An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Airman, athlete, competitor: MacDill Airman competes in ultramarathons

  • Published
  • By Alannah Don
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Inspiration for the modern marathon, a 26.2-mile race, stems from military origins. Legend tells of a Greek soldier who ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of the defeated Persian Army. More than two millennia later, one Airman at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, is writing his own story.


Master Sgt. Michael Dupertuis, the aircrew flight equipment superintendent assigned to the 6th Operations Support Squadron, is part of a select group of athletes driven to compete in the sport of ultramarathon running.


“An ultramarathon is anything longer than a marathon, usually 50 kilometers (30 miles) or more,” explained Dupertuis, who over the past few years has completed two.


However, Dupertuis never planned to become a serious runner, let alone an ultramarathon athlete.


“The Big D Marathon in Dallas, Texas, was eye opening. By about mile 18 my body started breaking down,” said Dupertuis, recalling how unforgiving the pavement had been.


After he completed his first traditional street marathon, Dupertuis said he never intended to continue running.


But he did.


His interest in running began while stationed at Moody AFB, Georgia, where he was introduced to trail running during daily physical training.


“I’ve always enjoyed being outside and running in the woods,” said Dupertuis. “It’s quieter, less crowded, and lets me enjoy the wildlife and terrain around me.”


He continued trail running at a subsequent duty station and explained, the more he ran, the more he enjoyed the sport. With the support of a nearby trail running community and his family, Dupertuis attempted his first ultramarathon.


“I started running ultramarathons because I wanted to prove to myself and others that I could,” said Dupertuis. “I had already run a marathon and I figured that 50 kilometers wasn’t much further.”


However, Dupertuis explained his first ultramarathon, a 50K, started off on the wrong foot; a failure he believes to be the result of inadequate preparation.


“I was going back out to do the last eight miles, and I tripped, caught my toe and my legs cramped up,” explained Dupertuis. “Everything cramped up and I was exhausted. I pushed through because my wife and kids were going to be at the finish line. I wanted to show my kids that if you push, you can finish anything you start.”


Dupertuis explained it took him three-and-a-half hours to finish the last eight miles of the race. However, despite his defeat, he was determined to try again.


To date, Dupertuis has logged two ultramarathons and many shorter long-distance races. His longest run to date is a 100K ultramarathon.


“I found the 100K because I was looking for a 50-mile race,” said Dupertuis.


Dupertuis explained that the race website advertised a medal for everyone that finished, but something more attractive caught his eye.


“Those who completed the 100K would get a big ole’ belt buckle and being me, I decided to run 12 more miles,” said Dupertuis.


Dupertuis explained that except for a brief period of doubt around mile 30, his 100K  performance significantly improved from his first marathon.


“I felt good the whole time, I was just enjoying it,” said Dupertuis. “The last 16 miles were nothing but rain and I loved it. Running in the dark with only a head lamp, slopping through the mud made me feel like a kid again.”


Dupertuis’ accomplishment is largely the result of extensive conditioning, which he claims is key to completing an ultramarathon.


“During the week, I run twice a day and cross-train with weights,” Dupertuis said. “On the weekends, I do a pace run on Saturday and a long run on Sunday.  The idea is to run on tired legs so your body is used to it during a race.”


For new runners, the feat of an ultramarathon may seem out of reach, but Dupertuis encourages others to start small by building a strong base and gradually adding distance as he did.


“I didn’t start running until Master Sgt. Dupertuis introduced me to trail running two years ago,” said Peter Raspitzi, a friend and neighbor. “Running up and down the hills was difficult at first, but now I train about once a week with him.”


Raspitzi explains that although he has completed a few short distance races, he plans to leave ultramarathon running to his neighbor, who he describes as exceptionally driven.


“I think his drive and determination is what makes him so successful,” explained Raspitzi. “I told him he was out of his mind to run an ultramarathon, but he was determined to prove that he could. When he puts his mind to something, he does it.”


While legend states Pheidippides, the Greek messenger from Marathon collapsed in death upon delivering the news of victory to Athens, Dupertuis shows no signs of stopping. This fall he plans to complete two ultramarathon races. In the meantime, Dupertuis continues to train daily, honoring the military-rooted tradition of marathon running.