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24 half-marathons and counting

Army sergeant says his distance running is ‘a good stress reliever’

Published: 12:29PM December 20th, 2012
24 half-marathons and counting

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

“I’m going into the new year with a half (marathon) just to say, hey, let’s get the new year started off right,” Jason McKennon says.

Jason McKennon is hitting his second prime.

When the Army sergeant isn’t working with JBLM Dental Command, coaching his 4-year-old son’s soccer and basketball teams, or teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, McKennon is logging miles on foot. The former high school and college track and cross-country athlete continues to be active in the sport he loves.

McKennon is preparing for his 24th half marathon, the Yukon Do It race in Port Orchard, Dec. 31.

“I’m going into the new year with a half (marathon) just to say, hey, let’s get the new year started off right,” McKennon said.

To add to his training, McKennon recently ran in JBLM’s Turkey Trot and Santa’s Reindeer Dash. He used the 5K and 10K races for speed workouts. McKennon was the first 5K finisher of the Turkey Trot and caught the attention of the JBLM Army Ten-Miler Team Coordinator, Kathy Salcedo. But McKennon, who will PCS to San Antonio in June, is trying to figure out if he can fit in the dedicated training needed for the elite race that has always been at the back of his mind.

“With my busy schedule I squeeze in runs whenever I can,” he said. “I just like to run to stay fit and for the challenge.”

One race McKennon has committed to before he departs JBLM is the Tacoma City Marathon, which would mark his eighth completed 26.2-mile race. But the scenery will be hard to compete as the best McKennon has seen through his travels with the Army. While in Egypt for a year he ran half and full marathons in his new home country as well as in Israel and Jordan. Stationed with Soldiers from 12 other countries, McKennon ran as part of a sponsored running group.

To date a marathon he ran in Tel Aviv, Israel remains the most memorable run for McKennon, who said he fell in love with the country.

“You’re away from home and it just felt comfortable and almost at home,” he said. “It just took my mind away from the assignment I was on. That what running does for me — it’s a good stress reliever.”

These days McKennon makes time to run early in the morning or late at night when he can’t sleep. He became used to running at night while in Egypt because it was too hot to run during the day. Whenever he finds the time to run he makes certain it is outdoors, as McKennon is not a fan of treadmills. There are times when he will take his young son with him in his stroller, and now that his wife, Melissa, is training for her first marathon, it can be a whole family affair.

“It’s almost like another world,” he said. “It’s you and the elements. I’ll be out there running in snow.”

Melissa, who medically retired from the Army two years ago, also works at the YMCA, where Jason teaches a group exercise class and cycling class. Their young son often runs in organized 5Ks with his dad, and Jason hopes to one day run a marathon with his son.

“A lot of people get intimidated by running and say, ‘I’m not a runner,’” Jason McKennon said. “No one is really a runner but anybody can do it. It’s worth the challenge. I encourage everybody to get out there.”