VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
“As the sun began to fade, chills began to rush through my body; the night was calm, serene almost, and the only thing louder than my feet running across the cement was the sound of my heart pounding inside my chest. Beads of sweat were dripping from my face; I was on my third leg of the race and we were half way there,” said Master Sgt. Anthony Chua.
On April 12-13, 2019, six determined members affiliated with Vandenberg Air Force Base participated in the So Cal Ragnar Relay Ultramarathon in Huntington Beach, Calif. Each member of the six-man team had to run anywhere from 26 to 36 miles of the Ragnar Relay to complete approximately 200 miles, with the race lasting overnight.
“After the race, we had a final moment where everyone was celebrating from what we had just accomplished, and it changed my life because what I learned while running this race is something I’d like to teach and pass on,” said Chua, 614th Air Operation Center operations division flight chief.
Chua really wanted to compete in the Ultramarathon but he couldn’t do it alone. He sought out five additional members who would be up for the challenge, allowing them to register a team under the military category of the race.
“It was the first experience for most of us [running a Ragnar Relay], but we completed the course in 29 hours, 6 minutes and 33 seconds and finished in first place for our category of Military Men’s Ultra, due to the team all being men except for one,” Chua said.
According to Chua, after a strenuous five miles, it would feel like the race was over, but it was not. Each member of the team ran roughly five to nine miles, six different times, while also taking small breaks in between. Due to their perseverance and determination, each member contributed towards the entire team’s completion of the race.
On their way to accomplishing this task, the team needed a leader to get them there. Brittany Lester, Ultramarathon team member, had participated in relays prior to this and was able to share much needed insight with the rest of her group. Through her own familiarity and resiliency, Lester endured through her 36 miles of the race while also teaching and encouraging her fellow teammates along the way.
“One member of the team Brittany, she was like the mother of the team. She always gave us what we needed supplying us with necessities of fuel, food, fluids and her lively character in itself,” Chua said. “All of these gave us the extra push that we all needed while reminding us of our sense of purpose and why we are here.”
Although they may not have finished the overall race first, they were able to walk away with an experience they cannot forget and the knowledge that being part of a team can boost their own resiliency and others as well.
“Life gives us similar challenges, such as this race, because there are going to be ups and downs but no matter how tough the course is, as long as you never quit and keep moving forward, you will finish the race,” Chua said.