Vance Airmen running toward Air Force Marathon, Sept. 19

  • Published
  • By David Poe
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
For more than a dozen members of Team Vance, 30 weeks has become just one day.

The Vance Running Club, a group hosted by the Bradley Fitness and Sports Center, has reached the end of the 30-week, 550-mile marathon training regimen and will run in the U.S. Air Force Marathon, in Dayton, Ohio, Sept. 19.

For almost three years, Jennifer Hancock, a 71st Security Forces Squadron personnel security analyst, ran with the club and measured her runs in terms of 5Ks and half-marathons at the longest. When she first saw the group's new routine in preparation for the marathon, she had her doubts.

"I'm not new to running, but I've been doing double of what I've ever done before," Hancock, who will run in her first marathon, Sept. 19, said. "I had never stuck to a running plan before. This routine definitely accommodated most levels of running ability."

The routine started with "lesser" distances of two and four miles in a week and quickly progressed to the half marathons Hancock used to measure as large accomplishments.

"For my half-marathons, I felt like I could go out there and wing it to a certain point," she said. "Twenty-six point two miles is intimidating."

Tech. Sgt. Heath Conley, a long-time member of the group who has run in more than 15 marathons, said that no matter one's experience level, all full-marathons have similar breaking points, even for the most seasoned runners.

"When you hit the mile 20, 22, your body just shuts down," he said. "It's called 'the wall.' Your body just stops and says 'what are you doing?' The toughest part is the last few miles."

Conley said even though runners started the routine at different ability levels, he brought a "crawl to run a marathon" approach so that there would be the most impact on the team overall.

The chief inspection planner for Vance's Inspector General programs said he felt changing the idea of the team from one that simply runs, to one that trains for future competitions gave it some extra appeal, but with the same potential fitness benefits.

"The first couple of years were kind of slow with the group," Conley said about the club's enrollment, "so we thought, 'let's train for something.' We decided on [the Air Force marathon] in December of last year and put together our routine."

While the group didn't finish the training regimen with the amount of people they started with, Conley said aiming for the marathon brought new people into the fold, while also giving their workouts a focus. Hancock now considers 5Ks to be warmups and said she couldn't have reached her current goals without help.

"You just have to have the drive," Hancock said. "We hold each other accountable and when you know other people are depending on you, it builds camaraderie.

"We all have different energy levels," she said. "I might be at my peak and someone else might have already peaked. It's my job to give them a push and vice versa. It's nice to have a person there to motivate you and help get you going again. You'd be surprised about how a little conversation can change a whole run around." 

Conley said he is sure the bond that brought them through their 30 weeks to Dayton will find itself on the ground in Ohio.

"When you have a group dynamic like this, it plays a factor," he said. "Everyone is driving to that one goal of finishing that marathon and we've given a lot to it. We all want to finish that full marathon - we all want to do it."