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Challenge accepted

Master Sgt. Troy Thornton, 325th Logistic Readiness Squadron fuels operation section chief, and Senior Airman Kenneth Houston, 325th LRS fuels distribution operator, stand for a photo Nov. 7. Both Airmen competed to see who could run the most miles during the month of October, accumulating more than 400 miles combined. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sergio A. Gamboa)

Master Sgt. Troy Thornton, 325th Logistic Readiness Squadron fuels operation section chief, and Senior Airman Kenneth Houston, 325th LRS fuels distribution operator, stand for a photo Nov. 7. Both Airmen competed to see who could run the most miles during the month of October, accumulating more than 400 miles combined. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sergio A. Gamboa)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The challenge was issued. Both parties shook hands. Both Airmen knew the road ahead would be long and tiring, but with unwavering determination neither yielded to the task.

Two Airmen competed to see who could run the most miles during the month of October. When the month ended, more than 400 miles were ran combined. It was a close battle but in the end, only one could take the glory.

Master Sgt. Troy Thornton, 325th Logistic Readiness Squadron fuels operation section chief, and Senior Airman Kenneth Houston, 325th LRS fuels distribution operator, both competed for the victory.

"I started saying I could beat him at running, but I was joking with him at the beginning," said Houston. "After people in the office made it in to a big deal, I got into it and agreed to the challenge. Once I did that, I realized I had made a mistake."

Once they set the date, members of their unit began talking.

"Our co-workers thought we were crazy, especially when the mileage started getting higher," said Thornton. "When we first started, I thought I was going to be near 180 miles for the month, but it was higher than that. A lot of them were saying 'when is it going to stop?'"

In the beginning, neither of them had anticipated the amount of time or exhaustion the competition would take.

"At first it was very exhausting," said Thornton. "After, it was fun, and towards the end of the month it was more of a job. I wanted to get more miles to beat Houston. It was hard to determine who was winning because we both didn't know how many miles the other had."

Houston also shared his thoughts.

"I definitely thought I had a chance of winning," he said. "I have a lot of pride and that's the thing that kept me going. The whole time it was exhausting. At first my joints weren't used to all the running so they were hurting, but it was easier as the weeks passed."

Both were motivated by age, and that is what kept them going.

"The younger Airmen keep me going. I don't want to be outdone by them and obviously they don't want to be outdone by someone older," said Thornton. "Houston's whole mentality was not getting beat by an 'old man. I think this friendly competition brings morale to the shop.'"

During physical training, their unit emphasizes on running, Thornton said.

"When young Airmen see me or someone older in the shop get a good time during our runs or even the amount of distance we run, it motivates them," he added. "Not everybody likes to run and if we didn't make them run they wouldn't, but at the end it pays off for them."

At the beginning, their coworkers didn't think Houston stood a chance at winning, but were proven wrong.

"Nobody thought that I had a chance at winning," said Houston. "Once they heard how much I ran they were all pretty shocked. Everybody thought I was only going to get about 80 to 100 miles, but I proved them wrong."

Whispers were running around their office of being a close battle towards the end. The total miles ran by each individual was kept a secret from one another, but the office knew how close the race was going to be.

At the end Houston ran 203 miles.

When asked about participating in another competition like this, Houston said with a serious face and eyes wide-open, "Absolutely not! That was the worst month of my life. It took a lot of my personal life away too, so I doubt I will ever do it again."

"Towards the end I felt accomplished running over 200 miles," said Houston. "I have never done that in my life. I ran cross country in high school and never ran close to that number."

Thornton ran 216 miles, sometimes running up to 16 miles a day.

Waking up to run before work and running after work is something they won't miss for a while. There was nothing fun about running almost every day.

"This month was crazy," Thornton said with an exhausted look. "I wouldn't do it anytime soon, but I would probably give it another shot."

He also had words of encouragement for his opponent.

"He is awesome and a great competitor," said Thornton. "He had me scared a few times. He is good at saying the right things to make you wonder where exactly he was at mile distance. He was very secretive with his mileage, and he surprised me too. At one point they were saying I was up 50 miles on him but he closed that gap pretty quick."

Houston shared his sentiment towards him.

"Doing this by myself, on my own, made me feel a lot more proud," he said. "I thought our age difference would have helped me out a lot more, but it didn't. He has a real strong mindset and he definitely has my respect for everything he did."