MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — Life is full of accomplishments. For some, those may include passing a college exam, winning an award or learning to drive. For one Airman, running 48.6 miles over four days was his most recent challenge. You might even say this test of endurance left him feeling a bit ‘Dopey’.
In January, Chief Master Sgt. John Huhn, 723rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent, completed the 2014 Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World, Fla., which began with a 5k the first day, a 10k the second, a half marathon the third and ended with a full marathon on the last day.
“It’s kind of inspiring to go through all of the different training levels and then knowing that I’ve finally accomplished something that I’ve put my mind to,” said Huhn. “When I finish [a race], I wonder why did I torture myself for a year of training for this 26-mile run, but then turn around and wonder when the next run is gonna be.”
For the Dopey challenge and other races Huhn has participated in, he said the key to being able to run these long distances is the ability to clear the mind of negativity.
“Every run is a challenge,” said Huhn. “What people don’t realize is that you have to clear your mind of the ‘oh this is terrible, my knees hurt, my feet hurt, I’m out of breath’ [cycle], and once you are able to do that, it’s actually an enjoyable experience. It gives me an opportunity to relieve all my stresses from the day and do forward thinking, whether on my career or on life in general.”
Running off and on since the fifth grade, Huhn found new inspiration while stationed at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., in the form of purple camouflage.
“When I was stationed at Scott AFB, there was a running group called Road Warriors,” said Huhn. “They had their own unique shirts, purple camouflage, and I’d see them running around base. Their whole purpose wasn’t about membership or dues but about camaraderie and inspiring others to run so they were more or less my inspiration to get back into running.”
Aside from being inspired by the Road Warriors, Huhn also has three prime motivators that keep him moving forward. The first part is keeping in shape for Air Force physical training.
“We [need to] constantly maintain physical fitness and with planning marathons and races throughout the year, I’m always in a training program,” said Huhn. “Right now I have the Kentucky Derby Marathon coming up in April that I am training for. It is helping with my speed work for my pt test, which is due next month.”
Along with keeping with the PT standards, Huhn’s final key motivators are to set an example for the Airmen he serves alongside every day and to run simply because he takes joy in it.
“I want to inspire [others] to pick up the sport so that they can better themselves long-term”, said Huhn. “[The last part is] I just like running places.”
Huhn has inspired a fellow co-worker to get back into running by training him for a half marathon.
“He’s a really great motivator and he wants to teach you to run and stay healthy,” said retired Senior Master Sgt. Moses Perez, 723rd AMXS unit program coordinator. “We’re doing a half marathon on Saturday, the Hospice Half. Being retired, I used to run all the time but he’s got me in shape for a half marathon in just three months.”
Perez says Huhn is good mentor when it comes to staying in shape and he offers help to many.
“It’s not just me that he helps, he has helped [Airmen] all around the squadron,” said Perez. “If they are having PT problems, he pulls them aside and tells them what they need to do to have a better run.”
Huhn has two rules of thumb to pass on to Airmen who may be trying to meet their own goals.
“You have to start to cross the finish line,” said Huhn. “Trust in your training and listen to what your body is telling you. In running, it is 85 percent mental and 15 percent physical. You have to believe in yourself and clear your thoughts of negativity.”
With his most recent full marathon time being 13 minutes and 45 seconds faster during the Dopey challenge, Huhn has hopes of cutting down his time even more on the race towards his dream.
“I’ve actually thought about doing the Great Wall of China run or the original marathon in Greece,” said Huhn. “My overall goal is to one day qualify for the Boston Marathon. Qualifying and running the Boston Marathon in my eyes is the ‘Super Bowl’ of running.
Huhn said while it might seem like a daunting task, through continuous training, dedication and a little luck, anything is possible.”