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Marathons are just the beginning for Missouri ANG Airman

Staff Sgt. Scott Singleton poses outside the 157th Air Operations Group during April 2021 drill.

Staff Sgt. Scott Singleton poses outside the 157th Air Operations Group during April 2021 drill.

JEFFERSON BARRACKS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mo. --

Staff Sgt. Scott Singleton of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 157th Air Operations Group says he was drawn to long distance running because of the personal challenge. He completed several marathons in the early 2010s, but found himself searching for an even tougher goal to conquer. “Finishing a marathon is hard, but it’s not something most people don’t finish. I wanted to do something I might not finish,” explained Singleton. That’s how he discovered ultramarathons.

An ultramarathon is technically any race that is longer than 26.2 miles, though the shortest distance considered an ultra is 50 kilometers, around 30 miles. Singleton completed 50-mile and 100-kilometer races before tackling a grueling 100-miler. For perspective, that’s the equivalent of running halfway across Missouri, or from New York City to Philadelphia. When asked his strategy for tackling such a feat, Singleton said, “You have to break it down into small pieces—just do it a mile at a time. If you think about the whole length of the race, you probably won’t finish. These 100-mile races, half the people don’t finish.”

He did finish though, and in fact the Prairie Spirit Trail race in March was the third 100-mile ultramarathon he completed. Singleton ran a personal best time of 20 hours 45 minutes and 6 seconds and finished tenth out of a field of 82 runners. According to a 2015 article published in Ultrarunning Magazine, the average time to complete a 100 mile race in 2014 was around 28 hours, so Singleton’s time is considered quite the achievement.

For Singleton, the most difficult aspect of long distance racing is psychological. “The hard part is mental,” he said. “When you walk up to the line knowing how far you have to go, it’s hard for people to think about it, to even want to do it.” He admitted, however, that the physical consequences of an ultramarathon can be daunting as well. Two weeks later, he still felt the lingering effects of the brutal race. “You feel like you got hit by a freight train,” Singleton chuckled. “It’s life or death survival mode, it puts your body into shock.” Aside from the expected body aches, he said his appetite suffered and he had a hard time sleeping for days following the run.

Training for an ultramarathon is a hefty undertaking, and Singleton estimated his daily runs average around 10 kilometers – just over 6.2 miles. In the months leading up to running the Prairie Spirit Trail, he logged 500 miles in preparation. He considers himself a lifelong runner, and although running comes easily to him, training for and completing ultra-marathons is a way to continuously challenge his mind and body. His unique hobby has become a family affair, with his two older children running part of the way with him on his daily runs and his wife helping to supply him at aid stations during races.

Singleton, a cyber systems operations specialist, joined the Missouri Air National Guard in 2016 at age 33. Of his decision to join the military later in life Singleton said, “It was something I always wanted to do, I always wanted to check that box.” Once his children were older, he felt it was the best time to make the commitment. Singleton has appreciated his time in the Air Guard and has enjoyed many new experiences over the past five years. He deployed in 2019 to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, and even with temperatures regularly climbing over 100 degrees, he managed to keep up his running.

So what’s next for this elite distance runner? Despite the physical toll, Singleton isn’t calling it quits anytime soon. He just participated in a 50 mile ultra-marathon in May and is planning for a barely-conceivable 240-miler this October.