By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Rojek, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 19, 2007
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- His running shoes pound on the asphalt, not counting feet or yards, but miles. The wind is almost a living thing, trying to hold him back, tearing the much-needed air away from his lungs. The group of four turns to three at the 22-mile mark, but he barely notices; he only hears "Go Air Force! Go!" He continues on, determined to stay ahead of his peers.
Years before he became a first lieutenant in the Air Force, Brian Dumm was scoring goals on the soccer field. In order to stay in shape and keep up the necessary physical endurance required for the sport, his parents recommended he run cross-country for his high school team.
"After that first season, I never looked back," said Lieutenant Dumm.
He seemed to be a natural, running track throughout high school and during his years at the Air Force Academy, tackling races from one mile to 10 kilometers, winning at meet after meet. In fact, the lieutenant still holds the Academy's 10K record, 29:04.
Upon graduation in 2005, Lieutenant Dumm knew he wanted to continue competing. But where? How?
"After college there were fewer and fewer track teams to join," he said. "Running marathons seemed the next step in terms of an athletic career."
The wind isn't letting up, but neither is his resolve. He pushes forward, not counting his total time, but keeping track of each mile. The pace has dropped from a 5:30 mile to about 6 minutes. It matters not, for he will stay ahead, he will represent the Air Force with pride. At the 23-mile mark, three runners turn to two.
At his first assignment in Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, Lieutenant Dumm went from training for track races to training for a marathon.
"Doing a marathon with little or no training can be a shock to your system," said the 24-year-old lieutenant. "Ideally for me, I run between 80 to 85 miles per week."
The opportunity to test his mettle arose in the form of the Houston Marathon in January. The challenge of running a marathon was made even greater when he found out some people would be trying to make the Olympic qualification time - 2:22:00.
"I was also trying to run the Olympic Trial qualification and knew that the race's competition would give me that opportunity," he said. "Still, Houston was my first marathon, and because I didn't know what to expect from myself, there was a mix of anxiety with the excitement."
Although he didn't make the Olympic trial cut-off, his run time was an admirable 2:24:51, placing 29th overall.
"I had done as much training as I could at the time, and knew that I was well prepared, so I was glad that my performance reflected my efforts," said the lieutenant. "Though I certainly could have done things a little better during the race, I am proud of the time I ran."
After Houston, Lieutenant Dumm decided to take some time off from marathons. Instead, he tried out for and secured a place on the Air Force track team running in the Air North meet. The race pitted U.S. servicemembers against military runners from countries such as Britain, Belgium and Holland.
"I like running marathons, but it's fun to run races on the track team," he said.
The U.S. team placed second in the competition, with Lieutenant Dumm taking second place in the 800 meter and 4x400 meter races.
His hard work at Air North paid off, since another marathon opportunity presented itself soon after - the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
Running, breathing, running, breathing, he comes around the turn, the last turn, and begins the uphill battle. This is the last leg of the marathon, the last few hundred yards of a grueling 26.2 miles. He wants to be done, to cross the finish line knowing he had led the military in this race. Tapping into his last reserves of energy, he focuses on the distant finish line and a pair of runners finally turns into one.
After the Air North meet, Lieutenant Dumm was sent for temporary duty to Florida and then had a permanent change of station to Osan Air Base. This didn't leave a lot of time for training, yet in July he decided he would try out for the Air Force team running in the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 28.
"First I was TDY, then I got stationed here," said the 7th Air Force watch officer. "My training level was not as high as I wanted it to be. I didn't know what to expect going into the race."
He sent in an application form and waited for three months. While Air Force marathon runners were encouraged to run in the Air Force Marathon on Sept. 15, he wasn't able to make it due to mission constraints.
That didn't matter, however. In September, Lieutenant Dumm found out he had made the team.
"I figured he would be our top guy," said Lt. Col. Mark Cucuzzella, Air Force marathon team captain. "He ran 2:24 in January in his first marathon. He has great potential in the marathon."
Making the team and running the Marine Corps Marathon was doubly sweet - Lieutenant Dumm is a native of Washington, D.C., and his father would be running the same race.
"Dad was a runner and certainly saw his fair share of marathons," said the son of retired Air Force Col. Kenneth Dumm. "It was great having him out there, knowing he was running."
Even though he had family in the race and waiting at the finish line, Lieutenant Dumm kept his focus on his goal of taking the top time for military members. It was no easy feat.
"The route is deceptively difficult," said Colonel Cucuzzella, who has run marathons for the last 20 years. "There are a lot of turns and wind in the second half."
The lieutenant started with the Air Force team, but as the race progressed he was with four other runners, one of which was a Navy officer. The group kept pace with each other for the first 20 miles, and then slowly, the other runners began to fall back.
"A marathon is a grueling race," said Lieutenant Dumm. "You don't pull away easily. To leave someone in the last part of the race, you have to maintain a constant pace or just speed up a little bit."
His strategy paid off and, after running uphill and into the wind for the last few hundred yards, he finished the race as sixth place overall, first place for military members.
"It's a hard feeling to beat, coming to the finish knowing you met your goals," he added.
With those short-term goals completed, this Air Force runner is looking to the future.
"I do plan to run more marathons - hopefully many more," said Lieutenant Dumm. "I still have my sights set on the Olympic Trials."
He certainly has the potential to do great things in marathon running, said Colonel Cucuzzella. And with overall fitness being an important part of mission readiness, the lieutenant is representative of the mindset for which every Airman should strive.
"The function of military sports is to promote fitness and comradarie between the services," said the colonel. "He will be a future leader for our programs and total force fitness."
Sweat burning his eyes, muscles fatigued, he crosses the finish line a victor. Through the din of the crowd, he hears the voices of his family, bringing him home. And as his run turns into a walk, he smiles. The goal has been achieved. The race is over. For now.