Marathons aren't long enough for Schriever sergeant

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Staff Sgt. Dave Gapper, 19th Space Operations Squadron, will compete in the Air Force Marathon Saturday at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base along with 13 fellow Schriever members. Sergeant Gapper will compete in the half marathon, but typically prefers longer events. He'll race in more than 20 events this year and completed a 50-mile marathon earlier this month. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott Prater)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Staff Sgt. Dave Gapper, 19th Space Operations Squadron, will compete in the Air Force Marathon Saturday at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base along with 13 fellow Schriever members. Sergeant Gapper will compete in the half marathon, but typically prefers longer events. He'll race in more than 20 events this year and completed a 50-mile marathon earlier this month. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott Prater)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- When Staff Sgt. Dave Gapper finishes the half marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Sept. 18, he won't even be out of breath.

To most people, the idea of running 13.1 miles without stopping seems a rather crazy thing to do, but for Sergeant Gapper, 19th Space Operations Squadron, it qualifies as a warm up.

You'll have to add another 37 miles on to reach what he calls a "long run."

Some may say he's taking the easy way out when they discover he's only running the half-marathon event at this week's Air Force Marathon, but he's also competing in more than 20 distance events this year, including some 50-kilometer and 50 milers.

"I've been running ultra distances since last year," he said. "I figured I'd move from 50K to 50 miles just to see if I can do it--plus, I'm a little nuts."

He just recently completed the 50-mile Trail Ultra Marathon at Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyo., in 11 hours and 12 minutes.

In the span it takes Sergeant Gapper to finish the run he's become accustomed to -- 50 miles, one could drive from Colorado Springs to Des Moines, Iowa, or fly by jet from Los Angeles to Tokyo.

The 28-year-old didn't come from a running family, didn't run in high school, and really didn't start distance running until he decided to quit smoking in 2005.

"I began running 5Ks and 10Ks," he said. "Maybe I just traded one addiction for another, but really it was something my wife, Stacy, and I could do together. It just sort of took off from there."

His competitive nature soon took over. He began running races as often as he could manage, and with each race came a desire to run longer.

Nowadays, when he's training for an ultra event, he'll run 80 miles a week, and play soccer for a local indoor club team too.

Between work, family and running, there's no time for much else.

"(Running) gives me time to clear my head, work out my life plans and figure out my week ahead," he said. "I usually run the perimeter fence during lunch and get more time in after work and on weekends."

By year's end, he estimates he'll have competed in more than 20 events by the end of this year, including triathlons and duathlons.

He's one of 14 Schriever athletes who will make the trip to Ohio for the Air Force Marathon.

Master Sgt. Matthew Mancuso, a three-time Boston Marathon racer, will compete for the third time in the event. He got to know Sergeant Gapper earlier this summer when the two competed on an 11-man Schriever team in the Wild West Relay, which started at Fort Carson and finished 230 miles away in Steamboat Springs.

"Obviously he (Sergeant Gapper) can run for a very long time," Sergeant Mancuso said. "And he's a great hill-runner. He beat me in the Pikes Peak Ascent this year and performed really well during some mountain stages in the Wild West Relay."

Sergeant Gapper typically finishes in the top 25 percent of his age group and attributes his success, in part, to his Air Force career.

"The Air Force wants you to be fit and it offers time to work out," he said. "You don't get that opportunity with most jobs and I really try to take advantage of that, though it's difficult to get out of the office frequently."

He's spent plenty of time on the roads and trails, developing a high level of running expertise. He's also learned many aspects that should make running a more pleasurable experience for those who don't enjoy it so much.

Running advice from Sergeant Gapper:

1. Start out with the right pair of shoes.

A lot of running specialty stores in town will perform a gait analysis and fit you to the right shoe. It really makes a difference. You'll feel it in your knees, lower back and feet.

2. Before your fit test, run a lap or two to get warmed up. This will get your heart rate up and you'll operate more efficiently. It takes a while to get your muscles warmed up.

3. Music helps. "I throw the ear phones in even during competition, except for Triathlons, which don't allow them," he said. "I find a few songs that really pump me up and I generally run a lot faster."


Schriever runners competing in this year's Air Force Marathon:

Master Sgt. Matthew Woods, Detachment 1, 392nd Training Squadron

Troy Mitchell, 50th Contracting Squadron

Airman 1st Class Allen Orozco-Castaneda, 50th Comptroller Squadron

Staff Sgt. Andrea Clover, DET 1, 392 TRS

Staff Sgt. Christopher Gapper, 19th Space Operations Squadron

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Mancuso, DET 1, 392 TRS

Tech. Sgt. Jamie Walker, DET 1, 392 TRS

Tech. Sgt. Patrina Walker, DET 1, 392 TRS

Master Sgt. Kenneth Walker, 19 SOPS

Master Sgt. Ana Dominguez, 19 SOPS

Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Soliz, 19 SOPS

Capt. Joseph Reveteriano, 50th Operations Support Squadron

Capt. Heather Guzik, 392 TRS

Maj. Tami Wise, 19 SOPS