Tag Archives: Fat Sergeant

Fat Sergeant Takes on the Great Wall!

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.

SMSgt Ken Holcomb, a.k.a. The Fat Sergeant, at the Great Wall of China
SMSgt Ken Holcomb, a.k.a. The Fat Sergeant, at the Great Wall of China

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.

Great Wall Marathon 2010

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!

Inspiration abounds at Air Force Marathon

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.

YouTube DoDLive 2009 Air Force Marathon Virtual Run

Blogging Airman sheds 70 pounds, ready to take on marathon

SMSgt Holcomb gets fit
SMSgt Holcomb gets fit

As last Thanksgiving passed and the leftovers were all gone, one Airman had an epiphany about his portly self.

Nearly a year later and 70 pounds lighter, Senior Master Sgt. Ken Holcomb is getting ready to run the Air Force Marathon being held Sept. 19 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He plans to blog the race on his site, http://fatsergeant.blogspot.com/, every step of the way.

“I hadn’t failed a physical fitness test, but I wasn’t excelling. I ran a marathon in 2007, but with my job, it was getting harder to get out for regular runs,” said the Superintendent of the Air Force Media Center at the Public Affairs Agency.

“There aren’t a lot of areas around my office in Arlington to run, and it was hard to find someone to run with,” he said.

“I realized that I was getting way too heavy and was not in the physical shape I wanted to be in,” he said. He decided to answer the “wake up call” that meeting the standard wasn’t enough.

The new standards of the Air Force Fitness Program require Airmen to test twice per year, which Sergeant Holcomb thinks is a good idea.

“I used to procrastinate when it came to fitness. The new standards will help someone stay in shape as a way of life instead of just trying to pass a test.

“I wanted to lead by example, so I started to set short-term goals,” he said. “I had a physical fitness test coming up, and I wanted to do well.”

Through his blog site, the new-found athlete describes what has become his strict regimen of running, weightlifting and eating right.

“Vegetables and fruit are a major part of my diet,” he said. “I enjoy vegetables a lot more now than I used to.” Sergeant Holcomb cut down on processed foods, simple sugars and white flour.

“I’ve learned that my body was made to process food, not to eat food that is processed,” he said.

Sergeant Holcomb joined a running club to help him train and to workout with other people. He also goes to the gym with his 15-year-old son to lift weights and do strength training.

“I just celebrated my 25th anniversary in the military, so I set a trifecta of goals,” he said.

By sticking with his regimen, Sergeant Holcomb has reached two of the three goals he set.

His first accomplished goal was to attend his 25th high school reunion weighing the same as he did when he graduated. The goal of getting a perfect score on his physical fitness test for the first time in his career was also met.

“I was very pleased with the time I accomplished the 1.5-mile run. I did it in 9 minutes and 27 seconds, which is a good enough time for an 18-year-old Airman to get max points,” the 43-year-old said.

Sergeant Holcomb’s third goal is to run and finish the 26.2-mile Air Force Marathon.

He said running marathons can be humbling. “I’ll be running and think I’m doing well, and then a 75-year-old person will pass me. I want to be ‘that person’ when I’m older. I do take satisfaction in realizing that I’m running faster at age 43 than I did when I was 18.”

Catch up with Sergeant Holcomb during the marathon at:










U. S. Air Force photos by Tech. Sgt. Timothy O’Bryan

Post by Master Sgt. Stephen Delgado