Marathon runners take inspiration from lives of others

  • Published
  • By James Baker
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
From football to swimming, inspiring athletes are prevalent in every sporting experience. The 2007 U.S. Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson has no shortage of such courageous participants. 

Justin Franco from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas said he will run this year's race as a tribute to his mother. Carmen Franco has fought back from a prolonged coma that had doctors saying she has little chance of surviving and an illness she is still fighting to overcome. 

"My father told us they were going to pull the plug because there was no hope for her," Franco said. "Despite the odds against her, she made it through and after two months of rehabilitation she learned to walk again and was released from the hospital. 

"Now I feel it's my time to give back and fight for something like my mom fought for all of us. The Air Force marathon is giving me that chance." 

Franco said he hopes his mom is well enough to travel so she can witness firsthand as he crosses the finish line in his first-ever marathon. 

Francisco Figueroa Jr. said he promised himself after knee surgery he would get in shape and start losing weight. He took up running with help of support from his friends at Anderson AFB in Guam and has since lost 36 pounds. 

"I have run short and middle distances before, but never a full marathon," he said. "The Air Force event is an excellent venue to experience my first one." 

Figueroa Jr. said he plans to give his finishing medal to Yvonne Espinosa, a friend who helped motivate him every step of the way. 

"I heard the medal for finishers is one of the best in the country," he said. "I intend to give it to (Yvonne) who helped me lose the weight and make a better person out of myself. She will be back from Iraq in September, and she will be very proud of me." 

Wright Patterson's Jamie Beard said his father's untimely death at the age of 54 has encouraged his entry into this year's event. 

"I was never big on running and never thought I would be able to run more than 2 miles," Beard said. "My father was a runner for as long as I could remember, and I used to go on runs with him, but I would fall back and he would go on without me." 

Beard said his dad passed away at the end of 2004, and he started running himself in early 2005. 

"Last year I watched one of my best friends cross the finish line in the half marathon," he said. "Every since then I have had my mind and heart set to run this year's marathon in memory of my father, Willie E. Beard. He still continues to inspire me." 

The U.S. Air Force Marathon will take place Sept. 15 on the grounds of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. This year's event is part of the Air Force 60th Anniversary celebration and is open to the public. Participants and volunteers can register at