AFSPC member makes AF Marathon a tradition

Mr. Lou Johnson was all smiles while running in his 9th Air Force Marathon in 2005.  This was a particularly good year for him as he ran the marathon in 3:09, qualifying him for Boston.

Mr. Lou Johnson was all smiles while running in his 9th Air Force Marathon in 2005. This was a particularly good year for him as he ran the marathon in 3:09, qualifying him for Boston.

From left to right, Mr. Ken Wright and retired Major Manny Feliz, both from the Space Logistics Group, stand with Mr. Lou Johnson, also from SLG, during the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins.  The three coworkers have ran several marathons together, including 3 or 4 Air Force Marathons, the 2006 Boston Marathon and all have plans to run this year's Air Force Marathon in September.

From left to right, Mr. Ken Wright and retired Major Manny Feliz, both from the Space Logistics Group, stand with Mr. Lou Johnson, also from SLG, during the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins. The three coworkers have ran several marathons together, including 3 or 4 Air Force Marathons, the 2006 Boston Marathon and all have plans to run this year's Air Force Marathon in September.

Mr. Lou Johnson, director of the Space and Missile System Center’s Space Logistics Group, proudly holds his Wright B Flyer model he received for winning his his age group in 2006. Mr. Johnson is a running enthusiast and was recently recognized for his enduring support and participation in the Air Force Marathons.

Mr. Lou Johnson, director of the Space and Missile System Center’s Space Logistics Group, proudly holds his Wright B Flyer model he received for winning his his age group in 2006. Mr. Johnson is a running enthusiast and was recently recognized for his enduring support and participation in the Air Force Marathons.

Mr. Lou Johnson, director of the Space and Missile System Center’s Space Logistics Group, "shows off" his Boston Marathon photo and medal he received when he completed the Marathon in 2006.  Mr. Johnson was recently recognized for his enduring support and participation in the Air Force Marathons.

Mr. Lou Johnson, director of the Space and Missile System Center’s Space Logistics Group, "shows off" his Boston Marathon photo and medal he received when he completed the Marathon in 2006. Mr. Johnson was recently recognized for his enduring support and participation in the Air Force Marathons.

Mr. Lou Johnson, director of the Space and Missile System Center’s Space Logistics Group, stands by the posters and medals he's received from past and present Air Force Marathons.  Mr. Johnson has participated in every AF Marathon offered since it's inception in 1997 and was recently recognized for his enduring support and participation in the Air Force Marathons.

Mr. Lou Johnson, director of the Space and Missile System Center’s Space Logistics Group, stands by the posters and medals he's received from past and present Air Force Marathons. Mr. Johnson has participated in every AF Marathon offered since it's inception in 1997 and was recently recognized for his enduring support and participation in the Air Force Marathons.

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- People participate in marathons run for many different reasons: health and social benefits or just the love of running, but for Lou Johnson, director of the Space and Missile System Center's Space Logistics Group, it's a proud tradition.

Being in the right place at the right time was key to the beginning of what now has become an annual tradition for Johnson. In 1997, he was assigned to Wright Patterson AFB Ohio, when the Air Force decided to hold its inaugural Air Force Marathon and was very excited to hear the news. Enthusiastically, he and his coworkers assembled a team.
"This marathon was such a big deal that our office put together two relay teams while eight of us ran the full marathon," said Johnson. "Since then, I've participated in all 12 Air Force marathons in the 13 years it's been offered. In 2001, the race was cancelled due to the 9-11 attacks."

Running marathons is nothing new to the retired Air Force colonel and former SMC detachment commander. The running boom that began in the 1970s sparked a well-attended half marathon in his hometown of Louisville, Ky. The Kentucky Derby Festival Mini-Marathon and Marathon is ranked among the nation's top 50 races by USA Track and Field. His father, wife, and several in-laws have run the race for years; after his father ran it the first year, he began running seriously and eventually qualified for the Boston Marathon. The passion for running passed from father to son.

"My dad started to run and caught the 'bug' and then went on to run the Boston marathon," he said. "Someone from my family has run in every one of the 36 Mini-Marathons.

Johnson ran his first marathon, the Mardi Gras Marathon, in 1979 when he was stationed at Keesler AFB, Miss. He finished in 4 hours and 5 minutes, his worst time ever, but this marathon is memorable to him for other reasons.

"That was a grueling run," remembered Johnson. "That particular weekend, the New Orleans police went on strike so the runners were bused to the other side of Lake Pontchartain and we had to run the 24-mile causeway back to New Orleans. No rest stops, no toilets, nothing but concrete."

Since that time, Johnson has incredibly participated in an astonishing 67 marathons and 41 half marathons: 12 Air Force marathons; 25 at various locations in Germany, Holland, and France; three each in Columbus, Los Angeles and Hunnington Beach; two each in Boston, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Long Beach, Denver, Wyoming, and Fort Collins, Colo.; one each in Pittsburgh and Chicago, as well as the Marine Corps marathon and a few others.

"Running is something I've always done and enjoyed...I run mostly for fun now, but was somewhat competitive when I was younger," he smiled.

Of all the marathons Johnson has participated in, Boston is his favorite, but he states the Air Force Marathon is near and dear to his heart.

"I've kept my streak with the Air Force, and not other runs, because the Air Force has consumed 31 years of my life, so I can't think of another event, outside of the Kentucky Derby Marathon, that has so much meaning to me personally."

It takes a great deal of drive and determination to maintain a marathon streak and Mr. Johnson's effort did not go unnoticed.

The USAF Marathon staff wanted to do something special for the "tenured" runners who have maintained a running streak since its inception and decided to do a meet and greet reception in the Ervin J. Nutter Center at Wright State University on Sept. 18. Mr. Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon race director, served as guest speaker.

"We wanted to take some time to let these runners know we appreciate their dedication to our event; it really is quite an honor to have them return every year," commented Molly Louden, USAF Marathon Race director.

The marathon has been tracking participants since the 10th year and, to date, there are 41 runners who have competed since the beginning.

"It was very nice to finally meet the other runners. I didn't expect to be recognized in any way, but I was glad to be a part of it," he said.

As a running enthusiast, Johnson is supportive of the Air Force's new stance on physical training.

"I really like where the Air Force is going with the new PT standards," nodded Johnson.

He feels it's a smart decision to put more emphasis on running more than once a year because cardio is important to living a longer life, but he also recognizes it's a personal responsibility.

"I've always been a big fan of the cardio portion. You're going to live a longer life if your cardio is in good shape."

For someone who never exceeded 9:59 in the mile and a half run in his 26 years of service, it's easier said than done, but he truly feels it's up to each individual to have pride in what they do.

"Maintaining fitness standards is a personal responsibility and you have to remember that you'll only get out of it what you put in it" he said.

Johnson feels a key factor in having success in any fitness trek is to keep a daily log.

"The best thing a person can do to be successful is to keep track of what you're doing," he said with conviction.

It is apparent he is a man who practices what he preaches because he still has a log of every mile he's run since 1978 when he was a young lieutenant in Mississippi, and continues to track his miles to this day. He's currently at 22,750 miles, 2,150 short of running around the world.

If his dedication to fitness is one to epitomize, it's not hard. One just has to be persistent enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but for this retired Air Force officer he's on a quest to maintain his AF Marathon streak.

"I never miss the Air Force Marathon and hope to continue to run them as long as I'm able, but I'd like to see more people from Peterson come with me next year. That would be great. The past two years, Mr. Ben Beck at the Fitness Center has arranged for C-130 transport, and this year we had over 50 participants from the Front Range area. We have a great time and it's nice to see all the Team Colorado runners." Johnson concluded.