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Air Force Global Strike Command marathon team displays teamwork, dedication

  • Published
  • By Joseph Murray
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
Some runners stretched, some meditated and others simply waited as the first rays of light began to play across the National Museum of the Air Force Sept. 15 at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Many had arrived more than an hour prior to race time in anticipation of the annual Air Force Marathon, leading up to more than 15,000 runners assembled.

Among those competitors was the Air Force Global Strike Command marathon team, a group of runners from various units who came together to support each other's efforts while representing the command.

While none of the members had met face to face prior to the race, they communicated with each other as they prepared in the days preceded the event and quickly got into a friendly groove, according to one participant.

"Runners are all kind of nuts," said Airman 1st Class Kyle Sturdefant, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, "so we just automatically get along."

Sturdefant, who has been running since he was 7 years old, ran the race in two hours and 40 minutes, placing sixth overall, and first in his age group. He had also participated in five previous marathons, including last year's Air Force marathon. This year, he improved his time by 43 minutes.

Stationed at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sturdefant has had to learn how to run in the cold. "I never run after it gets down below negative 20 degrees," he said. "I run with ski goggles when it gets cold so my eyes don't freeze. First your eyes water, and then your eyelashes freeze shut."

"I like to mix it up with barefoot running and varying my routines," he said. "Pay attention to your nutrients - that is where you will break down if you aren't getting the right mix of food."

Airman 1st Class Aaron Little, 341st Contracting Squadron, has been running since his senior year in high school. Little said he enjoys running and had been recommended for the team by his commander, Maj. Daryl Nuutinen.

"It's an exercise in patience," Little said. "It's a very painful experience, but you just have to learn to smile through it."

Little said that the surprising part is that after four marathons and running since high school, he was actually the slow man on the team. He had planned to finish in the top 20, but had some trouble in the last five miles; he feels he did not get his nutritional balance just right to finish well.

In spite of this, Little was able to finish in 38th place overall with a run time of 3:01. Regardless of his disappointment, he crossed the finish line.

Little's advice for other runners - "Maintain a positive attitude, it's a long race and if you start too fast you may not be able to finish."

Tech. Sgt. Kirsten Wiederkehr, Eighth Air Force, ran the race with her husband.

"We train for everything together; this was his first marathon too," Wiederkehr said. "So when everybody around you gets sick of hearing about mileage, nutrition and hydration, he never did, not to mention pushing me on during training runs when I actually thought I was going to have to sit on the sidewalk and wait for him to run home and get the truck."

Wiederkehr started running when she was 15, and has found that it has helped her in every aspect of her life. She said running made her realize that she could do things she never thought possible, like running a marathon.

Although she had never run a marathon before, Wiederkehr was impressed by the level of teamwork on display by the AFGSC members.

"I know in my experience I was the only AFGSC team member to have never run a marathon before but it didn't matter to my teammates," Wiederkehr said.

In this race, Wiederkehr hit the wall early, but said the partnership with her husband got her through.

"Everything was running smoothly until I looked up and saw the 18-mile marker," Wiederkehr said. "I had run past 18 miles at least four times during training, and I actually felt I had an on/off switch and somebody had switched it off! My husband, God bless him, stuck by me and pushed me through those last grueling eight miles. I can't remember the pain now, because I want to do it again."

Final Results:

Airman 1st Class Kyle Sturdefant (Minot) - 2:40 -- 6th place overall (1st place in age group)
Airman 1st Class Aaron Little (Malmstrom) - 3:01 -- 38th place overall
Lt. Col. Stacy Huser (625 STOS) (62- 3:28 -- 249th overall (3rd place in age group)
Tech. Sgt. Kirsten Wiederkehr (8 AF) - 4:35 -- 1503rd Overall