A running bond

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
It's Saturday at 7:30 a.m., and it's roughly 27 degrees outside in Richmond, Virginia. People are just waking, awaiting that first cup of coffee to bring warmth to one of the first chilly days of the season.

Abigail Webber is not one of those individuals about to ready the embrace of steam from a hot "cup of Joe" as it gets closer and closer to her always-smiling mouth. Instead, she is outside at the starting line of the Richmond Marathon, where the only steam is from the runners' breath as it meets the cold air.

She sets her watch, and it's "go time."

"It was actually really beautiful," she said of her third full marathon. "It was cold, but it was probably the best marathon I've done."

Webber, a second lieutenant in the U.S.  Air Force, has run since she was 13 years old.

"My sister joined the cross country team, and of course, being the younger sister, I always have to do everything she does, so I joined when I was in seventh grade and have been running ever since," said Webber.

Running became a shared activity within her family, especially between Webber and her father, a retired Air Force colonel who ran a closer pace to Webber than her Boston Marathon-running sister. Webber was even the one who got her father hooked by gifting him his first half-marathon for Christmas.

"Holly is really fast; her marathon time is about an hour faster than ours, so she would just go," said Webber of her sister. "For Dad and me, it's just a calm and relaxed story time."

Twenty miles with nothing but each other's company made room for plenty of discussion.

"We would just talk about life, goals and dreams," said Webber of running with her father. "He's my mentor and has guided me through every decision."

It was on a run with her father that she decided to join the Air Force, "I remember running with my dad and talking to him about a girl I ran with in high school who got into the University of Virginia and did ROTC, I was like 'I can do that,' and he said 'go for it.'"

On another run, she decided to go to nursing school, "He asked me if I could handle the course load, and I jokingly said, 'No,' because I flashed back to when he helped me study for the SAT and how difficult that was."

After running, they looked up everything it would take for Webber to become a nurse, and while she was in the process of becoming a nurse, runs with her dad kept her going through the stress.

"My first year of nursing was hard. Whoever said nursing is easy is wrong, but when I ran with my dad I would just get to vent," she said. "He was a doctor in the Air Force for 27 years, so he's very level-headed. He just listens and gives me very clear answers."

Before Webber left for officer field training, her dad helped her prepare during runs, "He would quiz me on stuff like quotes that I had to memorize for field training."

To this day, the two still discuss the young lieutenant's goals and future while running together every week at Langley Air Force Base, where Webber is stationed as a labor and delivery nurse with the 633rd Inpatient Squadron.

Even when her dad isn't around to run with her, running just one mile to decompress after a day of admitting, triaging, delivering, treating cesarean-sections and seeing patients through post-partum care helps Webber decompress.

"I'm responsible for two lives and that's very stressful," said the nurse. "Your license is on the line and you're an officer--it's a lot of responsibility as a second lieutenant, and things can happen quickly for no reason."

On one of her first shifts after orientation at Langley, she was assigned a post-cesarean patient who was dilated six centimeters. Because the patient was post-cesarean, she had a lot of abdominal pain and had an epidural.

"When they have epidurals they can't move that well, so I took the patient's temperature and moved her from her from right to left," said Webber.
In that moment, the baby's heart rate, which is supposed to be around 110, dropped into the 40's.

"The mother couldn't breathe," she said.  "At that point, I pulled the call bell and put oxygen on her. Everyone came in and we ran her to the operating room where I helped intubate her. "

Four hours later, a healthy mother and child united. The other nurses assured her there was nothing she did wrong; it was just a freak-happening, but Webber said she was still shaken-up.

"I was in the OR for six hours. I'm almost positive I ran after that because I was a mess," she said, explaining that she needed to just run and remind herself that she was still good at her job and that she could handle it.

"it's a lot of pressure. And, a lot of nurses try to be perfect, but it's not black and white. Things aren't predictable and perfect," said Webber." But, for me, running is perfect - it's a time I can just reevaluate everything and say 'it's okay, I'm going to be fine.'"

While running, she also reassures her father -- even if she doesn't realize it.

"I don't think I do that much to keep him going, just sometimes cheer him on," she said.

For her father, just having his daughter show up as his running partner him and keeps him going as he runs with a goal in mind: qualify for the Boston Marathon.

"So many days I wouldn't feel like running, but she would insist, 'We're going to run and keep the pace up,'" said Frederickson.

In early 2012, Webber and her dad began training for the Air Force Marathon in September, where her dad was hoping to qualify for the 2013 Boston Marathon.

They trained, and by race day they kept pace with the 03:40:00 group up to mile 20. Mile 20 brought on a steep overpass. The sun was beating down on them and each step up the hill got more difficult.

"We were right at pace, but at mile 20 this hill comes up and my legs start cramping, and I just couldn't do it, "Frederickson said. "I told Abby to keep going and that she could still get a great time, but she said, 'No way, we are finishing this together.' "

They crossed the finish line together at around 03:51:00, 11 minutes short of the qualifying time.

"We got so close to the time, and the Air Force marathon was really difficult," she said. "It was so hot and that overpass was tough, I know if he runs another one, he'll get the time."

"The fact that she wanted to finish the race with me when she could have gotten this great time almost brings tears to my eyes," addded her father.

For Webber, she's happy just pacing for and spending time with her father. Running is their father- daughter time, a time to reminisce, dream about the future, tell stories and just simply be there for each other.