Fear and loathing on the Tinker trails

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mark Hybers
  • 507th Air Refueling Wing, Public Affairs
The drive down Reserve Road is fairly long and slow, leaving lots of time for us to glance at the running trails. For many of us, there is a good deal of fear and loathing at the thought of running those trails, or running anywhere for that matter.

Running at any time or any place tends to bring anxiety levels to the surface for most. Driving down Reserve Road in the mornings, you might find yourself looking at the trails and thinking, "I'm going to bring my gear tomorrow and go for a run." Then your heart rate spikes and breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, and then the next thought is "well, I have a lot going on at work tomorrow and it's supposed to be pretty cold outside, so maybe I'll just bring my stuff next week."

Ah. The heart rate comes back to normal, the breathing regulates once again. There, that's much better.

Life seems to run in cycles and with it so do our exercise habits. Once the winter cold sets in, most of us stop going outside to get exercise, opting instead for the nice cozy La-Z-Boy.

I fall somewhere in the middle. While I have all the cold weather attire I need, most winter days I find myself staring at it in my closet and longing for days of the warm morning summer sun.

Then I slip into my spandex running pants, warmer wind pants over those, three layers on the top half, hat and gloves and I'm off for a run in the cold. Brrr.

You see, I'm the guy that can't physically afford to take the entire winter off. If I don't run on these cold winter days, I'm doomed come Fit to Fight day. It's not cold weather that's to blame for my lack of running prowess. That's probably just an excuse to take three months off.

I am an odd creature in that I really enjoy running, but I am average on my best day. I plod along gasping for air as if I just sprinted 400 yards - and then I start my second quarter mile.


I'm not really sure why I'm such a bad runner. Frankly, I'd like to blame it all on my parents. Growing up, there was never a moment when I could walk into any room of our tiny little apartment without waving my hands to cut through the wafting cloud of cigarette smoke. Surely that has a long term effect on the lungs, right?

At least the apartment had about 800 square feet to disburse the smoke. No such luck when we had to take a car ride. Like most kids, I sat in the middle of the back seat so I could see out the front window of the car - always pretending I was driving. After 10 or 15 minutes, the car looked like a scene out of John Carpenter's "The Fog." Surely that has a long term effect on the lungs, right?

Fast forward a few years and I find myself a young Navy seaman cutting through the wind as only an 18 year old with a Marlboro in his mouth can! Hmm...perhaps my parents can't shoulder all the blame for my lack of running prowess.

Fast forward 11 more years. Two packs-a-day and the lung capacity of a gnat and I finally put the Marlboros down for good.


When I joined the Air Force Reserves and came on to the base for the first time, the Tinker trails just off Reserve Road was one of my first memories. The trails, which I knew were designed for running, provided me with a great deal of fear and loathing. Keep in mind, three Presidents have been in office since the last time I ran further than from my La-Z-Boy to the refrigerator.

After finishing Knowledge Operations School last year, I began seasonal training program orders. Putting aside my fear of the trails, I went out a couple times a week to enjoy a good run.

Those mornings out there with various other groups proved quite enjoyable. Small packs stretching, setting Garmin GPS watches, getting ready for 30 minutes of grueling pleasure.

I typically stay towards the back of these packs knowing it's futile for me to try to stay up front with the good runners. And besides, if I run slowly, then I have time to enjoy what the trails have to offer.

So, with my extremely bright running clothes on, I head down the trail following the pack.

Most mornings the trail offers many visuals and smells. I can close my eyes and know where I am just by the smell alone. Crossing over the wood bridges in the shade, the scent of wet leaves becomes overpowering. Snniiiiiiifffffff, ahh.

Some mornings, I am graced by a rabbit popping out of the woods and effortlessly leaving me in its dust. I have a love hate relationship with that rabbit - while it might take me away from random thoughts, possibly stress-related, I get quite riled up thinking about a seemingly insignificant animal that can obliterate me like that.

Those beautiful mornings quickly turn to colder, darker more dreary mornings as winter encroaches on our happy-go-lucky trail days. The packs of bright clothed, Garmin toting runners thin out to nearly nothing, as we all prepare for the frigid, windy Oklahoma winter.

Now it's mid-March and the days are growing longer and the dreary winter is pushing back, giving way to the warmer temperatures.

Driving down Reserve Road this morning, thoughts of that rabbit sitting somewhere in the woods chuckling at my car driving by, as it waits to see me plodding down the trail so it can burst out of the tall grass and toy with me again, run through my head.

My heart rate spikes as I write this because I know it's time for another summer of fear and loathing on the Tinker trails.

My favorite running jam is "Satch Boogie" by Joe Satriani
What's yours?