Run a marathon

Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Donald “Brent” Cook, 60 MDOS

Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Donald “Brent” Cook, 60 MDOS

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Many of my friends, coworkers and yes, even my family think I am crazy and even question my intelligence when I talk about doing a marathon. I have learned that preparing for a marathon’s 26.2 miles is very similar to my personal life. As I pondered my marathon training, I realized that in order to accomplish life demands and marathon training I need three elements: Training, fueling and recovery.

Most marathon training plans have three elements; interval, tempo and distance workouts. This is very similar to how we interact in life. Interval training is a type of physical training that involves a series of low to high-intensity exercise workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. This is how runners get strength and speed. In life, stressors come quick and then we get a pause. The more we deal with stress, the stronger our ability to adapt to and deal with it, and the better our ability to use our past experiences to hopefully speed through it. Tempo, or threshold training, is comfortably hard training and is designed to improve a crucial physiological variable for running success. This is the amount of calories our bodies burn to just stay alive. Threshold days are a common theme I hear from our force. By understanding the effort to sustain these calories or units of energy, is important in knowing how long you can sustain in comfortably difficult situations and thrive. Distance training is the grind – a slow and steady pace for miles and hours. This is important to help the body adapt to the endurance requirements of 26.2 miles. The patience and mental attentiveness required to run for miles is demanding. I have learned in life patience and mental strength is a must whether it is dealing with a long shift, deployment or career.

Fueling the body is extremely important in a marathon and in life. According to Matt Dixon, founder of PurplePatch Fitness, “Nutrition, simply put, you need to be sure that you provide your body with the nutrients and calories to support your training effort.” The better you eat, the better your training outcome: Apple or donuts?

As I dove further, I remembered what a pivotal chief in my life told me: “Reading one hour per day in your chosen field will make you an expert in seven years.” Fueling the body is more than the food you eat. Go and seek knowledge and fuel your brain. Feed your brain with quality. Reading comics may be fun and tasty like a donut, but reading a biography or a book on history or leadership will fuel your brain like an apple.

Recovery is the most neglected and important element in the training and life cycle. Sleep and recuperation are required for the body to positively respond to that much-needed training/life load and help adapt to become fitter and more powerful. Recovery also includes integrated rest from training and other aspects of your life. All of these combine to maximize adaptation and facilitate performance.

Life and marathons are not about the quick fix, they are about the journey. One of my favorite quotes by John Hanc is, "I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible."

I may be crazy and even be intellectually challenged, but one thing I learned is, in life and marathons, nothing comes easy. If you want a challenge, remove the bounds and run!