FAIRBORN – Thousands of racers from around the nation and at least 14 foreign countries will participate in the U.S. Air Force Marathon Saturday.
“The Air Force Marathon started in 1997, and it was intended at the time to commemorate the 50 anniversary of the founding of the Air Force,” Air Force Marathon Marketing Coordinator Rick Perron said. “It started with about 2,600 runners and was open to the local community … Over the years, the race has grown.”
Throughout the last three years, he said the marathon has included approximately 15,000 runners.
The event includes four distances, with the first race, a 5K, taking place Friday night at the Ervin J. Nutter Center, and including approximately 2,000 participants. The remaining three, a 10K, a half marathon and a full marathon take place Saturday, beginning at 7:30 a.m. The race traditionally starts and ends at the National Museum of United State Air Force, and this year is no exception.
“This isn’t a local … run – we are the Air Force Marathon,” Perron said. “I think it might be a point of pride for the community, to have the Air Force Marathon right here at Wright-Patterson … The area is very big on aviation, and specifically military aviation, so to have the Air Force Marathon here ties into that local pride of being the birthplace of aviation.”
The marathon additionally includes multiple other events taking place within the community in conjunction with the race, such as the Sports and Fitness Expo, which will take place Thursday and Friday at the Nutter Center and includes guest speakers; a “breakfast of champions” Friday morning at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn, with Q-and-A discussion between attendees and seasoned runners; a pasta dinner Friday night at the National Museum of United States Air Force, including a guest speaker; the Fairborn Fly Zone, where runners take on miles nine and 10 in the eyes of spectators, and food and entertainment are available; yoga for runners, taking place both before and after the race; and an after party beginning 5 p.m. at The Greene, including some special deals, food and entertainment.
“It’s valuable to the community in a financial way,” he said. “We bring about $12 million to the Miami Valley from hotels and restaurants and shopping while they’re in town … So that’s huge.”
Registration for runners of the race begins Jan. 1 – which is when the cost is at its lowest. Prices will increase as the year goes on, starting Jan. 2. This is meant to encourage individuals to register early. It closes after it sells out, but organizers then open its transfer program. This year, that took place in mid-July. Volunteer registration opens in May and ended at the close of last month.
“Right now we have all the help we need, which is great,” he said. “The volunteers are great. They come back year-after-year. A lot of different groups participate on a regular basis … The volunteers are huge. They do everything for race-day weekend.”
Six individuals work on a full-time basis year-round at planning the marathon. They will begin the process for next year’s race in October starting with putting proposals together for items such as medals, shirts, timers and needed services, as well as promoting next year’s race.
“A race this big – it doesn’t just happen,” Perron said. “You can’t just walk in in June and plan the race and be good with it. It takes too much. There’s a lot of moving pieces with the contracts that take a lot of time, and there’s a lot of promotion and advertising that goes into it. Really, we don’t have a lot of time once the race ends to get ready for registration in January.”
Racers will begin pouring in to the starting area as early as 5 a.m. Saturday. The full marathon and 10K runners will start running the races at 7:30 a.m. The flyover will mark the start of the event, followed by an opening ceremony and pyrotechnics.
“So instead of ‘ready, set, go,’ it’s a big boom,” Perron said.
The half marathon, beginning 8:30 a.m., will also include an opening ceremony, followed by a parachute drop and a starting pistol. The course is open for seven hours, so by 2:30 p.m. all runners have to be off the course. An awards ceremony will take place at noon, and will recognize the top male and female finishers in each race, as well as winners in divided age categories and wheel winners. Local Country Artist Kestin Howard and the Band of Flight will perform beginning around 12:30 p.m.
“That’s one thing that’s great about marathons and running in general – people are overcoming this obsticle of running, whether it’s six miles or 13 or 26 miles,” Perron said. “At the same time, it’s a lot of personal obstacles people are overcoming too.”