For the love of running

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jennifer Gerhardt
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
At an hour when lampposts cast shadows over deserted streets, coffee pots start percolating, and people begin rubbing sleep from their eyes, Tech. Sgt. Wendy Beauchaine from the 446th Mission Support Squadron is out sweating, the stillness of sleep a distant notion. 

Nearly every morning of the week, around 5, come rain, snow, or howling winds, she laces up her shoes, puts on her gear, and jumpstarts the day to the rhythm of her footfalls. 

"Usually, I am out the door at 5 a.m., but sometimes it just doesn't happen until after work," said Sergeant Beauchaine, who runs four times a week and averages 25 to 30 miles per week. "I like running early because it starts my day off with a workout and I don't have to worry about trying to fit it in later." 

She started running just over a year ago to ensure she could pass the Air Force physical fitness test. When she discovered her love of morning and night time running, she changed her goal from passing the fitness test to running the San Francisco half marathon and the Chicago marathon. 

Sergeant Beauchaine isn't the only one who loves to run in the dark. Two 446th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Reservists meet at 5 a.m. each morning at the base gym to begin their day with a run. 

Master Sgt. William Robison and Master Sgt. Bradlee Clarke have been running for years. In 2004, after a short break because of two knee surgeries, Sergeant Clarke decided to start running again. 

"I wanted to lead by example," said Sergeant Clarke. "If I can get out there and max my PT test, then the 18-year-olds have no excuse to not be in shape too." 

Another Reservist also maintains a "no excuse" kind of philosophy. No matter where in the world he goes or how long he'll be gone, Maj. Douglas Soho, 728th Airlift Squadron, brings his running gear with him. 

His running follows a thought-out, goal-oriented training plan. 

Some weeks include high mileage at low exertion levels, while other weeks may be low on the overall distance, but tough due to the intensity of the workouts. 

"Motivation can be difficult after a long duty day, but I try to remind myself that even a short run of just a few miles is more beneficial than no run at all," said Major Soho. 

Sergeant Beauchaine and her fellow runners in reflective gear know the risks -- unseen potholes, inattentive drivers, and worse, Washington's black ice. Running post-sunset or pre-sunrise may not be ideal, but for runners like these Reservists, it's the only time to run. 

"Running gives me a chance to clear my head and enjoy being outdoors. The biggest challenge is in my head," said Sergeant Beauchaine. "I remind myself there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. If I'm dressed properly, I can still enjoy running outside all year. You can't let a little rain, wind, hail, snow, ice, et cetera, keep you home."
The same philosophy holds true for Sergeant Robison. He began seriously running four years ago and prefers to run in the morning. 

"For me, it establishes a therapeutic level of endorphins necessary to complete my day," said Sergeant Robison, who also swims and weight lifts. "Plus, it gives my mind time to wander. I do my best thinking during a long run." 

Major Soho prefers running in the afternoons or late at night. 

"I prefer to workout in the afternoon. I find I get a more intense workout in the afternoon," said Major Soho. "I actually find it exhilarating to go trail running through the woods at night when it is pitch black out. I use a high power headlamp to see, it's a rush!" 

While Major Soho is an experienced nighttime runner, Lt. Col. Kevin Welin, 446th Airlift Wing Safety Office, has some advice for beginning nighttime or early-morning runners. 

Ease into it. Keep your initial outings short and in familiar locations to get accustomed to running in the dark. If it's too nasty outside, use the gym treadmill. 

Follow common sense. Wear reflective apparel. Watch out for darkly lit intersections, potholes and uneven pavement. Leave the iPod at home. If you are on McChord, it's base policy to not have headphones on while running. Carry a cell phone in case of an emergency. Stick to well-lighted paths like the base track. 

Safety in numbers applies. A group makes you more visible to approaching vehicles. On the trails, running partners can warn you of changes in terrain. 

With it getting darker earlier each day, every runner will have an opportunity for a nighttime run without having to rise early or stay up late. So put on your gear, grab a running partner and stick to a well-known trail. The rest of us will keep the coffee on.