Sweet Feat: 701st MUNSS NCO sets record during Air Force 5K

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

A year that began with adversity for one 52nd Fighter Wing NCO ended with a record-breaking triumph.


Staff Sgt. Anne Pennington, 701st Munitions Support Squadron NCO in charge of support at Kleine Brogel Air Base, Belgium, took home first prize in the Women’s 5K during the 20th annual U.S. Air Force Marathon at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 17, 2016.


Pennington’s scorching 21:06 time at a 6:49-per-mile pace not only earned her this year’s win, but also the all-time Air Force record for that respective category.


“When I was approaching the finish line, I didn't see any finishing tape so I didn't think I had won,” she said. “Then about 100 meters away, they pulled out the finishing tape, and my heart fluttered.  My face hurt because I couldn't stop smiling.”


An avid runner since her late teens, Pennington said she learned much on her road to her most recent victory. She may have blazed new trails and records now, but she adamantly stated how she did not like it at first.


“I couldn't even run a block without stopping to walk,” she said. “But after a few months of running three days a week, it became something that really felt great, almost natural.”


The time between her first endeavors and future achievements, much like her speed, soon flew by. But both the literal and figurative road to this recent marathon did not come without challenges for Pennington.


Last year, she developed three stress fractures in her left foot which forced her to wear a medical boot for more than three months. Still, she said she overcoming the injury became mentally challenging as she looked for creative, alternative ways to train.


“Coming back to running was slow and scary, because I feared training too hard and re-injuring myself,” she said. “I hired a running coach for a few months to safely help me return to a running schedule, and it definitely paid off!”


Pennington usually runs in the early mornings when most people struggle to summon the courage to get out of their beds. She said doing so makes her feel like she has the world to herself, which has conveniences like seeing tourist sites before they become too crowded.


“Running gives back so much to my life,” she said. “A lot of thinking happens while I'm running. It helps me take time to process life decisions. I can take time during my run to mentally work through some of my life problems, as well as focus on goals and strategies to meet them.  It's challenging, but refreshing.”


As may be expected, Pennington abides by some rituals before starting on a competitive run – but one may be surprised if they try to pin her luck to wearing special socks or listening to a specific song.


“I always eat a chocolate croissant before a 5k race,” she said. “Works like a charm.” 


Food aside, her best advice for fellow runners would be to pay attention to pain.


“If something hurts when you're running, it's probably your footwear,” she said. “Get new shoes!”


And Pennington’s best advice for passing a one-and-a-half-mile physical training test: don’t go alone.


“Ask someone to pace you,” she said. “Pacers can help you reach your running potential so you get the best score. A lot of times people who use pacers surprise themselves by achieving faster test times.  Pacers are always happy to help.”


She also thanked her 701st MUNSS family and friends at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, who believed in her, supported her after her injury and trained with her, too. 


“I'm pretty lucky to have the support I do,” she said.


Her commander, Lt. Col. Craig Bailey, said the squadron appreciates her commitment to excellence as well.


“Anne is a great example of readiness and fitness for the entire squadron,” Bailey said. “She is very dedicated to her training, and the results speak for themselves.”


Pennington said her running goals for next year would be to make the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Team to compete in the 2017 Air Force Half Marathon and 5k, possibly the 10k as well. She also hopes to participate in and win 5k races while she remains stationed in Europe. 


But more important to Pennington than any medal or title is the benefit one may gain from the challenge itself.   


“I like having a running goal and working hard toward it,” she said. “It gives me a huge purpose, and I feel lucky and thankful to have a hobby in my life that pays off in so many ways.”