Two WADS ultra-runners complete 174 miles during POW/MIA Remembrance Run

  • Published
  • By Maj. Kimberly Burke, Western Air Defense Sector Public Affairs

Running one marathon in a day isn’t enough for two Western Air Defense Sector members. 1st Lt. Krosby Keller and Bruce Robie challenged their athletic limits by jointly running the equivalent of more than six marathons during the Joint Base Lewis-McChord 24-Hour POW/MIA Remembrance Run Sept. 18-19, 2018.

Keller, who is an air battle manager assigned to the 225th Air Defense Squadron, ran 100 miles in the 24-hour period. He is considered an ultra-marathon runner. Prior to this event, Keller participated in two 100-mile ultra-marathons, the High Lonesome 100 in Colorado and the San Diego 100 in California.

The High Lonesome 100 is a high altitude race with an average elevation of 11,000 feet and over 52,000 feet of vertical climb and descent through the Sawatch Mountain Range. “It is a brutal course through a gorgeous part of the country were 35% of the field did not finish, some even dropped out after just six miles,” explained Keller. “I did this as my first 100-miler to challenge myself with the thinking that if I am going to try one, I need to make it as tough as possible and see what I am made of.”

Keller said that the High Lonesome 100 was one was the hardest tests of will power he has gone through due to the fact that high altitude inflicted nausea and even hallucinations at some points during his run. “Quitting was very much at the forefront of my mind but I pushed through it and it was definitely one of my most memorable finishes,” said Keller.

The San Diego 100 is a mountain race that takes place east of San Diego in June every year that runs through the Mount Laguna Recreations Area, Pacific Coast Trail, Noble Canyon and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. According to Keller, the challenge of this course is the open exposure of the course and the heat that has to be managed.

Even though Keller has tackled very challenging runs prior to the POW/MIA Remembrance Run, this run did put him to the test. “Running on a quarter-mile track in one direction is very difficult,” explained Keller. 

“Completing 400 laps in the same direction was a struggle mentally as well as physically at one point,” explained Keller. “Mentally you hit dark places where continuing is hard even during trail runs with a view, let alone in one spot in a circle. The night time was the hardest where you are tired from doing it and there really isn’t a lot of people out there talk to and to feed off their energy. Plus knowing at any point I could stop by the warm fire, sleep or go home didn’t help.”

Keller explained that in the other two races he could break up the runs in segments according to whether it was uphill, downhill or just to the next aid station as his goal. During this run, he had to break it up into 10 and five mile increments. “Sometimes I would go one extra mile so that when I hit 81 miles I could say I had less than 20 to go,” said Keller. For him the mental game was harder than the physical after a certain point during the POW/MIA Remembrance Run.

The constant running in circles took its toll on Keller during the night when his left hip and knee got tight and the cold night temperatures made it tough to get moving. During those periods, Keller would just walk through two to four laps of pain and then slowly run some until he could hit five miles where he would rest his body to ensure he didn’t cause any damage. 

“Once the day broke around mile 87, it warmed up and it was mental win to make it that long, it was smoother sailing,” Keller said. “I was back to running seven minute miles again instead of needing to walk.”

Not following too far behind Keller was retired Senior Master Sgt. Bruce Robie, the National Airspace System Defense program manager for the 225th Support Squadron. Robie is an avid long distance runner and completed 41 miles in the 2016 POW/MIA Remembrance Run but due to an injury was only able to run 5 miles last year.

“This was a year of sweet redemption for me,” explained Robie. “Towards the end of 2017, I made some significant lifestyle and diet changes and achieved new levels of fitness. I set my sights high this year and focused on breaking my personal best ultra-marathon distance of 52 miles which I ran in 2011. I had a great summer of running that included other ultra-run relay races and mountain trail runs.”

This year Robie decided to try and keep up with Keller. “I made a personal goal of wanting to stay within a marathon distance [26.2 miles] away from Keller’s total,” explained Robie. “That motivated me to keep pushing through exhaustion in that final hour. It was also inspiring to have a strong showing of WADS folks out there supporting us.”

“To put it in perspective, my goal for the entire year is to attain 1000 miles running and I am currently at 950,” commented Robie. “Keller did 10% of that goal in just 24 hours. I am honored to support his goal of attaining 100 miles and I am also proud of myself for achieving my goal of running 74 miles.”

Even though the WADS team placed third in the overall standings behind the 62nd Logistics Readiness Squadron and 5th Air Support Operations Squadron with 389 miles, it was Keller and Robie who took first and second place for individual running distance. The third place individual runner logged in 25.5 miles.

As a whole, 24 teams representing 20 units assigned to McChord Field ran 3,707 miles to raise awareness and honor prisoners of war and those still missing in action. The $3,000 raised during the event will be donated to the McChord Field Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 1461 (a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization).

Contributing significantly to the WADS team running mileage total were:

Maj. Kip Trausch, 225th Air Defense Squadron, 21.25 miles
Lt. Col. Matthew Venable, 225th Support Squadron, 20.5 miles
Tech. Sgt. Kourtney Williams, 225Th Air Defense Squadron, 15.5 miles
Staff Sgt. Rachel Blevins, 225th Air Defense Squadron, 12 miles
Staff Sgt. Keith McDowell, 225th Support Squadron, 10.5 miles
Tech. Sgt. Kristen Tolbert, 225th Support Squadron, 10 miles