UKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – She was never a runner, and when she did run, it was during mandatory physical training sessions. One day someone challenged and inspired her to run more than she ever imagined.
The moment Airman 1st Class Kristina Sanford, 607th Air Control Squadron radio frequency transmissions systems technician, crossed the finish line at the OC Marathon, in Orange County, Calif., thoughts of what got her there began passing through her mind.
It all started last October when Lt. Col. Sean Slaughter, 607th ACS commander, announced his challenge to the 607th ACS Airmen to run the Arizona Integrated Medical Services half marathon.
“When I heard about the half marathon I knew it was something I wanted to do,” Sanford said. “I wanted to be one of the few who accomplished something so physically demanding.”
Initially there were about 20 out of 150 Airmen interested, but in the end only 14 committed to going through with the training.
“I provided the Airmen with a training plan, which outlined daily running mileage along with other workouts that build strength and speed,” Slaughter said. “I also gave them academics on hydration, nutrition and correct equipment to use while running long distance.”
For Sanford, having the training schedule helped her keep her goals in sight. She worked around her work schedule to make time to run five days a week, resting Mondays and Fridays. Her runs ranged from six to 12 miles depending on where she was in the training.
“It was nice because my roommate trained with me the whole time,” Sanford said. “We kept each other accountable and stuck with what Lt. Col. Slaughter taught us.”
After months of hard work and dedication, Sanford was ready for the half marathon that began in Surprise and ended at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
“When I began running I was nervous, but I just kept telling myself that I have to prove to myself and to others in my squadron that I can do this,” she said.
Though it was the longest run she had ever endured, she finished the run in 2 hours and 12 minutes. Following the IMS half marathon, Sanford despised the sheer thought of running, but now she embraced it.
“Once I finished the half marathon I knew if I could do that I could complete a full marathon,” she said. “It also helped that I had a commander who believed in me and made the time to educate us on what we had to do to accomplish a marathon whether it be a half or full marathon.”
Sanford began training for the OC marathon. She used the same concept she had learned from Slaughter, only having to double the amount of miles ran per day. Some days were longer than others and depending on the day her runs varied from 12 to 22 miles.
“I remember running four hours straight on a perimeter road for 22 miles,” she said. “It was painful, but I knew it would be worth it once I completed the marathon.”
Though the journey was hard fought, Sanford proudly completed her first full marathon May 5 finishing in four hours and 40 minutes.
“I remember keeping a steady pace and reiterating the words, ‘I can do this,’” she said. “I’m proud to say that I have that much mental determination to keep going and finish what I started.”
Sanford’s commander and mentor cannot be any prouder.
“I am impressed and extremely proud of her,” Slaughter said. “I’m happy that I helped spark her movement to want to run, and I know that it doesn’t just end here. This is going to be a lifelong journey for her.”