Airman competes in first ever marathon

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., finishes the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon May 31, 2014, in Luxembourg. Stichter finished in the race in less than four-and-a-half hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., finishes the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon May 31, 2014, in Luxembourg. Stichter finished in the race in less than four-and-a-half hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., rests during a combat fitness workout May 5, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Stichter used combat fitness to train for his first marathon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., rests during a combat fitness workout May 5, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Stichter used combat fitness to train for his first marathon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., plays a board game with his family May 5, 2014 at his house in Malbergwelch, Germany. Stichter credits his family’s love and support to his success while training and competing in his first marathon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., plays a board game with his family May 5, 2014 at his house in Malbergwelch, Germany. Stichter credits his family’s love and support to his success while training and competing in his first marathon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., prepares his feet prior to the start of the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon May 31, 2014, in Luxembourg. Stichter trained for more than five months to get ready for the race. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., prepares his feet prior to the start of the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon May 31, 2014, in Luxembourg. Stichter trained for more than five months to get ready for the race. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., tacks his number to a shirt prior to the start of the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon May 31, 2014, in Luxembourg. More than 9,000 people competed in the race. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., tacks his number to a shirt prior to the start of the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon May 31, 2014, in Luxembourg. More than 9,000 people competed in the race. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection, from Lakewood, Colo., prays right before running in the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon May 31, 2014, in Luxembourg. Comprehensive Airman Fitness is a holistic approach to develop over-arching Airman fitness and resilience. Its four pillars include physical, mental, spiritual and social aspects. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection, from Lakewood, Colo., prays right before running in the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon May 31, 2014, in Luxembourg. Comprehensive Airman Fitness is a holistic approach to develop over-arching Airman fitness and resilience. Its four pillars include physical, mental, spiritual and social aspects. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., smiles for a portrait July 3, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. To help train for the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon, Stichter used all four pillars of comprehensive fitness: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection from Lakewood, Colo., smiles for a portrait July 3, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. To help train for the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon, Stichter used all four pillars of comprehensive fitness: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany - --  "The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has heroism. Every jogger can't dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon," said Fred Lebow co-founder of the New York City Marathon.

Some people hope that when they compete in a marathon they can finish it in one piece.

"I would like to finish it, potentially without stopping," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald
Stichter, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of munitions inspection, from Lakewood, Colo. "Even if I stop I will be happy just to finish it alive."

Starting at sunset, more than 9,000 people started ran in the ING Luxembourg Night Marathon May 31, 2014, through a historic town center in Luxembourg.

Before this race, Stichter had no desire to ever run in a marathon. However, after hearing Stichter completed a Tough Mudder, his commander asked why he hadn't attempted all 26.2 miles of a full marathon before.

Stichter, thinking that he was going to be smarter than his commander, made him an offer: if he completed a full marathon, his commander would have to do a Tough Mudder.
Fully expecting his commander would say no, Stichter said he was surprised as his boss called his bluff.

After reaching the deal, the training commenced. Stichter relied on the four pillars of the Comprehensive Airman Fitness concept to help train for the marathon.

For the social part, Stichter ventured outside family zones by going on a lot of group runs with people he wouldn't normally meet.

"I think the social aspect of going out and running with guys and girls who are training with me for the marathon has been a lot of fun, a little bit of bonding," he said.

With the physical pillar, Stichter noticed he could work out longer with an even higher intensity.

He also noticed that the mental and physical pillar tied together while training.

"My cardiovascular abilities have gone through the roof," he said. "I've been able to see how I can push my body past points that I've never thought I would be able to when I started. A lot of long distance running is mental and being able to push through those hurdles. Yes, your legs hurt, yes, your body hurts, but pushing through that pain and saying'yes, I can go another mile."

As someone who attends church regularly, Stichter used the spiritual pillar to help him with every aspect of his training.

"Of course, with the spiritual, the good Lord gives me the strength and fortitude to do everything," he said.
With preparing for this race, Stichter overcame a lot of adversity. First, he was out for two weeks with a really nasty cough. Then he injured both his Achilles tendons and lost another week. Right before the marathon, he re-aggravated an old foot injury.

One would think with all the training required to finish a marathon that his wife and children would be making a sacrifice of time with him. But that's not how it worked with his family.

"He got up extra early in the morning to do his runs or he would do them at work so that the kids still got their time with dad and I still got to see him the normal amount of time," said DeeAnn Stichter, his wife. "He sacrificed a lot of his time, a lot of sleep so that he could do the long runs and still be able to see us."

And after four months of preparation, Stichter crossed the finish line in under four and a half hours.
Moments after the race's completion, Stichter's commander commented on how the senior NCO's dedication to a training program served as a model for the rest of his squadron.

"I was extremely proud to see him cross the finish line and actually have the gumption to go forward and commit to training," said Maj. Bryan Wong, 52nd EMS commander. "He is in a perfect position on my leadership team to portray a positive image, both professionally and physically. He plays a significant part as a role model since he commits himself to expanding his horizons, establishing personal goals, and pushing for perfection. He not only challenged himself, he challenged his squadron teammates."

With the race behind him, Stichter said he learned some helpful things that he could use as a mentoring tool to help out younger Airmen who also could be struggling with physical fitness.

"I think you can tell people who are starting to struggle even with the little things, don't just go out and start running 14 miles every day," he said. "Train your body to overcome those mental obstacles, having friends and coworkers not only to be able to run with you, workout with you, but to be able to push you could be a positive influence for you when are hitting those obstacles."