Treading Thin Air

Armed with results proving high-altitude effects on running performance, Air Force Academy officials pressed the Defense Department to reinstitute altitude-adjusted physical fitness scoring. Evaluating 55 runners from the Colorado Springs area, the Academy’s Human Performance Laboratory demonstrated a marked increase in 1.5 mile run-times, even after runners are acclimatized to altitude—unfairly penalizing airmen at high-altitude bases. “Due to atmospheric pressure, there is a significant difference in oxygen content at sea level (26.5 percent) than there is at 7,200 feet (20.9 percent),” said A.L. Wile, HPL director. Many people see “up to a minute increase in their run times” at the academy, noted its command chief, CMSgt. Todd Salzman. As a result of the study, DOD reinstated altitude-corrected scoring, absent since 2010, on Jan. 1. Starting at 18 seconds, time bonuses increase with altitude at the academy and five stateside bases. (Colorado Springs report by Gino Mattorano)