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One mile at a time

Pease Air National Guard Base, Newington -- When Tech. Sgt. Bernard, "Bernie" Cho, Electro/Environmental Craftsman with the 157th Maintenance Group, completed his Air Force fit test in October 2008, he scored a 70.00, which was then considered only marginal. His run time for this test was 16:07 for the mile and half.

When he retested in May of 2009, he scored a 72.5 with a 13:49 run time. Again, this was only marginal.

"I have always had a problem with fitness in the military," said Cho. "I even failed my fit test in basic training which led to me being recycled and spending extra time there," he continued. "Then, I failed most of my bike tests every year...so it's always been a high stress event for me and a source of constant worry."

But in 2010 Cho is telling a different story.

"I decided to make my goal for 2010 to finish a marathon and max my PT score," he said.

Max out his PT score he did. Cho scored a 99.3 with a 9:47 run time during this past September's fit test, passing for the first time with no strings attached since October of 1996.

"I really got sick of dreading the fitness test every year so I started running seriously in February 2009 after returning from deployments," Cho said.

Cho then described his reasons for changing his lifestyle in a bit more detail, "I was diagnosed with hypertension in December 2008. High blood pressure and generally bad stress management run in the family, so when I was actually diagnosed with hypertension at age 30, that was a real wake up call."

"I did it one mile at a time I guess," he said. "Until recently, I've always hated running...it was just a painful experience I couldn't wait to be over. But somewhere along the way, running became less and less forced and eventually became fun," he said. "Now it's simply a part of my life."

Cho hit his personal goal for 2010 when he completed the 2010 Air Force Marathon held Saturday September 18, 2010 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The 26.2 mile course negotiates through several historical places on the AFB, including the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the Air Force Institute of Technology, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, the Wright-Patterson AFB flight line, Huffman Prairie Flying Field, and the Wright Brothers Memorial Monument.

"When I decided to run a marathon, the furthest I had run was about 5 miles," said Cho.

"I started training for it this spring and found it rather difficult but I got a lot of encouragement and knowledge from a co-worker, Senior Master Sgt. Mike Mercier, who is an avid runner and that helped a lot."

"Once I was locked into the training program, with the running base I had built in 2009, I just kept increasing my mileage according to the program and it went pretty smoothly, especially since we had a lot of great weather this summer!"

"I would like to tell others that want to improve their fitness or run time to do it, for themselves. It is more than just about fitness because as I improved my dismal fitness everything seemed to improve. My ability to deal with stress, my ability to meet goals and my general outlook on life all improved."

"I know it may be cliché but really, if I can run a marathon, anyone in the Air Force or Air Guard can. I smoked for 18 years, ate tons of fast food and played video games before I started to improve my fitness," Cho said. "I went from struggling to run a 10 minute mile for 1.5 miles to running 26 consecutive 10 minute miles comfortably in the span of two years."