command chief, in the half marathon race.

Thomas, who had never competed in a long-distance race before, finished with a time of 1 hour, 36 minutes, 6 seconds in the half marathon with Edwards close behind, finishing at 1:39.

"It was awesome to beat Chief," said Thomas. "I was shocked and proud of myself, because I don't run as often as he does. It takes mentally knowing you can beat someone and having that competitive drive."

"I'm glad he beat me," said Edwards. "It's encouraging, because young people should beat me."

Collectively, Team McConnell's participants in the 2010 marathon ran slower than the runners from this year. The fastest time for a McConnell runner was 1:45 in the 2010 half marathon. This year there were four finishers faster than 1:45, and another five who finished in less than two hours.

"That tells me our culture is changing and more people are running and being active," said Edwards.

With a high level of U.S. Air Force fitness standards and the need for physical readiness at all times, running, either for competition or pleasure, is a great way to stay in shape, he said.

"I like being fit," said Edwards. "And running is a means to being fit. Time-wise and convenience-wise, everywhere I go, I can run. All I need are shorts and a pair of running shoes."

As more servicemembers are convinced of the importance of running, or find joy in competing in large events such as the marathon, run times on physical fitness tests may improve with time, he added.

"Sixty percent of our physical fitness test is our run," said Edwards. "You gotta study for a test."