Reservist runs 74 miles in memory of fallen Airman

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Timm Huffman
  • Headquarters RIO

In an effort to raise money for families of fallen Airmen, one reservist pushed herself to complete a 74-mile run around Lake Tahoe, Oct. 7-8.

Maj. Jenny Poisson,  Individual Mobilization Augmentee to Air Force Senior Scientist for Information Assurance, Edwards Air Force Base, California, raised more than $6,000 for non-profit Folds of Honor. Her run was in memory of friend and fellow Airman, Maj. Troy “Trojan” Gilbert, who died flying his F-16C Fighting Falcon on a combat mission nine years ago in Iraq.

The IMA arrived at Lake Tahoe two days ahead of the race to make final preparations. Because the ultramarathon is an unsupported event, meaning there would be no food or water provided along the course, Poisson had to bring her own support crew and work out the logistics for where she would get water and food along the route.

“We spent Tuesday asking local fire stations along the route to hold our fluids for refills and we parked an additional vehicle half-way around the lake stocked with food, drinks and changes of clothing,” she said.  “Some points along the course had nothing, so we hid a gallon of water and Gatorade in the bushes.”

Preparations did not go quite as expected, however, with one member of her support crew dropping out and the other almost had to back out at the last minute. To add to the mental strain of preparing for such a long race, Poisson faced the death of a fellow Edwards AFB runner, who was hit by a motorist, as well as a civilian co-worker from the base.

To top off the stress, Poisson had to make the decision to put her dog of 13 years to sleep.

“I spent miles 38 to 48 crying, but still moving forward.  That dog has been with me to nine countries and 23 states; I got her as a new second lieutenant," she said. “My stress level was through the roof, but ‘I cannot’ is not something that fits easily into my vocabulary. I kept going.”


She began her run in the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 7. Because there were no aid stations, Poisson carried everything she would need in a hydration pack that weighed in at 20 pounds. She ran through the day, crossing the California-Nevada state line just before 3 p.m. She changed into a fresh pair of shoes at 4:30. By 7:30 she had completed nearly 60 miles.


As darkness cloaked the roads draped around Lake Tahoe, Poisson donned a headlamp and reflective vest. She continue running into the night. As midnight passed her by, she finished her first circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe; the sixth largest lake in the United States.


She said that one of the biggest difficulties she faced during the day was automobile traffic. Since there were no road closures along the course and few road shoulders on the northern half of the route, there were portions of the run when she questioned whether she would rather get pushed off the cliff on one side or pinned against the rock wall on the other.


“I asked God no less than a dozen times ‘please do not let me die,’” she said.


Poisson originally set out to complete the Tahoe Double Dare, a twice-around-the-lake, 144-mile effort, but had to call it quits for safety after 74 miles. Since “I cannot” isn’t something that stands up against a lawful order from a commander, when word got back to hers that there were traffic safety concerns on the course, her hand was forced.


“He said if I did not call the second lap, he would order me not to.  I swallowed my pride and chose my safety above everything,” she said.


Poisson said she is celebrating "Trojan" and the many other fallen Airmen by staying alive.


Since she began her training on May 28, Poisson has run 811 miles in the memory of Maj. Gilbert and to bring attention to the Folds of Honor Foundation. Despite cutting her run Lake Tahoe short, Poisson plans to continue her efforts. She has three 50-mile races planned between December and May. For information on how to contribute to her Folds of Honor mission, visit  

The Folds of Honor Foundation was created by Maj. Dan Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot in the Air Force Reserve, to provide educational opportunities to the families of those killed or permanently disabled in service to America. The foundation helped Gilbert’s family following his death.


"I really couldn't think of a better organization to run for. While whatever I raise doesn't go to the Gilbert family, it's sort of a thank you to Folds of Honor for helping the Gilbert family and a pay it forward to help out another military family," said Poisson.


IMAs are Air Force Reservists assigned to active-component units and government agencies. They are managed by Headquarters Individual Reservist Readiness and Integration Organization, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, and serve more than 50 separate major commands, combatant commands and government agencies.


Unlike traditional Reservists, who are assigned to Reserve units that regularly perform duty together, IMAs work with their active-duty supervisors to create a custom duty schedule that helps their unit meet mission requirements.

To learn more about the Individual Reserve, visit