Reaching the Finish Line
October 14, 2008
Sgt. First Class Victor Lopez, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico and now lives in Jamaica, Queens, has been serving with the New York National Guard in Afghanistan since January. In between his job with a maintenance unit supporting the 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Unit, Lopez has run in six races at Kandahar Air Field – including a marathon – while dealing with the extreme weather, tough terrain and poor air quality.
The 38-year-old single father slowed down enough to talk to War Zone about getting in shape – and the lessons he’s teaching his 6-year-old son, Camil.
“Almost three years ago – weighing in at a whopping 267 lbs. – I started exercising. I couldn’t continue to live my life the way I was living it. Becoming a single parent has helped me become a better person, set the example for my son and motivated me to strive harder. So nearing 40 years old, I began thinking about what I wanted to accomplish, new things I wanted to experience and what I may miss if I didn’t start setting some goals of my own. It was during my weight loss program that I started looking into one day running a full marathon. I never thought I’d accomplish this goal in a combat zone.”
“Today, I’m currently 191 lbs. – a 76-lb. loss. To date I have completed six races in Afghanistan – one 8K, two 10K, a 10-miler, a half-marathon and a full marathon. The marathon was something I had to do for me. And I’m really glad I did it. It put a lot of things in perspective for me. First, training for it made my time here go by faster. I trained every day, sometimes twice a day. It also helped me deal with my family separation and the stress of combat. When I crossed the finish line at 4 hours, 3 minutes and 54 seconds, I was overcome by joy and a sense of accomplishment. I found a new level of joy that I didn’t know existed. Basically, you can do anything you set your mind to. It’s harder than you think, but it’s worth the effort. I’m looking forward to doing the New York City marathon next.”