Airman addicted to running competes while deployed

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Christopher Mesnard
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
A radio technician with the 351st Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron couldn't outrun his addiction even while deployed.

Andrew Lee often finds himself taking the long route home to feed his addiction --running. He satisfies the craving for burning legs and side stitches when he goes on his long afternoon runs versus taking the quick three-quarter mile dirt track. If he's unsure of where a particular path ends, he finds out. The desire to run, to feel the cool air on his face as he pushes himself mile after mile, is what motivates Lee to compete against himself and others.

Lee enjoys competing in races. So much so, he's been training for the Rock 'n' Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon in Scotland for several months. However, a short-notice deployment to Southwest Europe in support of French operations in Mali seemed to render his efforts and registration for the race in vain.

As a result, Lee cut back on his running. He made his technical skills available to supplement to the communications team on base, something outside of his normally required radio technician duties.

Still the goal to complete the race had been set, and Lee, not one to back down from his goals, looked for a way to still come out on top.

The situation changed when Lee worked out a deal with the race organizers allowing him to receive his medal for running the race distance while deployed.

"I went on the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon website and found the 'contact us' information and contacted the race directors," said Lee, a staff sergeant assigned to the 351st EARS Communications Focal Point here. "They said they would be happy to do it. (I had to) just send in the time of my run so they could review it."

After not having run for about four weeks, Lee needed to adjust his training regimen to ensure his body would hold up during the long run. He focused on slow paced miles versus speed workouts to prepare.

"I had about two weeks to build up to the 13, so I did a couple of 20 minute runs just to try and get some distance in," said the Belfair, Wash., native.

On the day of the run, Lee had clear and moderate running conditions for the beginning with a fairly level 13.1 miles ahead of him. He made an early start to beat the heat forecasted for the rest of the day. The day was in stark contrast to the actual race; which was windy, raining and don't forget the hills.

Lee finished the 13.1-mile run in 1 hour, 51 minutes, 35 seconds.

Lee helps ensure the 351st EARS maintains its lines of communication when he's not running.

"He just works a normal day shift, and he comes in and he does all the contingency radio work down here," said Tech. Sgt. Derek Doriott, 351st EARS NCO in charge of Communication Focal Point and Lee's supervisor. "He's the only one that can do his job, plus, he helps out the [local base] with their radio work, which is going above and beyond what he would normally do."

Lee said he's grateful the race coordinators gave him the opportunity to complete the run at the deployed location. But, his values, especially his integrity, he said, helped push him to the finish line here April 14.

"Knowing they trusted me to complete the run, even though they had no way of checking, that meant a lot," said Lee.

Lee has completed five half marathons, and he's looking for the next opportunity to get the running fix he craves.

Editor's note: This is the first in a three part series illustrating the fit to fight attitude of the Airmen at RAF Mildenhall, England.