Kirtland captain races to top of Armed Forces marathon
By Bud Cordova, Nucleus writer
/ Published October 27, 2017
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
A Team Kirtland captain took first place for the Armed Forces Marathon Championship in Washington, D.C., during the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon this past Sunday.
Capt. Kristopher Houghton of the 377th Air Base Wing Judge Advocate General office was a member of the Air Force Marathon Team and brought home the first-place finish for the Armed Forces Marathon Championship with a time of 2 hours, 28 minutes, 28 seconds.
“If this sports competition was meant to strengthen the bonds between our services, it was a success,” Houghton said. “The best part was getting to know the other runners.”
The Armed Forces teams, each representing a branch of the military, met the day before the race and got to know each other.
Houghton’s roommate over the weekend was Maj. Bryan Kelly, an active-duty test pilot from Edwards Air Force Base, California. Kelly had won the Air Force Marathon while healing from a pulled muscle.
“To room with him and hear about the different operations across the Air Force and how different they all are was really fun,” he said.
Houghton also met several women who were part of the first class of females to be submariners for the Navy and running on the Navy’s women’s team.
He ran into an old friend, Marine Corps Capt. Pedro Rodriguez, a former instructor for the Marine Corps ROTC at the University of New Mexico.
“At the end of the race, we traded jerseys and I got all the Marine Corps team to sign it,” Houghton said.
When the race started, Houghton was a member of the lead pack.
“An American civilian took the lead and the pack was chasing him,” Houghton said.
With him in the pack were two Army team members from Kenya, an Ethiopian civilian and another American civilian. For the first half of the race, the Ethiopian and the Army runners would surge, trying to break up the pack.
“At mile eight, one of the (Army) runners fell out of the pack,” Houghton said.
The other Army runner fell out around mile 12. Houghton took lead of the pack for the Blue Mile, which is lined with photos of service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I felt their memories pushing me onward,” he said.
At mile 14, Houghton’s hamstring started to cramp.
“I had to gear down,” he said.
He had to let the Ethiopian and American runners go.
“Water and Gatorade being passed out by an aid station saved me,” he said.
He continued to focus on his stride. By mile 22, Houghton overtook the Ethiopian, but another American passed him.
At the end, Houghton came in fourth place overall at the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon and first place for the men’s Armed Forces Marathon Championship.
“The JAG office has been so supportive of me and the races,” Houghton said. “I am so grateful; it really is a supportive team.”
Taking first in the Armed Forces Marathon Championship qualifies Houghton for the International Military Sports Council world marathon championship in Beirut in 2018. Houghton said he was unsure if he would attend.
“I will always cherish this incredible experience. To dig deep and find something when you are in pain is difficult. But it was made bearable knowing all of the other service runners shouldered it alongside me,” Houghton said.