MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. --
A C-17 Globemaster III departed from March on Sept. 16 carrying 97 members of the base's marathon team. The March runners were traveling to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to participate in the annual Air Force Marathon races.
The 2011 March team, more than twice the size of last year's
, consisted of a number of experienced and novice runners, all of whom registered and trained for the marathon, half-marathon, 10K or 5K.
One of the younger runners this year was Senior Airman Kristoffer Chacon, a knowledge operations manager with the 452nd Maintenance Squadron.
The Airman is a two-time, first place winner in the 10K event at Wright-Patterson. Earlier this year, he decided he would be running the 10K for the last time
so he could concentrate on college and his Air Force Reserve career.
Chacon placed first in the 5K military division Sept. 16 and he placed fourth overall in the 10K the next day.
"I didn't do as well as I thought I would in the 10K, perhaps because of being a little tired from running the 5K yesterday," said Chacon. "I didn't prepare as well as I should have, but it was a great experience and I feel reinvigorated, challenged and have had a change of heart to continue to run."
This year's team consisted of runners in most age brackets. In the half-marathon, Chief Master Sgt. Terry Luzader, Fourth Air Force Aviation Management Office, placed first in her division, 10th in the women's category and 49th place overall.
Her placement landed her in the 89.2 percentile of her age grade, which is just shy of the minimum percentile needed for consideration in the world class category.
Seventy-one-year-old Air Force Col. James Galyen, 71, has been running marathons since he was 48 years old and has run in every Air Force Marathon since the event began in 1997. He is a resident of Redlands, Calif., and was able to fly as a Space-A passenger
on the same aircraft that transported the March team.
This year, Galyen placed sixth in his division and says he runs in an average of four marathons a year.
"Physical fitness is so important because you can get so involved in your job that you really don't have any outside interests," he said. "If you run and you're physically fit, you are actually able to really sort out things and think more clearly. It's almost like meditation."
"When I run, I can get a lot more things done. It clears my head and I can think about things and make decisions," he continued. "It's just a type of meditation and I think that everybody needs it."
According to Galyen, physical fitness during his days in the Air Force was important but members weren't provided enough time.
"It was one of those things that you had to do on your own," he said. "They provided the facilities later on. They started getting good gym facilities and some people to run things, but they never provided the young guys time to do it and the young guys were so busy that they just didn't have the time."
Since Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper implemented the Fit-to-Fight program in 2004, there has been an increased emphasis on physical fitness. This emphasis has carried over into the Air Force Reserve, where the Reserve Airmen whose fitness test used to be comprised of a three-mile walk now find themselves maintaining the same standards as their active-duty counterparts.
In January of this year, 452nd Air Mobility Wing Commander Col. Karl McGregor
wrote a commentary on the topic of fitness and stated that whatever your fitness goals are you don't have to be alone to fulfill them.
Forty people from March ran in last year's Air Force Marathon
and, upon returning from that event, Col. McGregor, who ran the half-marathon distance race, suggested that a running club be established on base.
Lt. Col. Kris Kraiger and Capt. Linda Baltes took the idea and ran with it, but didn't want to limit the membership to runners only. They established March Fitness and Inspiration Through Teamwork
to build a culture of fitness on base.
"People have the gym and they have a reason to stay fit, but they don't necessarily have a community that they can stay in shape with," said Kraiger in a February 2011 Beacon article. "We fill in that gap."
Last June, March FITT, together with the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, invited Dr. Mark Cucuzella
, medical consultant for the Air Force Marathon, to visit the base. He shared valuable information about proper techniques for injury-free running
through two, three-hour running clinics.
Capt. Jennifer Boman from the 336th Air Refueling Squadron took the lead in organizing and compiling the information necessary to accomplish the 2011 Team March Marathon mission.
"To participate in a running race, you just have to get out there and do it," said Kraiger. "Once you pay the $20, $30 or $40 dollar fee and you set it out there far enough, you have a goal. I want to encourage our military members to set a goal but make it a reachable goal. And when you reach that goal set another goal."
Kraiger adds that he has spoken with many members of the marathon team who have said training for the Air Force Marathon races has helped them lose weight or raise their Fit-to-Fight scores.
Current 452 AMW Commander Col. Mary Aldrian
ran the half-marathon and commented on how committing herself to the race motivated her to run and workout over the past year.
"I believe in leadership by example and the health benefits of being physically fit," said Aldrian. "The example set by the wing, group and squadron leadership has been tremendous."
"The extraordinary turnout for this year's marathon is proof the culture of fitness is being embraced by more and more members of the 452 AMW," she continued. "It is contagious and as more people feel the benefits of being physically fit, they spread the word."
"To see the sense of accomplishment of all who attended this year's marathon, whether they ran the marathon, half or 10K was inspiring," Aldrian said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the attendance increases even more next year."
Like Aldrian, Col. McGregor also believes in leadership by example and was able to participate in a sympathy run with 10 other runners at their deployed location. The team there consisted of Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps personnel and one contractor.
"After last year's marathon, I promised we'd do it again," said McGregor. "Unfortunately my deployment to Afghanistan made it impossible to attend, so the next best thing was a sympathy run here in theater."
"We started late in the evening here, which coincided with the Air Force Marathon start time," the deployed colonel said.
"The outer road is 1.04 kilometers so we ran around the track 19.4 times for the half marathon. It was a beautiful clear night with cool temperatures, so running conditions were near perfect. The only thing missing was a hundred of my Team March members at the finish line."
Registration for the 2012 Air Force Marathon begins Jan. 1, 2012.
Click here to view a slideshow of 30 images of the March team at the 2011 marathon. To keep up with what's going on at March, check out the base website, Facebook and Twitter.