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Airman swims, rides, runs to title

Jun. 26, 2009 - 12:55PM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 26, 2009 - 12:55PM  |  
Tech. Sgt. Michael Bergquist nears the finish line of a duathlon -- a race that goes run, bike, run -- in Washington.
Tech. Sgt. Michael Bergquist nears the finish line of a duathlon -- a race that goes run, bike, run -- in Washington. (COURTESY OF MICHAEL BERGQUIST)

On any given day, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Bergquist runs more miles than some people drive. Then he changes his clothes, gets on his bike and rides more miles than some people drive in a week. Then he changes into his uniform and goes to work at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., as an Air National Guardsman on Title 10 orders.

Bergquist, an elite endurance athlete by day and a satellite communications technician by night, keeps up a relentless, punishing schedule to meet both his service duties and his training goals.

His two lives come together at the starting lines of races across the country — running, swimming and/or biking, short and long, but mostly long. As a member of the Air Force triathlon team and the National Guard marathon team, he sometimes competes for the services officially — but even when the race is personal, he always wears Air Force or Guard gear.

The Air Force returned the recognition last year, when it named him the service's male athlete of the year.

Bergquist was astonished to be chosen: "Honestly, it kind of blew my mind. ... We had four Olympians," he said.

One thing that might have set him apart is the sheer number of races he competed in and top finishes he took home. Over the year, he won 19 events and set 11 course records.

"Some of the elite-level athletes that I race with ... don't quite understand my full race résumé," the airman said. "They'll typically race ... far fewer races."

But the thrill of competition is what keeps Bergquist going through the long training hours.

"I've had it since I was 4 years old," Bergquist says of his competitive drive. "I'd race you brushing your teeth or eating a cookie."

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