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Runners get fit to fight during Air Force Week in the Heartland

Nearly 250 participants take off from the starting gate Aug. 10 for the seven-mile Bellevue/Offutt Runway Run during Air Force Week in the Heartland supported by Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Nearly 250 participants take off from the starting gate Aug. 10 for the seven-mile Bellevue/Offutt Runway Run during Air Force Week in the Heartland supported by Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Jessica Kahnk makes her way across the three-mile marker of the seven-mile Bellevue/Offutt Runway Run Aug. 10 during Air Force Week in the Heartland supported by Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. Ms. Kahnk is a teacher at McMillan Middle School in Omaha, Neb., and is scheduled to attend the Air Force Officer Training School in June. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Jessica Kahnk makes her way across the three-mile marker of the seven-mile Bellevue/Offutt Runway Run Aug. 10 during Air Force Week in the Heartland supported by Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. Ms. Kahnk is a teacher at McMillan Middle School in Omaha, Neb., and is scheduled to attend the Air Force Officer Training School in June. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Runners make their way across the finish line after competing in the seven-mile Bellevue/Offutt Runway Run Aug. 10 during Air Force Week in the Heartland supported by Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Runners make their way across the finish line after competing in the seven-mile Bellevue/Offutt Runway Run Aug. 10 during Air Force Week in the Heartland supported by Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The week is designed to broaden awareness of the Air Force's role in the war on terrorism and strengthen support for Airmen serving worldwide in defense of freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AFPN) -- Approximately 250 runners spiraled through Offutt Air Force Base and the surrounding community in the first Bellevue/Offutt Runway Run as part of Air Force Week in the Heartland Aug. 10 here.

Military members and civilian running enthusiasts did their part to be fit to fight as they ran through the base and on the flightline past F-16 Fighting Falcons and RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft during the seven-mile race.

The race began and ended at the Bellevue Public School's Lied Activity Center, and before the run, former Olympian Jeff Galloway gave the participants some tips on running. He advised the runners on how to run safely and injury free.

Airmen from Offutt AFB were in force for the run as they manned the course with water stations, provided security and had medics on hand just in case. Base officials opened the gates for the runners without hesitation and allowed the race participants to challenge themselves on a race to get and stay fit.

"Fit to fight means being mentally and physically fit to do my job," said Capt. Gregory Guevara, a 45th Reconnaissance Squadron electronic warfare officer at Offutt AFB who ran in the race. He said he runs approximately 15 miles a week and the benefits of being in shape helps people through the rough days.

"A lot of time people are on the road and they get tired, but if you make time to work out you will feel much better," he said. "When you work long days, you'll have more energy because you worked out."

"This is great that the Air Force is putting this race on and allowing us to run by the military planes," said Jessica Kahnk, a McMillian Middle School science teacher in Omaha, Neb. "Running keeps your body in check, keeps your body healthy and helps keep you emotionally stable."

The teacher has been accepted to Air Force Officer Training School and will go into the Air Force in June 2009 and learn to become a navigator.

"I love the Air Force," she said. "My grandfather was in the Air Force and when I was little I heard his stories. He inspired me to join. My ambitions when I was young were to teach and fly planes, and now I will get that chance to fulfill my dreams."

Runners from all over the world took part in the Runway Run including Afghan Army 1st Lt. Mahbobullah Moradi, a special action officer for the Afghan assistant for education and personnel. He is receiving training at Offutt AFB and joined in the race.

"Every day in America I learn something about America and the American military," Lieutenant Moradi said. "Training and being fit is very important, and (American military leaders) stress it and show how much they care about being fit and how much they care about their forces."

People of all ages took part in the race. Nine-year-old Hannah Pavelka from Bellevue and her whole family participated in the race. Her father, Tim Pavelka, mother, Janita Pavelka, and 11-year-old brother, Christian, all ran while sisters Rachel, 13, and Amanya, 7, helped hand out water at the finish line.

"This is the longest I've ever run," Hannah said. "Those big planes were cool."

The race was won by Joseph Burnette, a 15-year-old sophomore from Papillion-La Vista High School in Papillion, Neb., who finished the run in 43 minutes and 36 seconds. The top female finisher was Amanda Lee, a 19-year-old Lincoln, Neb., native attending Middlebury College in Vermont. She ran the course in 50:30.

The Air Force Week in the Heartland runs from Aug. 9 through 17. It is a part of a proactive initiative to increase communication with the public. Air Force Week includes community visits and talks by Air Force officials, flight demonstration team performances and displays highlighting the Air Force men and women serving on the front lines. Air Force Week was held earlier this year in Philadelphia and is scheduled from Nov. 14 through 21 in Los Angeles.

For more information on Air Force Week in the Heartland activities, visit www.airforceweekintheheartland.com.