From maintenance to marathons: 100th MXS Airman places 4th in Air Force race

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Running a marathon is a pretty big achievement. Taking part in the Air Force Marathon – in celebration of the 70th birthday of the U.S. Air Force – makes it even more special, but placing fourth in the military category and fifth overall out of 410 runners is the icing on the (birthday) cake.

Airman 1st Class Joshua Lykans, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology apprentice, arrived at RAF Mildenhall in 2016. Just 20 years old, his participation in the Air Force Marathon Sept. 16, 2017, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was a new experience.

“I’m originally from Toledo, Ohio, so I saw this as a great opportunity to return home and run my very first marathon,” he said.

“I was kind of a fat kid when I was younger, and didn’t play a lot of sports or participate in many activities, which was probably the reason I was like that,” Lykans remarked. “I started running during my freshman year of high school. I was originally going to play football, but my cross country coach, Jim Petinot, who is now sadly deceased, convinced me that riding the bench would be a waste of the potential talent he saw in me. On a whim, I decided to listen to him and I’ve been running ever since. He’s been my motivation.”

For Lykans, running is a way of life.

“I like how every day it tests me to become stronger, both mentally and physically. It’s taught me to become comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he explained, adding that before running the Air Force Marathon, he’d never participated in a race further than eight kilometers.

Lykans started training in January 2017 and was averaging around 80 miles a week.

“Usually, during the work week I keep my training strictly to around base and the running track, but during the weekend I go out to Thetford forest and to some of the more secluded roads, where I can just be alone,” he added. “I run on all types of terrain, but try and avoid running on concrete and asphalt too much.”

Lykans completed the Air Force Marathon in 2:43:44.

“I felt very nervous, but that quickly went away once the race started,” he said. “It’s been a while since I competed in a race, but the adrenaline got rid of all that self-doubt and nervousness. All that was going through my head was just to trust in my training and give it everything I had from beginning to end.”

To mark the Air Force’s 70th birthday, this year’s marathon began with a flyover from a World War II P-51 Mustang and F-22 Raptor. All along the route were people cheering on the runners and providing much-needed support and encouragement to all who passed.

“The atmosphere was absolutely amazing,” exclaimed Lykans. “If it wasn’t for the energetic civilian and military volunteers urging everyone to push a little harder, I believe the race would have yielded slower results.”

Running long distances allows for plenty of time to think, which can help the mind focus.

“When I’m out there, I’m constantly reminding myself of what I’m training for, and my various goals. Whether it’s a new personal record or me one day cross-training into tactical air control party, I’m just thinking of how I’m getting closer to my goals, one step at a time,” Lykans said.

He added that running has brought him a high level of fitness, which helps him in both his Air Force career and personal life.

“It’s helped me manage my time more efficiently and prioritize my goals,” he said. “Work and running are my absolute top priorities in life; any leisure time after that is spent working towards my other goals and maintaining a good relationship with my family and friends.”

The maintainer gave kudos to his leadership, coworkers and gym staff for their support on his personal journey to running the marathon, and they also had praise for him.

"Josh has a mental as well as physical strength that propelled him through his training for the marathon,” said Senior Master Sgt. Gregory Fox, 100th MXS Fabrication flight chief. “He displays these same characteristics in his primary duties and is considered a leader amongst his peers."

Having this support system has spurred Lykans on and he plans to up his game.

“Although it sometimes gets very difficult to train alone, my fellow Airmen always have my back with encouragement,” added the maintainer. “It’s great to know all my training has yielded great results, but I’m nowhere close to where my goals are set at. I plan to pump up the mileage to between 110 and 120 miles a week and increase the intensity of the workouts. I’m already looking forward to next year’s race!”