By Senior Airman Naomi Griego
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
He wakes before dawn, slips on a pair of tattered, old running shoes and hits the pavement in a flurry.
It’s a routine Chief Master Sgt. Alex Escarcega can’t escape. Every day for the past 36 years has started the same way.
“I’m a runner,” said Escarcega, the 310th Operations Group chief enlisted manager.
“Runner” is an understatement. Escarcega has completed eight marathons, over 100 10Ks and around 40 half-marathons. He was recently selected to join the Air Force Space Command team at the Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in September.
The team is composed of 10 runners. Four members will complete the full marathon and the other six will complete the half-marathon. The major command team with the lowest combined score will earn a traveling trophy.
“We are really proud of his selection to the team,” said Lt. Col. Michael Assid, 310th Operations Group commander. “He is passionate and driven, and his running is a great reflection of those qualities.”
Assid has known Escarcega for more than a decade and has worked with him directly for nearly two years. He recalled a few months back when the two participated in the 25th annual Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, New Mexico. They rucked the event wearing the Airman Battle Uniform carrying at least 35 pounds over 26.2 miles of rugged terrain. He said Escarcega warmed up before the event with a 5K and ended it with another 5K.
“The guy’s a machine,” Assid said.
Escarcega said he’s always been a runner at heart.
As an Airman, a husband, a father to two children and a runner, his time is limited.
“Once I’m in the office, it’s really difficult to find time for a work out, there’s always something going on,” he said.
Why does he continue to push himself and his body every day even with a hectic schedule and injuries caused by his passion? His answer is simple.
“Why not?” Escarcega said.
He came from a family of jocks, as he put it, who were not long distance runners by any means. So it wasn’t exactly learned behavior. He just started running.
“I didn’t have the hand-eye coordination for football or the size and stature, so I became a runner,” he explained.
He said running is more mental than physical and although it may seem daunting, it is worthwhile.
“I do the majority of my thinking while I’m running,” said Escarcega. “It’s my time to decompress and find balance.”
He went from running a mile here and there in high school to placing 100 out of 5,272 in last year’s Air Force half-marathon. Yet, he is always looking to see how far he can go.
“As humans, we are built to run. It’s something we are all capable of doing,” Escarcega said.
Even though he has had success competing in races, he said it is never about winning.
“Winning is great, but win or lose, it’s about putting forth an honest effort,” he said. “There’s always an unpredictability factor that challenges not only your training, but also your adaptability. Things don’t always go according to plan, that’s life.”
Running for him provides more than just a simple feel-good chemical release. It has been a spiritual journey.
“Watching the sun rise and hearing the waves of the ocean on a run while I was living in California was indescribable,” said Escarcega.
According to Escarcega, running is a metaphor for life. The two are almost one in the same, he said.
“It’s all about moving forward and not looking back during a run or life in general, it will only slow you down,” he said.
As for all the shoes he’s worn throughout the last 36 years, he said he treasures them like one would treasure a favorite shirt.
“Each pair is a part of me and each holds a memory or story associated with them,” he said. “I still have the shoes I wore during a cross-country meet where I won first place. I remember looking down and my foot was crossing the finish line.”
He has no plans to stop any time soon.
“I’ll be a runner until my very last day, it’s just something that I do,” said Escarcega.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series highlighting Schriever Airmen’s journey to the Air Force Marathon.