FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. --
On September 20, 1997, the first U.S. Air Force Marathon was born. More than 1,600 competitors completed the marathon and received commemorative medallions. One of those individuals was an Airman named Brian from Fort Meade, Md.
Master Sgt. Brian has completed the marathon every year since and now is about to compete in the 20th U.S. Air Force Marathon, which will be held Sept. 17, 2016. The USAF Marathon is an annual endurance event held the third Saturday of September at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. First held in 1997 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Air Force, the marathon has grown into a 15,000-plus participant event. The marathon course is 26.2-miles that traverses historical places on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, including the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Air Force Institute of Technology, Headquarters Air Force Material Command, the Wright-Patterson AFB flight line, Huffman Prairie Flying Field, and the Wright Brothers Memorial Monument.
Only 35 runners have completed all 19 U.S. Air Force Marathons. To date, Brian is the last runner who has completed the marathon since 1997 to remain on active duty.
Brian, who is currently the non-commissioned officer in charge of Expeditionary Technical Solution with the 22nd Intelligence Squadron, mentioned that his USAF Marathon streak began as a friendly competition between offices at Langley AFB, Va.
“We beat another office in a game of bowling and they came back with the challenge of ‘beat us in a real competition – the USAF Marathon,” he said.
The competition turned into an experience that brought both offices together as a team.
The next year, six of the original seven Airmen from the bowling challenge competed again in the USAF Marathon. They carried along a football, the entire marathon, because one of the original members couldn’t participate that year. They presented the football to the missing member.
During the next marathons, Brian began bringing his own football for his own entertainment.
“It’s very distinctive. If you want to find me, find the guy with the football,” he said. “I start motioning to people I’m about to throw it to them and if they look receptive, then I’ll throw it to them. Generally, I’ll throw it to the volunteers at the marathons because they are the ones who have it rough.”
Of all the 19 USAF Marathons, Brian admits that the first USAF Marathon stands out the most.
“It was my most memorable event,” he said. “It was my very first registered event. I had a heart rate monitor on and my heart rate was maxed out at the 25-mile mark, with 1.2 miles to go. I suddenly developed tunnel vision. I had to stop and grab onto the 25-mile mark pole. I waited a few minutes and I was able to continue. Supposedly, there’s a video of me the next day showing me walking down some stairs backwards because I was so sore. I dropped my luggage and just stared at it because it was so difficult to bend down to grab it.”
The USAF Marathon was actually the Pennsylvania-native’s first marathon he would ever compete in. In fact, he never participated in a 5K race.
“I never registered for any 5K race before, but I didn’t go into this marathon unprepared,” he added. “Four years before I joined the military, I was part of the Penn State Cycling Team and we used to do 200-mile bike rides in Pennsylvania and California.”
Nowadays, Brian runs all the time. He has even completed the “Dopey Challenge” which is part of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in Florida. The Dopey Challenge is a four-day, 48.6-mile challenge, which includes a “Pluto” 5K, “Minnie” 10K, “Donald” Half Marathon and “Mickey” Full Marathon.
When Brian is not running on his own on the treadmill, he has found some folks around the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing to train with.
“When I found that Master Sgt. Brian had completed every USAF Marathon so far, I was pretty much in awe,” said Staff Sgt. Deborah from the 29th Intelligence Squadron who will be competing in her second USAF Marathon. “I have never met someone so devoted to attending an event like this. It is very inspirational.”
Since they met in May 2016, Brian and Deborah have ran more than 100 miles together.
“We would usually meet once a week, running distances between five to 10 miles each time,” said Deborah. “When he told me he was willing to train with me, I knew I had to take this opportunity. He has so much experience with running marathons in general, and has been a huge help with providing tips and advice on successful long-distance running.”
With 23 years under his belt in the military, he is set to retire from the Air Force in May 2017 and make this his last AF Marathon … at least as an active-duty service member.
“I’m getting older,” he said. “At my age, my pace is not for racing.”
Brian hopes to finish in the four-hour window, but there is a different goal he is trying to achieve – he’d like to complete a full marathon in every state.
He has already completed full marathons in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Washington D.C. His next registered marathon is Pennsylvania in November 2016.
“People always ask me for tips or advice for running marathons and I always tell them ‘First, register for the marathon and then come see me,” he said.
On September 17, 2016, Brian will attempt to be the last remaining active-duty Airman to complete every single AF Marathon to date.
For more information on the AF Marathon, visit www.usafmarathon.com.