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Challenging self with extreme running

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Tech Sgt. Allan Skelton helps Tech Sgt. Jason Sheppard, both 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron, climb an obstacle during a Tough Mudder event over the summer. It was Skelton’s first obstacle race and Sheppard’s third. They began planning their next event before this one was completed. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Tech Sgt. Allan Skelton helps Tech Sgt. Jason Sheppard, both 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron, climb an obstacle during a Tough Mudder event over the summer. It was Skelton’s first obstacle race and Sheppard’s third. They began planning their next event before this one was completed. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Tech Sgt. Jason Sheppard, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron, wades through a mud pit during a Tough Mudder event over the summer while Tech Sgt. Allan Skelton, also 21st LRS, left, prepares to take the plunge. The Team Pete partners already began planning their next event before this one was finished. This was Sheppard’s third such race and Skelton’s first. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Tech Sgt. Jason Sheppard, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron, wades through a mud pit during a Tough Mudder event over the summer while Tech Sgt. Allan Skelton, also 21st LRS, left, prepares to take the plunge. The Team Pete partners already began planning their next event before this one was finished. This was Sheppard’s third such race and Skelton’s first. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Tech Sgt. Allan Skelton, Tech Sgt. Jason Sheppard and Skelton’s wife Audree are happy to finish a Tough Mudder event over the summer. Skelton and Shappard are both from the 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Tech Sgt. Allan Skelton, Tech Sgt. Jason Sheppard and Skelton’s wife Audree are happy to finish a Tough Mudder event over the summer. Skelton and Shappard are both from the 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- For many people a brisk jog along a level city street is an accomplishment. Others may brave a charity 5K race and feel proud. Yet for some people to challenge themselves high walls, huge logs and a lot of mud are required.

There are more obstacle course events like the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race or Warrior Dash taking place than ever before. There is a proliferation of endurance runs of 100 miles or more and one of the most extreme trails in America, the Manitou Incline, is a local hot spot.

The number of events continues to increase because there are more people than ever before willing to subject themselves to the rigors of long distance, military-style obstacle courses in order to push themselves to new levels of physical and mental endurance.

Lindsey Buckalew, 21st Aerospace Medicine Squadron health promotions flight commander said anything that gets people moving is good. He is no stranger to these types of events, having run his first mud run about a decade ago at Camp Pendleton in California.

"Anything that inspires someone to go beyond what they are used to, it's great," he said. The surge in obstacle races is similar to the popularity of triathlons several years ago, it's the new thing.

Logistics relates to the art of moving so it makes sense that there are several members of the 21st Logistics and Readiness Squadron who participate in these sorts of events. Tech Sgt. Jason Sheppard recently ran his third Tough Mudder and looks forward to doing more in the future.

"I think I am just crazy," he said. He finds the events a great way to compete with himself, trying to shorten his time for each one. He enjoys them so much he inspired one of his co-workers to join him on his last Tough Mudder.

Tech Sgt. Allan Skelton took the obstacle course plunge for the first time this year, joining Sheppard for the Tough Mudder. Though challenging, Skelton said he is hooked.

"About half way through we were talking about next year," he said. Skelton and Sheppard agreed that there is a definite addiction to these events. The atmosphere, the camaraderie and the helpfulness of other participants appeal to them as well.

Master Sgt. Patrick Coar has completed obstacle races like the Spartan Race and Warrior Dash. He enjoyed them to be sure, but found a local challenge that has become a staple of his extreme running. Each week Coar heads west to the base of Mt. Manitou and mounts the steps leading up about 2,000 feet of elevation in less than a mile.

"I do the Incline one time a week and I do it two to four times that day," he said. Each time is a challenge to do better than the last.

"My time to the bailout is 15 or 16 minutes, so I know if I am at 17 or more I need to push a little harder," Coar said. "What I love about the Incline is that it's you in the nature and beauty. The struggle is with you against this mountain."

James Gazetti, 21st LRS, is an avid runner as well. He doesn't go in for the obstacle runs like his coworkers, but he doesn't go for the typical run either. He ran the Pikes Peak Ascent 16 times, including some doubles. For the uninitiated, a double concerning Pikes Peak means running the ascent race one day and the marathon the next.

Gazetti, who has been a runner since his teens, said it is addicting to the point where events are anticlimactic compared to the training.

"What I thrive on is the training. The Peak never gets easier, it's always a challenge. Every training run, every race is always different," he said. The mountain, he said, humbles you.

Coar agreed, saying it is always awesome when he gets to the top of the Incline. He called it a humbling reality check.

Lt. Col. Joshua Marcus, 21st LRS commander, ran his first marathon at the age of 17. Soon after there was a boom in the popularity of running and he said the challenge was to find new types of runs to distinguish oneself from all the other runners.

Marcus enjoys the camaraderie of running with others, so he usually runs with friends. Running with a group has some mental benefits too.

"I found you don't suffer as much if you are with 10,000 other people," he said. "Any race, I hate it. I hate everything about it. Then I finish and think 'I better do it again.'"
Buckalew noted that social aspect of running in the extreme events is a big part of their appeal.

"Watch the end of the race. They are muddy, filthy, bruised, clothes are torn. But they are happy, smiling and talking with each other. They aren't standing around crying. It's a common achievement," Buckalew said.

As for the men of the 21st LRS, next year will certainly hold more opportunities to participate in other events. One is already being planned by Marcus. He is setting his sights on signing the group up for the Ragnar Relay in Utah. The run is a nearly 200 miles long overnight event.

"So you guys be ready for it," he said to his team.

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