News>A fight to the finish, the Boston Marathon and an Air Force CMSgt
Chief Master Sgt. John D. Van Duser, aircraft maintenance unit superintendent for the 69th Bomb Squadron, ran the 116th Boston Marathon on April 16. Held every year on Patriots' Day - commemorating the anniversary of the famous, first battles of the American Revolution - the Boston Marathon has become one of the world's most acclaimed running events. (Courtesy photo)
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D -- Chief Master Sgt. John D. Van Duser, aircraft maintenance unit superintendent for the 69th Bomb Squadron, ran the 116th Boston Marathon on April 16. Held every year on Patriots' Day - commemorating the anniversary of the famous, first battles of the American Revolution - the Boston Marathon has become one of the world's most acclaimed running events. (Courtesy photo)
5/16/2012 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- For more than 100 years, ambitious runners have converged on Boston, Mass., to participate in the world's oldest, annual marathon: the Boston Marathon. Held every year on Patriots' Day - commemorating the anniversary of the famous, first battles of the American Revolution - the Boston Marathon has become one of the world's most acclaimed running events.
Started in 1897, it today attracts around 500,000 spectators and more than 20,000 registered participants. These participants, however, cannot simply register and expect to be admitted into the marathon - there are certain qualifying standards to be met in order to participate in the Boston Marathon.
Runners must be 18 years or older and must have completed a previous standard marathon certified by the International Association of Athletics Federation. The qualifying marathon must have been completed within a certain period of time before the date of the Boston Marathon.
This year, the Boston Marathon gained wide public attention and concern after it was forecasted to be held on a day with unusually high 80-degree temperatures. Indeed, temperatures broke past 80 degrees, scorching runners with the startling heat.
"We're asking runners who haven't run previously to think about tomorrow and maybe coming back next year," Boston Mayor Tom Menino told the attendees at the traditional pre-race pasta dinner the day before the marathon. Many registered runners did withdraw their registration and deferred their spot in the marathon for next year.
Here's one exception: Chief Master Sgt. John D. Van Duser, aircraft maintenance unit superintendent for the 69th Bomb Squadron. Hesitant when he learned of the record-breaking heat, he nevertheless was determined to complete the Boston Marathon. "I'm a bit of an overachiever at times," Van Duser said. "And if you tell me it's possible, that's what I'm going to try to do."
In high school Van Duser regularly ran cross country. However, he had never run a distance greater than five miles in his younger years. Nearly a year ago, he decided to compete in an indoor half-marathon held at Minot Air Force Base.
The confidence that ensued after he completed that half-marathon sparked his ambition to compete in full marathons. The one he was most interested in at that time was the Air Force Marathon.
The Air Force Marathon is held annually at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on the Saturday in September closest to the birthday of the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force Marathon is also sanctioned by the IAAF for qualification into the Boston Marathon. Van Duser ran the Air Force Marathon with a qualifying time of 3 hours and 25 minutes.
Encouraged by family and friends, shortly after completing the Air Force Marathon, he swiftly registered for the Boston Marathon in order to meet the late-September registration deadline.
Van Duser established for himself a rigid training program for the Boston Marathon held in April. "You are really training for the end of the race, not the beginning," said Van Duser
Months passed and the date of the famous Boston Marathon loomed on the horizon for Van Duser.
During those months, Van Duser ran another marathon, affirming his confidence and determination to run the Boston Marathon. But as he entered deeper into the month of April, the originally forecasted 50-degree temperatures on the day of the marathon started to rise. As days passed, the forecasters predicted higher and hotter temperatures.
"I re-evaluated my game plan," said Van Duser. "I didn't want to leave on a stretcher!" When it was finally reported that temperatures on the day of the marathon would reach higher than 80 degrees, Van Duser thought about the possibility of withdrawing. That thought was soon banished by Van Duser's wife, Yvonne Van Duser. "You might never have this chance again - just do it," she said.
To add onto the haunting heat Van Duser faced, his thoughts were also aggravated by his upcoming deployment with the 69th Bomb Squadron, which supports the continuous bomber presence overseas, scheduled two days after his return from the Boston Marathon.
Nevertheless, Van Duser remained determined to run the Boston Marathon. "It's all about surviving," Van Duser said.
Monday, April 16, Van Duser ran the 116th Boston Marathon in temperatures that reached 89 degrees. Around 120 participants were taken to the hospital during the course of the marathon. Despite the unrelenting heat, the cheering crowds were there to welcome and support the participants.
"I think the amazing thing about the Boston race is the spectators," Van Duser said. "There wasn't one patch of ground on the entire route that didn't have somebody on it. They would cheer you along the entire route - they were there to support you."
Van Duser noted how spectators throughout the route threw cold water on the runners. Some even had Gatorade on hand, giving drinks to the heat-exhausted participants. Yet, the most notable contribution the supporters gave to the participants was encouragement. "I had an Air Force T-shirt on and as I ran they would yell, 'go Air Force!'" Van Duser recollected.
The Air Force chief master sergeant completed the Boston Marathon without having to be taken across the finish line on a stretcher. When asked if he would do the Boston Marathon again, "I would really like to do Boston again," he said. "My next opportunity would be in 2014, and I'll be hoping for better conditions!"
Van Duser immediately returned to Minot AFB and deployed to overseas two days later. "I would like to thank all the wing leadership," said Van Duser. "My group commander, Colonel Froehlich, Colonel Dawkins, my squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel Boles - just for all their support working with the deployment arrangements so I could run. They have all been very supportive."
Van Duser is currently overseas, fighting the notorious heat once again, but also, most importantly, unremittingly fighting for his country.