News: Marathon Man: Major ‘Flash’ Fenlason goes the distance
HAMPTON, Va. — Twenty-six miles down and less than quarter mile to go.
The finish line is visible in the distance as cheers from spectators come from both sides of the street.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Joel Fenlason, Air Combat Command Contingency & Readiness Branch chief, quickens his pace in excitement at the prospect of finishing his first marathon. His adrenaline is pumping, and goose bumps spread across his body. The realization sinks in that the end of the race is near. Fenlason crosses the finish line as endorphins surge through his body.
"I didn't know what to expect going into it," said Fenlason, recalling the telltale runner's high that day. "Although I had time goals, my main goal was to finish."
He reached his objective, but it was just the beginning of a long list he planned to accomplish over the next few years.
"It was such a sense of accomplishment," Fenlason said with a smile, describing his first marathon. "It had been a goal of mine for a long time; so it felt great."
Fenlason said he has been a runner since elementary school, but he didn't start training for a marathon until he was in graduate school.
He trained with a group of runners for five months prior to his first marathon, working four to five days a week to get into peak physical shape for the more than 26-mile run. The group would alternate between a four- to five-mile short run, an eight- to ten-mile medium run, and a long run that could top out as high as 23 miles.
Fenlason ran his first marathon in 2005, finishing in 4 hours, 14 minutes. After years of hard work, Fenlason's best time is now 3 hours, 25 minutes, meeting his initial goal to run a marathon in under four hours.
"A lot of the challenge is mental," said Fenlason. "The harder you work towards something, the more effort you devote to it, the greater sense of accomplishment."
The Kalamazoo Marathon in Kalamazoo, Mich., slated for May 6, 2012, will mark Fenlason's 50th marathon. Fenlason ran 20 marathons, including the Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio, in the last calendar year alone.
Despite these accomplishments, Fenlason always remains down to earth, and works hard to reach the goals he sets for himself.
"He's a silent warrior," said Senior Master Sgt. Sean Hansen, manager of the ACC Contingency and Readiness Branch. "His actions speak for him."
Hansen ran the Air Force Marathon with Fenlason and Master Sgt. David Strickland, manager of the ACC Deliberate & Crisis Action Planning Section, last September.
The group trained through the summer, and would wake up at 2 a.m. to train before work and the heat of the summer sun.
"We would run from 19 to 23 miles a day to train," said Strickland. "At times it was 86 degrees at 2 a.m., but it made us better for it."
Fenlason led the group by setting up the training regimen and keeping the members motivated. The group gave him the nickname "Coach."
"He's a great motivator," said Hansen. "I plan on continuing what Major Fenlason started, even after I leave Langley."
When Fenlason realized he had a passion for running marathons, he joined the Marathon Maniacs, a group of runners that have a "shared love of running" and strict requirements for acceptance into their ranks. To join the group at the entry, or Bronze, level, a runner must have run two marathons within 16 days, or run three marathons in 90 days, according to the Marathon Maniacs' official website.
The group has 10 levels a member can reach. Fenlason has obtained the sixth level, or the Osmium level. The requirements to reach Osmium are to complete between 31 and 37 marathons in a 365 days, 16 marathons in 16 different states, six completed marathons in 16 days, or four marathons in four days. Fenlason is set to complete requirements to reach the seventh level.
"The great thing about running is there always another goal you can achieve," said Hansen "Once you meet a goal, you want to make another one."
Fenlason has met many of his goals, but he is constantly striving to meet higher standards. He believes that his marathon training is very similar to the Air Force way of life.
"The discipline to train hard and achieve your goals translates well to the Air Force way of life," said Fenlason. "The mindset to overcome adversity and always strive for excellence in everything is important to both the Air Force and running marathons."
Fenlason said the best way to train for a marathon is to start off slow, and ensure you have a group of wingmen to keep motivated.
"It's important to start off slow," he said. "It's not smart to jump into running; there needs to be a base."
With each race completed, Fenlason looks to the future and strives to reach his long term goals. He is working towards qualifying for the Boston Marathon, which requires a run time of 3 hours, 10 minutes. One day he plans to have run a marathon in each of the 50 states.
"It's just one foot in front of the other," he said.
Date Posted:05.17.2012 11:39
Location:HAMPTON, VA, US
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