By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — So far Lt. Col. Tammy Dotson, 21st Mission Support Group deputy commander, has put down 517 miles running 39 half marathons, 14 of them in 2017. Her goal is to run a half marathon, 13.1 miles, in every state of the union.
“At last count I had 16 states,” Dotson said. She also completed three marathons to date.
She ran track in high school. Dotson thought of herself as a sprinter, running the 100-yard dash, 200 yards at the longest. However, she said a conspiracy between her coach and the cross country coach led to her running far greater distances.
“They must have seen something that I did not see in myself,” said Dotson. “They told me if I wanted to run track I had to run cross country too. I thought, ‘no way,’ that was so far from my mind.”
The coaches judged her correctly and in her first year Dotson finished ninth in the state of Mississippi. In spite of her early success, she did not run in college nor regularly after high school. When 2006 rolled around Dotson started running again.
“I was looking for something to do to occupy my time,” she said. “I needed a new challenge and I saw a flyer about running a marathon. They would train you and you would go to Hawaii for the race.”
Initially Dotson thought finishing the 26.2 mile race was unimaginable, but after six months of training she said she was thrilled to complete her first marathon.
She didn’t continue running regularly for long. Then in 2013 she rekindled a consistent regimen.
Dotson said she was inspired to start the quest for a race in each state while stationed on Wake Island. Her supervisor at the time was fascinated with the Disney running series and travelled to run them frequently. Dotson was intrigued and began training again.
When she changed duty stations to Italy, she realized she could run in different countries. She entered a marathon in Lisbon, Portugal, and from there she was off and running. Dotson ran races in an international running series in Europe and a race that wound through Germany, Austria and Switzerland. She counts eight countries beside the 16 states where she has run races.
“It was a hobby where I could get away,” Dotson said. “You see things on foot you would never see otherwise. I love travel and athletics and it had that. It was also a huge stress relief.”
The running community inspires her, she said. Other runners will run alongside when someone is struggling and encourage others along the way.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “On the course everybody has a different story and are out there for different reasons. It’s what keeps me coming back for more.”
Typically Dotson makes a list of races she wants to participate in at the beginning of the year. Her selection process has changed somewhat, she said.
“Now it’s taken a whole different spin,” said Dotson. “Now I am connected with some groups. I used to (race) alone, but I started seeing some of the same people at races so I connected with them.”
The most challenging half marathon she ran was the Pikes Peak Ascent race. She said it tested her endurance and physical ability more than any other. The most enjoyable was the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland in California.
The most satisfying weekend as she races toward her goal included extended travel and back-to-back races in two states. She began the weekend in Seattle on Friday, then flew to Anchorage, Alaska and ran a half marathon Saturday. After that race she was back on a plane and ran in the Seattle Marathon Sunday, where she broke her personal best time by 10 minutes.
The next race on her agenda is the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in Utah, starting off a string of races every weekend through December. Some weekends she will run twice.
This year Dotson will participate in two service races for the first time. She will take on the Air Force half marathon Sept. 16 followed by a half marathon in Philadelphia the next day. She will tackle her first Marine Corps marathon Oct. 22.