My Town Monday: Flying High, Running (or Walking) Fast

Every year around this time, 15,000 people converge in Dayton to get going–in the US Air Force Marathon, that is.

The Marathon is actually four separate events: the Marathon, half-marathon, and 10k, which are all held on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; and the 5k run/walk, which is held down the street at Wright State University the night before. All events include a wheelchair class as well.

Runners and walkers fill the course!

My husband, daughter and I were among the 1800 who signed up for the 5k this year. It was my husband’s first time; my daughter and I did the 10k a couple years ago. I also walked the 10k the year before that, and the 5k in 2006.

I’m sooooo not a runner–we’re talking the last kid picked for anything in gym class–but many people walk the shorter races, which draw everything from major fitness enthusiasts to casual walkers, of all ages. Some parents push kids in strollers in the 5k. Everyone has fun, and it’s a great way to support our troops.

The first USAF Marathon was held in 1997, in commemoration of the Air Force’s 50th anniversary. This year was the 16th, and enrollment gets bigger each year. The 2008 event had half the participants this year’s races did, and even though they raise the enrollment limits each year, the events sell out earlier every time. This year, everything was sold out by mid-May.

The B-2 Bomber was the race’s official aircraft this year

One of the cool things about the AF Marathon that’s probably different than other similar events is the aircraft. There is an official aircraft each year–this year’s was the B-2 Stealth Bomber. The aircraft do fly-bys over the course, and it’s awe-inspiring to see them so close, even though I see them fly over all the time. πŸ™‚ Β In 2006, the official aircraft was the A-10 Warthog, which is designed to fly low and slow to counter ground offense. I still get chills remembering getting buzzed by that Β as I jogged up to the finish line in my first 5k! The flyover aircraft isn’t always the official one–this year, we got buzzed by C-17 cargo jets, one of my favorite of the USAF fleet.

The volunteers are something else that make the marathon events really special. They stand at various points along the course to hand out water, play live music or DJ, or just cheer the runners and walkers on. That bit of extra encouragement does make a difference, even in a short 5k.

At the finish line, everyone gets a medal, handed out by men and women in uniform. This always makes me smile, and not just from crossing Finish. πŸ˜€ Finally, we get to go into the Finish Line tent, where more volunteers hand out water, Gatorade, bananas, and fresh pizza.

My time wasn’t anything to get excited about–it never is. It could have been better, but my daughter’s been having knee trouble, and we wanted to walk together. But just like the big races, the time isn’t as important as simply finishing–and being there to honor the men and women who’ve signed up to risk their lives for our country if needed. It was also a fun, healthy activity for the whole family!

What about you–have you ever participated in an event like this? Do you go to win, or just to complete the event? What do you enjoy most about this sort of event, whether you participate, volunteer, or just watch?

14 Responses to \

  1. I’ve never competed in, nor attended, an event like this (I do walk at least 11 miles a week, though). I did make a point to stay away from the area this year (I always managed to have a hair appt at the Fairfield Commons Mall on marathon day – dumb luck, I guess. Planning ahead can work wonders, huh?). The detours (and traffic) are HORRIBLE! Glad you had fun, though!

  2. Just participating is huge if you ask me. I’ve never been in anything remotely like that. Sounds like you had a cool time. Oh, and that Bomber is way fab! My son keeps a model of that one in his room.

  3. What a fantastic thing to do! So glad you participated. And that airplane thing is pretty darn cool.

    Fresh pizza at the end? Sign me up.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  4. Stacy, the traffic is horrendous, that’s for sure! It’s not bad for the 5k, which is the smallest event, attendance-wise. But I was stuck in the traffic when I did the 10k on base. If you like walking, you should consider the 5k next year!

    Debra and Patricia, thanks! The aircraft are indeed way cool. πŸ˜€

  5. Wow, Jennette, I would love to participate in something like this, but we don’t have a local event like yours. With 1800 people participating, no wonder you had so much fun. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. I used to walk in the Mother’s day walk and run hwew in XLFey. Very similar set up to that you’ve described. but this goes to a named charity – usually a different one every year. great fun.

  7. If I lived in or near Dayton, you can bet I’d participate in this race. My regular morming walk now looks dull in comparison. No aircraft, no men and women in uniform, no volunteers playing music and handing out water. You did it again, Jennette and made me wish I lived in Dayton.

    Good for you, your husband and daughter!

  8. I’ve been trying to psych myself up for a race-type event for over a year now, with limited success. I did do a 5k walk at a local 5k/15k event this summer, which was nice. In retrospect, I wish I’d done the 5k run instead, but the walk was nice too.

    We don’t have any events that are military-sponsored like this, though, anywhere within reasonable driving distance of Western Michigan, except possibly your event. Dayton is quite a drive for me, though!

    Great job on your participation!

  9. Wow, awesome, Jennette! Kudos to you, your hubby, and your daughter for participating in these marathons. I’ve never done anything like this, and I agree that it doesn’t matter if you win or your time is great. It’s the fact that you participated and supported our military and became inspired by the whole event, too. It sounds wonderful! Thanks for this post. I hope they raised lots of money for this worthy cause.

  10. Louise, a lot of people form teams and donate to charity for this, too. I think a lot of them are sponsored by companies who match the donations. It’s great to see!

    Pat, LOL the only reason my walks are normally interesting is because I read on the treadmill! This is definitely different! πŸ˜€

    Mike, getting out there and participating is what’s important! The USAF Marathon draws people from all 50 states, Canada, and who knows where else. Who knows, work yourself up to it and it could be worth the drive! πŸ˜€

    Lynn, thanks! It was a lot of fun, too!

  11. So funny that I open your blog to see that it’s about 5k! Great minds think alike, and all that. πŸ™‚ So cool you did this! I love that the stealth bomber was the official aircraft. I got to see one at an air show once, they are so unique.

  12. I walk the 5k Race for the Cure every year. One of the coolest things is how they greet you at the finish line, like you’ve done something amazing! I’m always thinking: “I just walked 3.1 miles whereas all these ladies around me are FIGHTING CANCER. THEY deserve MY applause.” I wonder if it feels the same with military folks who serve our country day in and day out. I appreciate all they do, but I’m sure they appreciate you taking your time out to walk the 5k to support them. Good for you, Jennette!

  13. Coleen, yes, that was so funny that we both blogged about doing a 5k, huh? Great minds indeed!

    Julie, that 5k sounds great! And yes, it does feel exactly like that for our men and women in the armed forces!