Keesler member recounts marathon experience

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Casy Boomershine
  • 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron
When my husband saw me complete a marathon earlier this year, he said he'd like to do one, too. I suggested the Air Force Marathon and since my husband had just began running a couple of months prior, I recommended he run the half-marathon while I ran the full.

We'd put in the hours of training throughout the summer, all we had left to do was drive seven hundred miles, make the Expo to pick up our race packets the day before, get a good night's sleep and be up at five in the morning so we could get to the gate by six for the start of my race at seven-thirty. Piece of cake.

The Expo was excellent and packet pickup was quick and easy. My race bib even had my name printed on it like the elite runners in big races.

On race day, we left our son with his grandpa. He'd have a harrowing day of being spoiled and swimming in the hotel pool ahead of him. We just had to get out there and run.

Race day morning traffic wasn't bad, and once on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, we were directed to park in orderly rows on a grassy lot. I finished my bagel, took a look at the nearest flag to remember where our car was and then made the two mile hike to the start line. I stood by my estimated completion time flag at the start, and waited while my husband hiked back to the car to retrieve his gear before the half marathon start an hour later. A large portion of the competitors are civilian, and for some of them, it was the first time they'd ever been on a military installation. They took photos in front of the displays, wide-eyed and awestruck at the idea of being so close to actual military aircraft. It's good to remember what it looks like from the outside. I smiled, proud of my Air Force heritage.

The opening ceremony began, and I strained to hear over the din of the crowd and the echo of the loudspeaker. There were so many runners, and that many people are hard to silence. The singer began the anthem, and silence fell. The B-2 swooped low for a fly-over, and the people went wild. Seconds later, the gun blast signaled the start of the race, and we were off.

The first half of the race flew by, and I was on target for my goal time of 4:10. I received a text from the race tracker that said my husband was five miles in and making good time, despite the fact that he wasn't able to find the car and didn't have all his gear. Because the race is run completely on the base, with the exception of a two mile stretch through the city of Fairborn, there weren't many people to cheer for the runners. The volunteers at the aid stations performed double duty, cheering as we grabbed water or sports drinks. The city of Fairborn at miles eight through ten of the race gave outstanding support, calling to runners by name, thanks to the fancy running bibs, and offering high fives. Despite the support, I feel my motivation beginning to flag as the miles take their toll on my body. I turned my focus to the other runners to keep my mind occupied.

I ran by people with photos of their Air Force family members pinned to their shirts and others with the names of fallen warriors. I ran with people twenty years younger than me, and thirty years older. Sometimes they passed me. A blind runner was particularly inspiring. What must it be like to train for a marathon as a blind runner? I heeded the warning of the bike escort and moved to the side as the wheelchair racers flew past. The hills took me by surprise. I'd heard there was one big one, but no one mentioned the other slightly less Mount Everest-like hills. I fought hard to keep going. Running over an overpass is more difficult than it sounds, but if those people could do it with all the challenges they overcame, as an able-bodied Airman, I could, too.

About mile twenty, I got a text that my husband had finished. It was excellent timing, because I sure needed the extra motivation. I don't know if it was because of the killer hills and canted roads on the course, my urgent twenty-mile need for a port-a-potty, or if I was just having a bad day, but I was slowing down. I repeated my mantra, "just don't stop." I didn't.

Miles twenty-two through twenty-six were an exercise in perseverance and discipline. I'd never seen such a welcome sight as my husband cheering me on at mile twenty-five. Mile twenty-six seemed to take forever, but the end was in sight. Seconds later, I raised my arms in victory and crossed the finish. I finished with a slower time than I hoped, but number 75 in my division isn't bad, and I was proud of my accomplishment. I earned that medal. I grabbed some recovery grub, posed for my finisher photo, and rejoined my husband. A spectator stopped my new-runner husband and told him how motivated he was after watching the race. He said he wanted to do it, too. I grinned, and joked that if my husband could do it, then anyone could. In truth, I was exceptionally proud of him, and I just wish my mother-in-law could have seen him finish. She had planned to watch us run that day, but we lost her to cancer in June of this year. Like others with names pinned to their shirts, I ran in memory of her, and I knew he did too.

When race results were released, I scoured the names for fellow Keesler residents. One of our own scored a top ten finish. Everyone that finished that day is a winner. They earned those medals, and I'm proud to stand with them.