Air Force Marathon 'Stars' runner details passion for running

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mikaley Kline
  • Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – For U.S. Air Force retired Master Sgt. Gary Moroney, visiting Kenya is what helped him find and foster a passion for running during a time when he needed something positive in his life.

“I had three kids, and I was going through a divorce while learning how to be a single parent in the Air Force,” he said.

Another gunner friend of his took him to the beach for a run.

“It was only about a 15-minute run, but I was winded and out of breath,” he said. “I was shocked that my friend told me he was going to keep running, after we finished our run together.”

This experience piqued Moroney’s interest and running, he soon started running five and 10K races at Hurlburt Field, FL.

“I had a running buddy whose wife would watch the kids while we went running," he said. "They’d wait for us at the finish line. This is how I went from running 5K to 10K races, eventually getting into half marathon races.”

Moroney got into running the Air Force Marathon because he loved running longer distances. He is an Air Force Marathon Stars runner which is an individual who has run in every race since its inception. According to the AFM website, Gary Moroney is only one of 23 other people to do so.

Now that he is retired, he loves coming back to the marathon so that he can be close to his Air Force family.

“Seeing all the military folks as well as the Stars runners again keeps me coming back,” Moroney said. “We’re all like family to each other now. We’ve seen our big group go down in numbers and we don’t want to lose anybody.”

During the marathon weekend, Moroney participates in the “Fly! Fight! Win!” challenge, an event where participants partake in the 5k, 10K and marathon races. This year was not his first time partaking in all three races. He has done this since before the challenge was offered and the 10K and marathon started simultaneously.

“I wanted to participate in the 5K, 10K and the full marathon,” he said. “So, I had an idea one year to participate in all the races, so I thought of a way to do it and got approval before it was actually an event [Fly! Fight! Win! challenge].”

Moroney chuckled when he mentioned people thought he was crazy for doing instead of conserving all his energy for the marathon. His love for running expanded into being an ultra-marathoner.

“This past February I ran a 100-hour timed run, so I was able to 201 miles for that one. I like to get out an enjoy the fresh air and see nature while running, and ultra running allows me to do this.”

For Beth Moroney, Gary’s wife, she loves seeing him do something that he is deeply passionate about.

“I’ve done a couple marathons, but for me my feet start killing me after eight miles and it’s just not fun for me anymore,” she said. “I think when you’re with someone who is passionate about something like that, it’s about being there for them. I give him moral support and stability so that he can do what he needs to do without worry.”

Beth helps him when he’s feeling sick, she handles parking, and getting him to and from the race so that he only needs to think about the race. For Moroney, the support his wife provides him encourages him while running.

“She really helped me on that 200-mile race I did because I know I would not have finished without her,” he said. “At about the 150-mile mark my feet were getting beat up so she taped them for me and without her I never would have finished the 200 miles.”

Moroney started his career as a B-52 Stratofortress weapons loader at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. He later became an AC-130 gunner and worked with the MH-53 helicopter, Moroney was excited about procuring the marathon medals that had the aircraft he worked on inside them. He has no intention to stop running the Air Force Marathon and earning those medals.