Senior Master Sergeant Ken Holcomb recently ran the Air Force Marathon after losing 70 pounds. SMSgt Holcomb reflects on his story and those of thousands of other runners. Additionally, he recorded the video below while wearing a lipstick cam as he ran the marathon. Congratulations to SMSgt Holcomb and everyone else for running, regardless of their reason.
Like nearly ten thousand other individuals, I recently traveled to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to participate in the 13th annual Air Force Marathon. Some came with family and friends to cheer them on while others came alone. Some people were running their first race while others were seasoned veterans of marathons. Many individuals came to run in the 5k and 10k races while others had trained to run the half and 26.2 mile full marathon.
Runners came for many different reasons but we all shared a common goal of crossing the finish line. As I ran my race, it was exhilarating to see all the different types of people of all ages, men and women, young and old. I was also amazed at the number of people who volunteered to help at the hydration stations and the people who showed up to cheer us on.
Air Force Col John Alveraz was a Navy Seal and lost his leg while in a joint special operations counter-narcotics mission in 1996. After his accident, he went through water and survival training again and got certified to fly. Although the Navy always took care of him, he choose to take an inter-service transfer to the Air Force to stay in Special Operations. He is now assigned to the Defense and Air Attaché, LaPaz, Bolivia. He ran the Marathon in dedication to 20 individuals who have either fallen or were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. This year’s Marathon landed on the same day that his accident happened 13 years ago.
And then there is Army Captain Ivan Castro, Castro, who is the one of three blind active-duty officers and the only one serving in Army Special Operations, ran the Air Force marathon for the second time. Castro lost visibility in both eyes while serving in Iraq Sept. 2, 2006 when a 82mm enemy mortar exploded just five feet in front of him.
When Castro was interviewed before the Air Force Marathon in 2008 he could remember the exact moment when he decided to run a marathon lying in his hospital bed at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. He overheard a doctor and nurse discussing the Marine Corps Marathon. “As they left, I thought to myself, ‘I love running. I miss running. That’s what I’m going to do,’” he said. That’s exactly what he did. Since then he’s completed several other runs. This year he ran the Air Force half marathon with a t-shirt that read “I will never accept defeat.”
I was also touched by the story I read about CMSgt. Brian Hale who was running the half marathon with his wife’s bib number. The original plan was for him to run the full 26.2 marathon while his wife ran the 13.1 mile half marathon and their daughter Breana would cheer them on. Tragically, Michelle was struck and killed by a sport utility vehicle in the early morning while training for her run. Chief Hale completed the half-marathon with bib number 4193 while his daughter and family cheered him on at the finish.
Many people out there will ask, “Why”? Why do all that training? Why would you want to get out of bed before the sun comes up, just to beat the heat and train for hours? My personal reasons were to improve my overall health and celebrate 25 years of service in the Air Force, but if you ask 100 different people you are likely to get 100 different answers. Each runner has his or her reason to run. Some of these stories are very inspiring.
The Air Force Marathon was a tremendous experience that offers a race for almost any fitness level. If these individuals have inspired you, maybe you will join us next year. To give you a idea of what it’s like to run a marathon, here is a video of the 2009 Air Force Marathon from a runners perspective.