By Justin Oakes, 8th Air Force/J-GSOC Public Affairs
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE –Forty-three marathons, 43 half marathons, more than 20 years of long distance running under her reflective belt as well as being an Air Force officer, wife and mom.
Meet Maj. Amy Natalini – the 2018 Air Force Top Female Athlete of the Year.
Natalini, 37, an intelligence officer within Eighth Air Force, starts most days waking up before 4:30 a.m., running 10 miles before the sun emerges (in approximately 1 hr 20 mins by the way) and preparing her family for the work day, before most people are finished hitting the snooze button on their alarm clocks.
Her selection as the service’s top female athlete spanned across all Air Force installations worldwide and included active-duty, Guard and Reserve candidates. But athletic achievement isn’t the only criteria, candidates must also possess military honors and awards as well as civic recognition.
“It is no small feat to be named the top female athlete within the entire Air Force,” said Maj. Gen. James Dawkins, Jr., 8th Air Force and J-GSOC commander. “Maj. Natalini’s extraordinary fitness accomplishments and superior work performance clearly speaks for itself.”
And Natalini has quite the list of accomplishments.
Natalini is considered one of the top long distance runners in the Air Force. For the last three years, she ran on the Air Force team (comprised of only four women) and traveled to the Marine Corps Marathon to participate in the Armed Forces Challenge, also known as the Department of Defense Championship.
In 2018, Natalini led the team in the championship and her finish time of 2:55:57 earned her 8th place among females in a group of 21,000 runners. Her finish also qualified her as one of only four U.S. Armed Forces competitors advancing to the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China later this year.
“China is not going to be just another race, the opportunity to run with world-class runners from around the globe is going to be a once in a lifetime experience,” said Natalini.
She was also ranked as the second overall female finisher in the Louisiana Marathon, Fort Worth Cow Town Marathon, the BMW Dallas Marathon and the Little Rock Marathon. The avid runner also placed in the top percent of runners in the prestigious Boston and New York Marathons.
However, Natalini does not view herself as a professional runner, but an amateur competitor who happens to put in a lot of hard work, time and miles to be “pretty good” at running.
“You would be surprised by the number of people out there just like me who have jobs, a family and other hobbies, but love running and work hard to be good at it,” said Natalini. “It’s taken me almost 20 years to get me to this point. The belief in myself that I could be better has been through the encouragement of my family and my coach Sarah Bishop.”
Natalini’s husband Ryan, 38, who is also an Air Force officer, and their daughter Mackayla, 9, can often been seen running with their mom. And surprisingly enough, they can even keep pace (if only for a time).
“I could not do this alone,” said Natalini. “My family and friends cheer me on wherever I race. That motivation helped improve my speed this year, and I have had some amazing races. I’m even happier that I was able to coach and teach young students and Airmen what it means to be healthy and happy as well as make goals and reach them.”
Since her college days, Natalini has coached and mentored a wide range of students. From young aspiring runners in high school to all ages of military members. Imparting knowledge so that others improve their health and skill remains a driving force for the Female Athlete of the Year.
For those that participate in one of her clinics, here are a few tips you are most likely to hear:
- Long distance running is a commitment and being consistent will get you far.
- You can’t outrun a bad diet
- Start with small goals (example, running a 5K before tackling a half marathon)
- The sport is only as expensive as you make, but a good pair of shoes does go a long way in preventing injury
“Athlete of the Year is more than just being a runner,” said Natalini. “It’s being a coach, inspiring Airmen and young adults, and being lifted up by friends and family, as well as being moved by the very best in human spirit. Once you’ve completed a marathon, you’ll realize that there’s nothing like it. This award represents that feeling for me.”