Capt. Collin O’Bryant, the 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron EC-130 pilot trains and runs ultra-marathons that range from 40 to 55 miles each week.
An ultra-marathon consists of running more than 26 miles at a time.
O’Bryant began to realize when he moved to Tucson in 2010 from Columbus, Miss. how much he enjoyed running.
“After pilot training, I was stationed in Columbus, Miss. and I was tired of being in a place where there was nothing to do outdoors,” O’Byrant said. “There were absolutely no trails to run on, and people didn’t live a very healthy lifestyle. I was coming back out west and was really excited that I would have more time on my hands after living in Mississippi. I decided to get into running. Around the same time, I heard about ultra-marathon running and thought it was really extreme and kind of crazy. I was excited about the opportunity of trying something that would test me, and that would give me the chance to be outdoors.”
O’Bryant runs three times a week, averaging 40 to 55 miles each week.
“On weekends, I go out for a four or five hour run in the mountains, and I pretty much do all trail running,” O’Bryant said. “I usually average 20-25 miles within those four to five hour runs.”
As he ramps up his mileage, he tries to eat as much clean, non-processed foods as possible. He eats more than 3,000 calories a day to keep nourished.
“A huge part of running is incorporating nutrition,” O ‘Bryant said. “So, I’ve learned a ton about how to fuel your body over the course of a nine-and-a-half hour run, which is a 50-mile run. You learn a lot about the nutritional needs of the body. So, I learned to take in 300 calories per hour and 29 ounces of water per hour. It’s really become a science for me.”
As O’Bryant puts more work into his runs, he’s come to suffer many minor injuries while training.
“As I worked up the ability to run more and more, I had several small things happen,” O’Bryant said. “I’ve had runner’s knee, tendonitis flare up in my foot a couple of times, calf strain and a twisted ankle a couple times. The interesting thing is for the last year I haven’t had any injuries. I’ve been really blessed.”
He has ran in two ultra-marathons since living in Tucson. In March, he plans to attend one again with a goal of finishing the race in nine hours.
“I love the training as well as running the marathons themselves,” O’Bryant said. “I ran the Old Pueblo 50-mile Endurance Run two times in Senoita, Az. The first time I ran it, I came in 10th place out of more than 100 runners. It was cool for my first showing. The second time I didn’t have time to train much because I had just returned from Afghanistan, and I didn’t do much running while I was there. I pretty much just lifted weights.”
Determined to keep himself going, O’Bryant follows a mantra during his long runs.
“They say in a marathon you always hit a wall, and in an ultra-marathon you’ll hit a few walls throughout the course of the race,” O’Bryant said. “For each one of those, I have a mantra ‘Nothing always gets worse forever.’ So press through. It’s going to get better if you don’t give up.”