Enduring perseverance: 50 miles and 18 hours of ‘just a little more’

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- “My dad always taught me that when you start something, you finish it,” said Al Strait, 21st Space Wing director of staff. “I knew I had it within me — I just had to play mind games with myself. I would tell myself, ‘Okay now to the tree,’ or ‘Once you are to that rock you can pause for 20 seconds,’ I had to keep moving.”

Strait, 64, started the morning of June 3, shrouded in complete darkness at 4 a.m. ready to take on a grueling 50 mile adventure run with his mind set on finishing it in Provo, Utah. Offering challenges, expected and unexpected, Strait pushed through the adversities and emerged at the finish line 18 hours later, leaving all he had on the trail behind him.

A cumulative elevation gain and loss of 14,000 ft. alongside five major climbs varying from 1100 ft. to nearly 3000 ft. was only one of the many tests the runners faced. Other factors that required extra determination to battle through were the temperature changes from the elevation, the deterioration of the trail by snow and ice and a looming deadline of 2:30 p.m. to reach the 33rd mile marker.

“The first, short-term goal was to get to mile 33 by 2:30 in the afternoon,” he said. “After the 33rd mile, I felt pretty confident I would finish, but the snow and climb on Windy Pass took it's toll on all the runners. Then from mile 40 to the finish it was mostly downhill, but again the snow played a role in the slower times.”

Striding with a steady pace, Strait was able to make his first goal of the race. With a few minutes to spare, he reached the 33rd mile marker, he said.

Through-out the race, Strait related the long, daunting task of completing this race to life itself.

“You just keep moving forward and that’s the way it is in life. Life is this long journey and you have to take on one little chunk at a time – so that’s what I did on Windy Pass, much like the Manitou Springs Incline,” said Strait. “I made it to the rock, so now I had to make it to the next ribbon, and now I needed to make it to the tree. It’s the short term goals that eventually allow you to reach your ultimate long-term goal.”

Strait credits his perseverance to his preparation, support and showing a lot of resiliency. He said without these aspects, his chances of finishing would have been greatly diminished.

“You have to prepare for success,” said Strait. “You can’t just wake up one day and say to yourself, ‘Okay, tomorrow I’m going to do a 50-miler.’ It takes a lot of planning and a lot of work. It is the same concept in our day-to-day jobs. We have to be ready and perform for success”

“Mentally I was ready, physically I was ready, but the last four miles I was spent and I could hear encouraging words from my wife nearby, ‘You got this!’ and ‘Keep moving!’. I finished with her by my side - she is my ultimate wingman.”

Strait said its not easy to do hard things. He also said that even when your back is against the wall, we all have it in us to give a little more. Living by his words, he accomplished an astounding feat and gave that little extra when needed to.

If given the chance to reach out to Airmen with words of wisdom for when they set out to accomplish those not-so-easy goals, Strait said.
“Go after it, get it done and keep moving forward.”