JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The air was cool and breathing challenging as her legs continued to pump, putting more and more distance behind her and the finish line ever closer.
As flights and special events shut down across the East Coast due to impending landfall of Hurricane Sandy, wind was perhaps the most difficult challenge 1st Lt. Caitlin Oviatt faced when she raced through the streets of the nation's capital at the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., Oct. 27.
Oviatt, the first Air Force officer to lead an Army materiel management flight at Joint Base Elmendorf - Richardson, Alaska, and her three-person team competed against every branch of service and won the All-Service Championship for the Air Force female division.
"I've been very humbled and honored to represent the Air Force in that way," said Oviatt, a native of Aurora, Colo. "The women on the team are eccentric; they're really talented runners. I'm the youngest on the team, so I see a lot of what I would like to become as a runner and an officer, so it's a really good opportunity."
Once selected to represent the Air Force in the sport, athletes run the Air Force half-marathon. Successfully completing that, Oviatt won the opportunity to continue onto the next race.
"They pick the top three females and males from the team and then you go and run at the Marine Corps Marathon," she said. "We just got back from it and we won the All-Service Championship, which is a big deal, so it's pretty cool. Our female team beat all other services; the Navy, the Army, the Marines; they were all there and we beat them."
But the win didn't come easy, said Oviatt.
"That was in Washington, D.C., in the hurricane -- the winds were nuts," she said. "It didn't make for easy conditions to run a marathon, so we really had to work hard. We duked it out. My husband and some of the other teams got stuck (in Washington) because their flights were cancelled. So you can run a marathon, but they'll cancel your flight. That was pretty interesting."
While she'd always enjoyed running, she only recently decided to run in marathons.
"I've done two marathons in my entire life," the 773rd Army materiel management flight commander said. "I decided to get into marathon-running this past year. It's actually worked out pretty well. "There's something about running; I was always fairly decent at it."
The sport has deep meaning to the marathon winner.
"There's a spiritual effect to running," she said. "It allows calmness in my life and my thoughts; how I start my morning. I get up every day at 4 a.m. to get in my runs before work at 6:30 or 6:45, rain, shine or Alaska snow. I do lots of treadmill running if I have to. I just love that drive."
It takes a lot of devotion, she said, but it's worth it.
"In distance running you have to put in a good amount of base mileage to build your endurance," Oviatt explained. "(But,) you also need to have speed, so you do have to incorporate the track workout, speed workout, interval workout, as well as your distance training," she said. "You can go as short as 800 meters to one-mile repeats and as long as a 20-mile run."
Oviatt was accepted on the team despite her lack of long-distance experience.
"(My application) was interesting because I didn't have any marathon times, everything was half marathons or shorter distance races," she said. "But they thought it was fast enough to qualify for it so I put those down, got on the team. I've run two marathons since."
Despite her lack of running accolades, Oviatt said she is optimistic.
"I'm just getting started," she said. "I'm hoping to just keep getting faster and, over time, all this crazy morning training will pay off. I'm just keeping positive."
In terms of distance, a half-marathon is 13.1 miles, and a marathon is 26.2 miles. Time, said Oviatt, is the most limiting factor in her training.
"My mileage right now is about 60 miles a week. I'd like to do more but there's only so much time in the day and my number one responsibility is being an officer," Oviatt said. "You can't necessarily run as much as you want, which is totally OK. I've been running half marathons, just cutting the time down; I'm at about an hour and twenty-five minutes. I want to get that down to about 1:20."
Oviatt said while training in the local climate has it's challenges, she loves running in Alaska.
"Alaska's a great place to run," she said. "I remember the first 19-mile run I had out here; it was out on the flight line area. I had a face mask on, and when I got home my husband pulled it off and I had this huge frostbite on my chin; the life of a runner. Alaska is extreme; you have to dress for the climate. You need some tough athletes, that's for sure, but it's been a really good experience."
After a brief recovery from the race, Oviatt is now back to training for cross-country championships and already revamped her training. While her future is in running, she said total fitness approach to life is important.
"I'm a firm believer in fitness, especially in the military," she said. "Down the road, I have some big dreams and big goals and maybe running will allow me to do that. It's all about that balance in life."