Friday, November 09, 2012

Lieutenant takes up marathoning, wins Marine Corps race

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

11/7/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARD, Alaska -- The air was cool and breathing was challenging as Air Force 1st Lt. Caitlin Oviatt's legs continued pumping Oct. 12, putting more and more distance behind her and bringing the finish line ever closer.

The wind was perhaps the most difficult challenge she faced; many flights and special events were shut down due to Hurricane Sandy, but the runners endured.

She was a member of a three-person team at the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

They were competing against every branch of service - and they won the All- Service Championship for the Air Force female division.

"I've been very humbled and honored to represent the Air Force in that way," said Oviatt, a native of Aurora, Colo. "The women on the team are eccentric; they're really talented runners. I'm the youngest on the team, so I see a lot of what I would like to become as a runner and an officer, so it's a really good opportunity."

Once selected to represent the Air Force in the sport, athletes run the Air Force half-marathon. Successfully completing that, the lieutenant got to continue onto the next race.
"They pick the top three females and males from the team and then you go and run at the Marine Corps Marathon," she said. "We just got back from it and we won the All-Service Championship, which is a big deal, so it's pretty cool. Our female team beat all other services; the Navy, the Army, the Marines; they were all there and we beat them. We got a medal and championship trophy.

"That was in Washington, D.C., in the hurricane; the winds were nuts. It didn't make for an easy weather condition to run a marathon, so we really had to work hard. We duked it out. My husband and some of the other team got stuck there because the flights were cancelled. So you can run a marathon, but they'll cancel your flight. That was pretty interesting."

While she'd always enjoyed running, she only recently decided to go for marathons.
"I was selected to be on the Air Force marathon team," the 773rd Army materiel management flight commander said. "I've done two marathons in my entire life; I decided to get into marathon-running this past year. It's actually worked out pretty well.
"There's something about running; I was always fairly decent at it," she said.

The sport has deep meaning to the marathon winner.

"There's a spiritual effect to running," she said. "It allows calmness in my life and my thoughts; how I start my morning. I get up every day at 4 a.m. to get in my runs before work at 6:30 or 6:45, rain, shine or Alaska snow. I do lots of treadmill running if I have to. I just love that drive."

It takes a lot of devotion, she said, but it's worth it.

"In distance running you have to put in a good amount of base mileage to build your endurance," Oviatt explained.

"Build those long-distance muscles. You also need to have speed, so you do have to incorporate the track workout, speed workout, interval workout, as well as your distance training. You can go as short as 800 meters to one-mile repeats and as long as a 20-mile run."

Marathon running isn't the only sport Airmen can choose to be a part of. Military members do, however, need to apply for it.

"You have to put your times down, why you want it, you send it in and have you get your command to bless it and give you the go," she said. "Mine was interesting because I didn't have any marathon times, everything was half marathons or shorter distance
races, but they thought it was fast enough to qualify for it so I put those down, got on the team. I've run two marathons since."

Despite her beginning, Oviatt has been an optimist.

"I'm just getting started," she said. "I'm hoping to just keep getting faster and, over time, all this crazy morning training will pay off. I'm just keeping positive.

"My mileage right now is about 60 miles a week. I'd like to do more but there's only so much time in the day and my number one responsibility is being an officer, tried and true.
"You can't necessarily run as much as you want, which is totally OK. I've been running half marathons, just cutting the time down; I'm at about 1:25 right now, that's an hour and twenty-five minutes. I want to get that down to about 1:20."

In terms of distance, a half-marathon is 13.1 miles, and a marathon is 26.2 miles.
Oviatt said the future is looking bright; she loves running in Alaska.

"We're training for the cross-country championships right now," she said. "There's a little downtime so the body can recover from the marathon. Then starting to revamp the training again, it's pretty exciting stuff. Alaska's a great place to run.

"I remember the first 19-mile run I had out here; it was out on the flight line area. I had a face mask on, and when I got home my husband pulled it off and I had this huge frostbite on my chin; the life of a runner. Alaska is extreme; you have to dress for the climate. You need some tough athletes, that's for sure, but it's been a really good experience."
The Air Force lieutenant has placed herself in position to promote joint operations professionally as well as in her athletic training and competition.

"I'm the first ever Air Force officer leading an Army materiel management flight," she said proudly. "I got out and ran with [Army] Maj. Gen. [Michael X.] Garrett and his staff. I was the only Air Force out there, the only one in Air Force gear while they're in their Army gear running and pacing and talking with General Garrett. That was probably one of the coolest experiences I've ever had with running. General Garrett really runs nine miles three or four days a week, so it was really cool to pace with him."

For those interested in running, the championship marathon-runner also teaches at the Health and Wellness Center.

"I was working with the HAWC to teach running classes on base," she said. "No
matter if you're running for 15 minutes or your mile and a half, no matter the distance you're running, it's making the choice to go out and better yourself.

"I'm a firm believer in fitness, especially in the military," she said. "Down the road, I have some big dreams and big goals and maybe running will allow me to do that. It's all about that balance in life."

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