This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege of traveling to Dayton, Ohio to compete in the United States Air Force Half Marathon as part of the Air National Guard's MAJCOM Challenge Team (read how I was invited to be on the team here). I was one of 10 members of the Air Guard's Team, and as we were all selected from across the nation, I was so fortunate to be able to represent the state of Idaho and the 124th Fighter Wing.
I arrived in Dayton on Friday afternoon and immediately met up with the team at the pre-race Expo. We shared our introductions and I was so surprised to see a good representation of enlisted and officers as well as traditional and full-time guardsmen. After the Expo, we all set out to the Gourmet Pasta Dinner (which was a huge buffet of pasta, salad and desserts—so many desserts!) at the National Museum of the US Air Force. It was a wonderful kick-off to the weekend's festivities, and the museum was breathtaking with the aircraft hanging from the ceilings and reading the history behind each one.
Saturday morning came early, with a 5:30 am bus pick-up that shuttled us over to the race. The half marathon wasn't set to start until 8:30 am, so I had plenty of time to gather my thoughts, stretch out, and get a little nervous! Our half team cheered on the full marathoners (each MAJCOM team had 4 full marathoners and 6 half marathoners) when they began running at 7:30 am.
By the time 8:30 rolled around, I was ready. As the gun sounded and we began racing (watch a cool video of the start here... you can spot me if you look in the front group!), I started out fairly quick—averaging 6:20/mile for the first 3-4 miles. The humidity was getting to me already and I was sweating a lot, and then all of a sudden I stopped sweating entirely (I was dehydrated, most likely). I knew at that point, somewhere around mile 4, that it was going to be a rough race. The rolling hills and wind picked up after that point, and my mind made the transition from trying to place and stick to the 6:20/mile pace I had set out to maintain to just wanting to finish the race. Around mile 8, I began getting the chills and it took everything I had to continue pounding the pavement. Had I just been racing for myself, I would have had a very different race. But I knew my team was depending on me so I carried on, running into the wind, and just kept counting down the miles until I ran across the finish. The entire way, people kept saying, "You're the second place female!" and wouldn't you know it, I was passed by another girl (who was sponsored, mind you, and a rockstar!) in the last half mile. I didn't let that crush my spirits, however, and ran all the way through the finish, where I was greeted by a Major General and awarded my finisher medal. I ended up finishing with a time of 1:31:47 (7:01/mile average), earning the award for 1st Place Overall Military Female and 3rd Place Overall Female.
I have a four-step, four-breath mantra for each race. It's normally something exciting that gets me amped up and helps me keep my pace. This weekend, however, it was more of a prayer than anything else. I kept repeating Romans 8:31 in my head, "If God is for us, who can be against us," and I knew then what my mantra would be—it was, "God is for me," and I repeated it every four steps literally from mile 4 through the finish because I knew I was not going to be able to complete the race alone. Mentally and physically, I was done. Being from Idaho and training in dry, no-wind, flat conditions, this Ohio race served me up a climate that I just didn't anticipate. I couldn't have done it without His push. There's no way. I'm so grateful and so blessed to have made it through the race, to have been able to earn a place as a top finisher, and to have made it home injury-free. God is seriously for me.
After the race, I took a glorious nap and joined up with some of my team members for some post-race grub. We talked and laughed the night away and truly just enjoyed the company. It's so cool being able to spend time with people who serve alongside you in the military but who also enjoy running and athletics... we had so much to talk about!
And now, as for the MAJCOM Challenge—the MAJCOM Challenge, (as described in my post here) was intended to have different branches of the Air Force compete against each other. There were 10-11 MAJCOM teams. While each of our 10 team members competed and ran as individuals, as part of the Challenge, each of our finish times were added together to create our total team time. The lowest total team time wins. We eagerly awaited the results to see which MAJCOM came out on top—fingers crossed!—and in November we learned that the ANG took 2nd overall with a time of 22 hours, 50 minutes and 48 seconds. We lagged just behind the number one team who finished 5-minutes and 32-seconds faster than we did. We are hoping for the big "W" next year!
See more photos from my awesome and jam-packed weekend below:
The Air National Guard MAJCOM Challenge Team at the Gourmet Pasta Dinner
What a great turnout at the Gourmet Pasta Dinner. The National Museum of the US Air Force was just beautiful!
Major E's son was such a kick. He was totally my little running buddy this weekend.
If you ever want a confidence booster, ask me to battle you in a thumb war. I will lose... every. time.
The finish line was surrounded by aircraft on the flight line. It was very cool!
Gearing up to race!
Our Air National Guard team pre-race photo.
Me and my wingman, Major E! What a great buddy she was to me this weekend.
The U-2 flyover, kicking off the Marathon start.
Medals upon medals upon medals! There were so many runners at this race! Way more than we are used to in Idaho!
I finished! I was so grateful to be done... it was a hard race! I came across in 1:31:47, with an average of 7:01/mile, earning the 1st Overall Military Female and 3rd Overall Female awards.
The first phone call I made after my finish? I called my sweetie. He was so proud!
The women of our Air Guard MAJCOM Team.
The team, all-smiles post-race! What a killer race it was for us... but what a great experience we had!
My main take-a-way from this weekend honestly had nothing to do with the race. I LOVED traveling and getting to meet a whole group of stand-up, go-getter, Air Guardsmen athletes and having the honor of being selected to represent the Air National Guard. I saw this trip as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I completely took it all in—from the conversations I shared with my teammates to the post-race extra slice of who-cares-how-many-calories-were-in-it-cheesecake. While I'd love to rejoin this team next year, I have so many big life changes coming my way that I'm just taking it a day at a time. Plus, next year—who knows—I might not even be fast enough to be on the team! Ha!
Thank you again to Chief, Rachael and Major E, who truly went out of their way to ensure this weekend was one to remember. I'm so grateful for everything!