Running from stress to the AF Marathon
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Working the nine to five grind, many people need to find a release at the end of the work day, whether it is hanging out with friends, playing video games or listening to music.
For Staff Sgt. Daniel Ly, 8th Force Support Squadron customer support noncommissioned officer in charge, running up to 40 miles a week is his release.
“When work is stressful, running helps keep me calm,” Ly said. “I look forward to my runs at the end of the day, when I can go to the gym or the running path along the flightline and relieve some stress.”
Ly started running as a child nearly 17 years ago. This is where he developed a habit that would change his life and build himself into a more resilient and healthier person.
“I started running in eighth grade because I was pretty obese and unhealthy back then,” he said. “My friends dragged me out to join track and I got better and better each season. After high school, although I wasn’t fast enough for a college team, I began to add distance, running for longer periods of time until I could do half marathons and eventually, full marathons.”
Because of his hard work and dedication over the years, Ly was selected as one of only four Airmen to run the full Air Force Marathon as a member of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces team.
“It felt great getting selected to represent a major command,” said Ly. “I was very happy when I got the email in June, because I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to compete on behalf of PACAF again. Also, to be the only one from Kunsan just made me feel proud.”
Ly was the only runner to be selected from Kunsan to compete in the Air Force Marathon as a member of a MAJCOM team. Once he found out he was chosen, Ly began focusing even more on his training, building up to longer and longer distances.
“I began running 60 miles a week in June and slowly increased my distance until I was running 70, 80 and finally 90 miles a week. It was tough when I had to stay late at work, but I always needed to get in my run for the day. My legs were constantly fatigued and I was always feeling hungry and lethargic.”
Ly pushed through the pain and as race day crept closer, he began decreasing his distances before heading to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
This year, the Air Force Marathon brought more than 25,000 visitors to the base.
As the start of the race got closer, the weather took a turn and rain delayed the start of the marathon by an hour. Eventually the clouds cleared and it was time for Ly to start his race.
Ly and all the other competitors would face their first hurdle shortly after crossing the starting line.
“It was very hilly, and I hit a gradual incline around mile four. They weren’t very steep at the beginning, but noticeable. The most brutal hills were on the highway probably around mile 18 and about two miles before the finish line. It seemed like they went on forever. My pace dropped significantly and overcoming those didn’t do anything for me because I knew I wasn’t going to meet my goals.”
He made it over all the hills, but his new battle was the weather as the day heated up. It reached nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit before noon with a humidity percentage in the 70s. Ly said the weather started to take its toll on him and the other runners.
“People started dropping out, some needed IV solutions, others were getting sick. It was a bad day on the course. I was dying off at mile 16 and shuffling at that point.”
Even with the numerous obstacles, Ly pushed through aiming for a full marathon time under three hours.
“During the run, I just focused on finishing. I wanted to finish, no matter what. I would have rather died on the course than walk off.”
Overcoming everything the day threw at him, Ly was able to complete his run in just under four hours.
This was Ly’s 17th full marathon and he wants to apply for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe team at his next base, with the ultimate goal of one day qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
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