An Air Force Fitness Blogger recently took his running to a new level during the Great Wall of China Marathon. This story was conveyed to Air Force Live by Senior Master Sergeant Kenneth Holcomb.
Some of you may remember SMSgt Kenneth Holcomb, who maintains a fitness blog under the pen name of FatSergeant. (If not you can refresh your memory here.) After completing the Air Force Marathon he actually stepped up his training and started looking for a new challenge. Soon after arriving to his new assignment in Seoul, Korea, he found that challenge when he heard about the Great Wall of China Marathon. When he told his wife about the marathon she responded with, “You’ve got to do it. It’s a chance of a lifetime!” Shortly after that conversation, Ken started training with a local triathlon group and for the next six months he trained faithfully. “When it was time for the race, at 44 years old, I was in the best shape of my life,” he said.
Nearly 1,500 participants made the trip to China to run the race, but only 500 of those brave souls were signed up for the full marathon. Others were signed up for either the half marathon, 10K or 5K. Regardless of the length of the race, all individuals were in for a challenge on “The Wall!”
“On race day you could feel the excitement in Ying Yang Stadium,” said Ken, “it was crazy!” “All around me I heard different languages and I started to wonder if I was at the Great Wall of China or the Tower of Babel,” he said.
Click below to watch a video clip of SMSgt Holcomb during the race.
The course started with a short flat stretch of road before it veered off and headed up the mountain for about 4.5km and led to a large gate that read “Welcome to the Great Wall”. This is where things get interesting! Almost immediately the stairs start to wind up… and up… and UP! Ken’s strategy was to go slow and steady on the extreme inclines and cautiously pick up the speed on the decline. “The stairs were very steep with great variance in size. You can only take them so quickly,” he said. The end of this stretch of the wall was extremely steep but after 3.2km he was on the stretch of road outside Ying Yang Stadium.
The course then took him out into the local towns where people were lined up waving and cheering. “I must have given a couple hundred high fives to the children as I passed through the towns,” Ken said. “This is where I picked up the pace a bit. I felt great at this point. I was doing it!”
Eventually the course took him back towards the stadium where everyone was cheering! Unfortunately, the celebration had to wait for the full marathoners. They were given a green wristband to show they had returned from the village and it was time to face the toughest portion of the race: The Climb back up the wall!
At this point the runners had traveled over 22 miles. If you have ever ran a marathon, you know this is the point that things start to fall apart for some runners. Your energy reserves have been depleted and everything starts to cramp up. It’s almost unimaginable that you would be headed back up the wall at this point. It’s amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it.
“The climb back up the wall was grueling and one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced,” Ken explained. “At times I was literally crawling up the stairs on my hands and feet.” SMSgt Holcomb was able to make it back up the Great Wall, cross the finish line and claim his medal. He ended up finishing in a little over 5 hours which placed him in 78th place overall out of a field of almost 500.
“As a Senior NCO, I think it’s important to set the example for the younger troops,” SMSgt Holcomb explained. “I write about my fitness struggles and achievements in hopes that it will inspire others to do the same.” You can check in on his adventures at http://fatsergeant.blogspot.com/.
On behalf of the U.S. Air Force, Congratulations SMSgt Holcomb! Your accomplishment is a testament to what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it!