100 MARATHONS ... AND COUNTING - One officer's improbable path to becoming a road warrior

  • Published
  • By Nicole McLaughlin
  • Pentagon
While it's taken Lt. Col. Amanda Preble 23 years to get from her first marathon to her 100th, the fact that she can run one at all is somewhat of a surprise. When she was a child, she had such a severe case of asthma that doctors told her mother she'd be lucky to walk around the block.

Preble has spent her life proving the docs wrong.

Today, when she isn't busy studying the weather in space at her job at the Pentagon, she's either running a marathon, driving to a marathon or planning her next marathon. When she crossed the finish line of the Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 18, it became her 100th such race (14 of them the Air Force's big event).

"I just love to run," the 46-year-old meteorologist said.

Preble is what the Air Force Marathon office calls a STAR -- part of their Spirited, Tenacious, Athletic Running squad. This elite group of runners consists of those who have entered every full Air Force Marathon since its inception 14 years ago.

Ironically, her first Air Force race almost never happened.

Seven weeks before the inaugural Air Force Marathon in 1997, Preble crashed on her bicycle and broke her elbow.

"I ran the first (one) with my arm pinned and bandaged," she said with a sheepish grin.

Five years later, Preble convinced her husband, Dan Marvin, to join her, making the 2002 Air Force race his first full marathon. That particular run became even more significant for the lieutenant colonel as she was four months pregnant when she ran it.

"It was my slowest Air Force Marathon to date, because I had to stop once every mile," she said. "But it was an amazing thing to do as a couple, and an empowering thing to do as a first-time mom-to-be."

Then in 2007, Preble ran the Air Force event shortly after giving birth to her second child.

"Our kids (7-year-old Grace and 3-year-old Chase) have grown up with mom and dad running marathons," she said of the family tradition.

The couple has become so comfortable at running races together, that they now celebrate every mile marker with a kiss without breaking stride.

Although Preble is an active-duty officer, it's not her affiliation with the Air Force that keeps her coming back every year.

"I've done enough other marathons at this point to have a pretty good idea of what I like in a race, and the Air Force Marathon certainly delivers," Preble said. "The organization is outstanding, and I love the finish."

The colonel said the key to earning 100 marathon medals injury-free is perseverance, preparation and staying within your abilities.

"Running a marathon is fun, but it is definitely no joke," said Preble, who coaches "Girls on the Run," a program for elementary school girls in third through sixth grades. "If you don't prepare properly, exceed your abilities or misjudge the conditions, chances are you'll end up being one of those runners laying at the side of the road with emergency personnel bent over them."

That said, with proper training, she'd recommend putting a marathon on just about anybody's bucket list. But she stressed that the time to start preparing for the next Air Force Marathon (Sept. 17 at Wright-Patterson AFB) is now.

When asked if she won her most recent race, Preble said she always answers with an emphatic "Yes!"

"Because I know what it took to get me to the start of each race; I know what it took to get me to finish each race," she said. "I may not be the fastest out there, but I can honestly say I'm RARE -- Run All, Run Every Air Force Marathon."
Ms. McLaughlin is the marketing manager for the Air Force Marathon office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Tech. Sgt. Samuel Bendet contributed to this article.