AFNWC commander finishes 5th marathon in 1 year on fitness journey

  • Published
  • By Aimee Malone
  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center
With his fifth marathon in a year, Maj. Gen. John Newberry, commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, checked a major goal off his personal checklist.
Newberry, who has been casually and competitively running for more than 20 years, said he decided to set a new fitness challenge for himself in 2022, which he completed when he finished the Duke City Marathon on Oct. 16 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I turned 50 this year and challenged myself to run five marathons while 50 or, as I call it, ‘5 at 50,’” he said. “The Disney marathon in Orlando in January was the first, and my fifth was the Duke City Marathon here in Albuquerque in October.”
“I have not been a lifelong jogger — or runner, if you care about your race time,” Newberry said.
“Coming out of the Academy and entering the active force, I relied on my youth to power through the annual Air Force fitness test and relished my couch-potato life. 
“As a mid-grade captain in 2001, my boss ‘volunteered’ me to join his marathon relay team. At that point, I knew I needed to at least train a little to be prepared for my approximately 6-mile portion of the marathon.”
Although running in the relay team had not been his choice at first, Newberry discovered he enjoyed running. He kept up with the sport and began to develop his first real fitness routine.
“Following that race, I kept up casually jogging for the next decade-plus until I was a young colonel and in my early 40s,” Newberry said. “In 2013, I decided if I was ever going to run a marathon, then there was no better time than the present.”
His first-ever marathon was the Air Force Marathon, which is held annually at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Riverside, Ohio.
“On Jan. 1, 2014, I signed up for the Air Force Marathon, giving me a full nine months to prepare for the September race,” Newberry said. “I completed the race and felt good about my performance and really enjoyed the whole experience.  I decided to stay in marathon fitness shape and sign up for the next marathon in spring 2015.”
The rest, he said, is history.
“Eight years and 23 marathons later, there is no doubt I caught the ‘running bug,’” Newberry said. “Since I started electronically tracking my running distances in 2010, I have run 19,480 miles.”
He runs for a variety of reasons, touting both the physical and mental benefits that come with running, especially marathons. Marathons give runners a chance to visit new locations and meet new people, all while reaping health benefits and doing an activity they enjoy.
“I enjoy the training, the fitness benefits and the people,” he said. “Marathoners are just happy people! Marathons are also a nice excuse to visit places.”
Newberry said he has visited many interesting places while running. Some of these places he might not have visited had a marathon not brought him there.
“I have done the smallest to the largest,” he said. “The largest include New York City and Chicago, while some of the smallest included small-town races in Xenia, Ohio, and New Castle, Indiana. I have traveled across the country to Big Sur, California; Orlando, Florida; and Detroit, Michigan. I have also done the patriotic races, like the Marine Corps Marathon.”
Physical fitness is the most obvious benefit of training for and running marathons. Newberry said he runs five days per week and walks the other two. During an average week, he runs between 20 to 30 miles. However, in the months leading up to a marathon, he will increase his distances as part of his training.
“For a couple months leading up to a marathon, my distances for the weekend long run exceed half marathons,” he said.
While he has been a competitive runner in the past, Newberry said he now values the experience and fitness benefits more than he values beating his own or other runners’ best times.
“I have matured from running for the fastest time to being happy completing a marathon pain free, ready to run another day,” he said.
He said 2022 was likely his high mark for the number of races run in one year, but he plans to continue running.
“I have eyes on 2023 and looking at what is next in the marathon bucket list,” Newberry said. “My goals are to stay healthy and keep running, but I have not decided what race to sign up for.”
Running is his chosen method of exercising and staying healthy, though he said he knows not everyone will enjoy it.
Newberry encourages everyone to find and pursue their own forms of physical fitness, whether it’s running, biking, lifting weights or something else. The health and wellness benefits are worth the effort, he said.
“I know running is not for everyone, but it is my ‘thing,’” he said. “I encourage everyone to find their fitness thing and go after it.”