Air Force Marathon sheds light on service for Spangdahlem Airman

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natasha E. Stannard
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Air Force priorities - Airmen know what they are.

However, they may not realize how they can be applied to almost anything. For Airman 1st Class Ryan Jelstrom integrity first, service before self and excellence in every stride came second nature as he ran for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe's running team in the U.S. Air Force Marathon's half marathon Sept. 17 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

"If I'm going to race, I'm going to do my best and put my all out on the course especially at the Air Force Marathon," said the Airman from the 480th Fighter Squadron. "I had to do well for the Air Force."

Just shy of reaching his second year in the Air Force, Jelstrom feels more a part of the Air Force family than ever.

"I feel accomplished ... like I was a part of something," he said. "Just a year and a half ago I was graduating basic military training, and now I'm running in the Air Force marathon with chiefs and colonels," "I was just happy to get noticed for something and actually get picked up for the team."

Jelstrom was recruited to the USAFE team after placing 3rd the USAFE half marathon he decided to do on a whim here. It was his first half marathon ever.

"I didn't train or anything for the marathon here," he said of the half marathon at Spangdahlem AB he ran in 1:31:08. "I just went into it with my shop chief."

From learning to pace himself so he wouldn't tire out on the 10th mile like he did in the Spangdahlem race to changing his diet so he wouldn't have to run into the restroom in the middle of the race like he also did here, Jelstrom began to make a few changes. The main one was to train.

"I found a training program online and stuck to it," Jelstrom said. "I put in miles a day and did a lot of gym training and ate as well as I could."

He did this everyday up to the Sept. 17 - race day.

Things began to sink in as he stepped on the flightline to begin the race and the aircraft he works on every day at the 480th FS, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, flew overhead.

"My dad came to the race, and I was telling him how nervous I was," he said. "The Air Force Marathon was a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be. There were about 6,600 racers."

In the first few miles, his training really began to take effect. He said it took a lot of control not to take off in the beginning because it was so crowded. He just wanted to get in front of everyone, but he knew if he did that, it would tire him out by at least the 10th mile and put his team's place in jeopardy.

This discipline took techniques instilled in BMT - teamwork and attention to detail.

"I had to constantly look at my watch because I had a set pace for myself," he said. "But, it was still hard to gauge how fast I was running because people were firing out of the start, so I stuck with guys on my team. They're a lot more experienced and really helped me out. One teammate even ran and held a conversation with me to keep ourselves relaxed."

By the second half everything started to pay off.

"In the second half, I became more aggressive," he said. "People started [trying to] pass me and I wouldn't let them. I took it seriously - it was competition at that time. I leaned into every down-hill, took advantage of the decline and picked up my pace."

While things including his pace began to pick -up, he still had a ways to go.

"Mile eight was when the race really hit me," Jelstrom said. "I was getting sore and wasn't running with a pack so it was hard to stay motivated. Running by myself is the worst for me. It was kind of like week five of BMT - I was in it at that point and it wasn't over. I told myself, it's going to pick up, this isn't over, keep your pace and things will fall into place."

And they did, when he was the 59th to cross the finish line.

"At the finish, there were a bunch of colonels lined up congratulating us," he said. "It was nice that colonels took the time to do that. It showed they cared."

It wasn't just the higher - ranking who unveiled the teamwork displayed at the event and in the work service members do on a day-to-day basis.

"There were people from different branches running together cheering each other on," he said. "We're all part of one team, and it was nice to see us all come together. I'm not along for the ride; I'm a part of it - a part of the team."