Amazing Race: 78th CES Airman lands first place in ultra marathon

  • Published
  • By Holly L. Birchfield
  • 78th ABW/PA
Adam Kuchy didn't realize how far running would take him when he first put his feet to the pavement in an elementary school physical training day.

The Air Force staff sergeant and electrical systems journeyman in the 78th Civil Engineer Squadron at Robins honed his athletic skills in 7th and 8th grade and was soon recruited to join the Father Ryan High School Cross Country team in Nashville, Tenn.

Kuchy's running trail continued on to Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Mo, where he got a running scholarship. The athlete took a break from running and didn't run competitively again until he joined the Air Force in March of 2002.

"My first base was Anderson Air Force Base in Guam," he said. "We had 5 kilometer races. There was an occasional one-mile run and some cross country (races). The Guam Running Club was out there so I joined them and they had a few cross country races and I did pretty well out there and had a good time."

The 29-year-old Connecticut native said he felt he owed it to himself to get back in the race and see where it would take him. In 2003, he did just that.

Throughout several deployments, Kuchy pounded pavement and rough terrain in South Korea, Qatar and Aviano, Italy.

"My last race in Italy was a mountain race," he said. "It was about 4.7 miles long and it was up on a ski slope at the top of a mountain."

The Aviano race was the last Kuchy endured before returning to the U.S.

After some time, Kuchy decided to put his feet to the fire and try to conquer a marathon. He began training harder and working toward the goal of entering the Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio, on Sept. 28. The avid runner placed 28th out of about 1,700 runners and placed 3rd in his age group.

Kuchy was far from finished though. On Oct. 28, the determined Airman faced the grueling challenge of a 50K ultra marathon in Frankenstein, Mo., and conquered the mountainous course, earning first place in the race.

"That was a pretty tough course," he said. "That was probably the toughest course I ran competitively. We started out at the top of a mountain. We were running on the crest of a mountain....We started out at the top and it was just absolutely beautiful."

The backdrop of orange- yellow-and red-leaved trees mixed with the sun rising in a crystal clear sky and fog in the low-lying valley was breathtaking for the runner.

"I took a beating that day," he said. "About mile 16, my legs cramped up and there was nothing I could do, but keep running. I got to the finish line and it was hard for me to get up off of the ground."

Kuchy had seven marathon runners ahead of him waiting to turn in their racing bibs. He didn't realize he finished ahead of them all.

"I came in and I crossed the line and handed them my tag," he said. "The two race directors looked at it and they said, 'Wait a second. You got first place.'"

Kuchy said the win was great, but he had a more important matter on his mind - getting food and water to soothe his aching body.

The athlete strained a tendon and muscle in the race, but he also found a renewed love for running.

"It's a growing experience for me and a learning experience for me," he said. "I'm kind of excited about that. It's something new that I get to look forward to."

The experience was just as exciting for his father, Gregory Kuchy, who works as director of engineering for the Sanitary District of Decatur, Ill.

"I'm very proud for a couple of reasons; it brings appropriate attention to him and second, because it did a lot of good for him physically and mentally," he said.

Kuchy's father said he has watched his son become a skilled runner for 20 years.

"He does bring a lot of pride to us," he said. "We're thankful that he has followed this through and progressed as he has gone along. It's the thing he's returned to all over the world and it's kind of interesting to watch and very gratifying to see the results he's pulling out."

Eric Meza, a staff sergeant and an exterior electrician in the 78th CES who first met Kuchy at his last assignment in Aviano, said he teamed up with his friend in January 2006 as part of a New Year's resolution. Kuchy ran with Meza in his first marathon.

"He's very talented when it comes to running," he said. "He's very dedicated. He's always willing to try to push himself a little bit farther just to see what exactly he can do."

Meza said his running partner has been an inspiration to him.

"He's helped me out a lot as far as knowing what are good places to go running, how far I should push myself, keeping track of my heart rate and stuff like that," he said. "I think that it's really awesome (that he won the ultra marathon). He definitely deserves it. He put in a lot of work and a lot of hard practice and training for it."

Meza said he expects to see his running partner winning a lot more races in the future.

Kuchy and Meza plan to run in the Museum of Aviation Marathon on Jan. 19, 2008