Going the distance: Malmstrom runners take on Air Force Marathon

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Emerald Ralston
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office
Fifteen members of Team Malmstrom have been participating in a running group and will compete in the 12th Annual Air Force Marathon Sept. 20 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. 

Members of the team put forth a lot of hard work and their dedication helped motivate each other through every individual obstacle, including the harsh Montana weather, schedule conflicts and even bears. 

Capt. Elizabeth Buss, 10th Missile Squadron, organized this year's marathon training and helped get several of the members involved in the competition. While Captain Buss later sustained an injury that will keep her from competing, she has remained coach of the team. 

"I saw an article in the base paper about the marathon and it sparked my interest," she said. "I decided it would be a lot more fun to do the race with a group of friends so I started advertising for the 'Malmstrom Marathoners' training team all over base in December and January. People got involved by emailing or calling me. Initially we had over 50 people interested in the running club and training for the marathon. We met every Saturday to run and we tried to run outside as much as possible, although we did move practices indoors due to snow and ice." 

Keeping people motivated and up to par on their running was not always an easy task though, especially in the cold Montana winter months, and the extreme heat of the summer. 

"As the team's coach, I asked that every person compete in a half marathon for preparation, run at least one 20-mile run at the end of the training season and run at least a couple of times a week," Captain Buss said. "My main goal was to keep people motivated over the nine months of training and also keep everyone injury free. I wanted to show people how they could incorporate fitness into their busy work schedules." 

The motivation that came along with the team effort is what kept many of the runners in check and happy to continue their training. 

"I think the group training is what helped me stick with my goal of running the marathon," 1st Lt. Kathleen Tenpenny, 40th Helicopter Squadron, said. "Not only have I made great friends and met a lot more people doing this, but it helps to have other people there to motivate you and keep you accountable. I have been able to improve my running time as well when I run with the group." 

That sentiment is also shared by other members of the team. 

"When you start training for something like this, you know it isn't going to be easy and there are times you aren't going to feel like running. Those are the days you have to push through and just get your miles done," 1st Lt. Christel Andrews, 341st Missile Wing, said. "When you train with other people, it helps keep you motivated. Having a good goal and reason why you are doing the marathon is the best way to stay motivated. If you are training for the marathon and you really want it, no matter where you start from, you will accomplish your goal. Just keep on running!" 

Staying motivated with a group wasn't the only draw to the marathon for some runners, though. Personal accomplishment was another drive to help keep them motivated. 

"It was difficult for me to train with the group sometimes, but I thought the marathon would be a neat thing to accomplish, considering I broke my leg a few years back in a parachuting accident," 1st Lt. David Zesinger, 10th Missile Squadron said. "I have a plate and nine screws in my fibula, but everything has worked out great so far." 

Although training wasn't always an option due to scheduling conflicts, Lieutenant Zesinger said it was always fun to run with the group when he got the chance, and it was good to know other people were committed and keeping tabs on each other. 

Lieutenant Tenpenny shared a personal testament to the camaraderie and teamwork that went hand-in-hand with the training team. 

"We did an 11-mile run on the bike trail starting at the Lewis and Clark Overlook," she said. "It was very hilly and very hot and I felt like I was going to die. I was so happy when I got to the half-way point, and at the end I was beat. The fact that I finished the run made me feel amazing. It was still early in the training and Captain Kent set up the run and motivated me along the way. It was really nice to run with the group that day because the motivation to keep going when it was so rough and hot really helped me finish," she said. 

Training for the marathon in the environmental extremes as far as temperature is not the only challenge brought on by running in the Montana outdoors. Other hazards, as Lieutenant Zesinger discovered, such as bears are also a concern. 

"I ran a half-marathon in early August near the mountains west of Choteau," he said. "Four miles into it, a giant bear came barreling across the road. He was about 100 feet in front of me and sprinting pretty quickly. He didn't pay attention to me and kept running straight through a barbed-wire fence. That was pretty nuts!" 

Despite the challenges and interesting experiences, the runners are all prepared to head to Ohio to prove what their hard work and dedication has helped them achieve. 

Those competing from the team are 1st Lt. Andrew Ackles, 40th Helicopter Squadron; Lieutenant Andrews; Staff Sgt. Dustin Douberly, 341st Communication Squadron; 1st Lt. Erin Gaberlavage, 341st Operations Group; 1st Lt. Katherine Hebner, 12th Missile Squdaron; Capt. Heidi Kent, 341st OG; 1st Lt. Katie Mack, 10th MS; Capt. James McCue, 40th HS; 1st Lt. Colin Merrin, 10th MS; 2nd Lt. Nay Naing, 12th MS; Staff Sgt. Patrick Noppenberg, 12th MS; 2nd Lt. Stephanie Strates, 10th MS; 1st Lt. Jonathan Sundman, 40th HS; Lieutenant Tenpenny; and Lieutenant Zesinger - none of whom have competed in an Air Force Marathon before. 

The Air Force Marathon is an annual event that is always held in September to commemorate the founding of the Air Force as a separate military service on Sept. 18, 1947. This is the 12th year the marathon has been held and is open to both military and civilian runners. The team from Malmstrom leaves Sept. 17 and will return Sept. 22. 

Editor's note: This is part one of a two part series highlighting the participation of Team Malmstrom members in the Air Force Marathon. Part two will focus on the competition, the results and the emotions of participating.