CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Major Fabio Salas has served in the United States Marine Corps for 22 years, and it was there that he found a love for running.

“When I was a drill instructor, when I really got into running, I made it a goal to run the Marine Corps Marathon,” Salas said. “And because of that, I started learning about running and training.”

He is now hoping to inspire others to not only run, but join the military.

“I’ve done a couple of marathons and half-marathons and cycling runs, stuff like that,” Salas said.

He moved to the U.S. from Colombia when he was nine, leaving behind a life of poverty.

“This is also not only a great opportunity for me, but it’s also given me a life that others can’t have,” Salas said.

He said that serving the U.S. has given him so much.

“This was kind of my way, and continues to be my way, to give back to the country that has adopted me,” Salas said.

His favorite part of the job has been working with University of Illinois ROTC students.

“We’re all one team. No identity,” Salas said. “When I look at these guys, these are the future. These are the guys who are going to replace me and someday do this job, become generals and other things in the Marine Corps. So to be able to be a part of their story, at least at the very start, even if it’s a small part, for me is significant.”

A big part of working with his students is training them.

“I can’t say necessarily keep up with them, but trying to keep up with them and trying to lead them and motivate them,” Salas said is what he tries to do.

And it’s working. He motivated two of his students to run the half-marathon with him this weekend in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon Race Weekend.

“It’s something that drives my passion and pushes me to keep going every day,” Salas said.

He originally singed up for the full marathon, but said running the half-marathon is a way to show his students they can do anything.

This will be one of Salas’ last chance to run in Illinois, as he will be restationed to San Diego in June. He said he is sad to leave his students, but this will be one last event they can enjoy together.