Going the Distance

  • Published
  • By Capt. Emily Rautenberg

The 514th Air Mobility Wing is filled with richly diverse , talented people. Lt. Col. Daniel Toocheck is no exception.


Toocheck, an optometrist with the 514th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, is a dedicated humanitarian and avid marathon runner.


Originally from West Chester, Pennsylvania, Toocheck has been around military members most of his life. His father was an Army officer who served in the Korean War. His brother, David Toocheck, is also an Air Force officer. In fact, they were both promoted to lieutenant colonel on the same day!


“I always had an interest in being in the Air Force,” Toocheck said. “The events of 9/11 and having children brought out the importance of service to the country.”


Toocheck came straight into the Reserve about eight years ago, immediately joining the 514th AMDS.


“I had heard that the AMDS had members that participated in the Innovative Readiness Training program, and the humanitarian aspect really impressed me,” he said.


IRT’s mission is “to produce mission-ready forces through military training opportunities that provide key services for American communities.” For more information about IRT, visit https://irt.defense.gov/.


Toocheck has since traveled the country to provide quality eye care to American communities in places such as Kodiak Island, Alaska and east central Georgia.


“Since being in the Air Force is voluntary, it takes a lot of sacrifice to make the civilian world and the military commitment blend well,” said Toocheck. “But the beauty of it all is that as long as you use the two worlds to complement the other, you end up getting so much more out of it than you would by just having one or the other.”


In the mid 90’s, before his Air Force career even began, however, Toocheck began training for marathons.


“My father-in-law, who was training for the Marine Corps Marathon, inspired me to train for one,” said Toocheck.


Just like any sport, training starts small so you can build up endurance over time.


“I started with a traditional training program, running five days a week, with a long run on the weekend, gradually adding mileage each week,” he said.


Since he began training, Toocheck has run over 70 marathons. He has run a marathon on all seven continents, a marathon in all fifty states, and the Marine Corps Marathon. Many of them were also with his son, Nikolas.


It was difficult for Toocheck to choose a favorite marathon, but in the end, he said if he had to pick one, it would be the White Continent Marathon in Antarctica.


“It pushes the envelope of what you think you can accomplish,” said Toocheck.


Toocheck explained that for most people, it is a once in a lifetime experience—even though he was able to run it twice. Besides the Philadelphia Marathon, it is the only marathon he has repeated.


“The entire experience was first class,” he said of the White Continent Marathon. “The penguins were irresistible, the race director knew what the runners needed, the other participants were from all over the world, and did I mention the penguins?”


Toocheck says that running a marathon is possible for anyone once they make the commitment.


“My advice to someone trying to prioritize physical training would be to play to your strengths to maximize your chance of success,” he said. “If you are a morning person, do it early, and if you are a night owl, work it in late.”


Consistently is key, according to Toocheck. If you keep a consistent training plan, you’ll be ready when race day comes around, he said.


“Start slowly, don’t get injured, and stick to an overall plan,” Toocheck said. “It takes months to see and maintain results, so you need to be patient.”


Throughout his travels, Toocheck has run with people from all different walks of life.


“Anyone who wants to can finish a marathon,” he said. “I’ve run marathons with a nine-year old in Antarctica, disabled service members, and runners in bare feet. Even Oprah finished a marathon!”


Toocheck also recognizes the importance of motivation when training for marathons.


“You should know why you want to run a marathon. It helps when you start having doubts about putting in the training.”


The benefits of running marathons also go beyond those of physical health. Toocheck said there are aspects of running that are helpful and cross over to other aspects of his life.


“The first time I ran a marathon in Antarctica was the day after I ran one in South America,” Toocheck said. “Pushing the boundaries of what you think is normal or possible opens up what you are capable of accomplishing.”