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11th Annual United States Air Force Marathon
11th Annual United States Air Force Marathon
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Wright-Patterson AFB to host 11th Air Force Marathon Sept. 15

Posted 4/26/2007   Updated 4/26/2007 Email story   Print story


by Kathleen A.K. Lopez
Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs

4/26/2007 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio  -- If you think you have one good reason for not running the U.S. Air Force Marathon on Sept. 15, here are five excellent reasons why you should.

For starters, it's the only marathon in the world where runners receive inspiration and encouragement from the skies above, as active-inventory Air Force aircraft fly continuously throughout the race. Second, it's the premier Air Force participatory athletic event recognized by the service's 60th Anniversary committee.

Next, the race itself is only one of a plethora of marathon events that has grown into three days of festivities. Additionally, the course is being recertified, so that spectators will have more access to the marathon route. Finally, for Air Force Airmen, a new service-wide competition is debuting to determine which major command has the best long-distance runners.

In essence, the USAF Marathon - run in the heart of the birthplace of aviation, Dayton, Ohio - is the only one of its kind!

Air power demonstrations for runners

Since the inaugural USAF Marathon in 1997, each one has distinguished itself from the others by designating an aircraft as the featured "star of the show." Thus, the Marathon's "look" changes annually. The C-5 Galaxy, a mainstay in transporting cargo to troops in support of the Global War on Terror, carries the honor of representing the 2007 USAF Marathon.

With the exception of the first marathon, where the featured plane was the Wright 1909 Military Flyer, all representative aircraft have been those in the modern-day Air Force arsenal.

Part of the distinction for an aircraft's crew, once the plane is identified to represent the marathon, is to fly it throughout the race to demonstrate its flying capabilities to ground spectators. The exception to this concept was the 1998 USAF Marathon, when the F-22A Raptor did not fly as it was still in production.

"We figured out then that in future races we would choose aircraft that were an active part of the (Air Force) inventory and could fly throughout the day," said Molly Louden, USAF Marathon director. "We realized this was a key building block to making our marathon stand out from the others."

Not including 2001, when the USAF Marathon was cancelled due to the travesty of 9/11, featured fighter, bomber and airlift aircraft have inspired runners from the air each year as they challenged a tough and historic course on the ground.

This year, however, the marathon is going one step further to secure its place in marathon uniqueness. In addition to watching the massive C-5 Galaxy, which can hold an eight-lane bowling alley, marathon runners will witness a bevy of other planes flying, as well.

However, USAF Marathon and AFMC officials intend for the smaller-scale air power demonstrations to build in future years. So far, other aircraft scheduled to fly include the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

An AF 60th Anniversary event

While there are many Air Force 60th Anniversary events, the USAF Marathon is the only committee-recognized participatory athletic event. Besides a tee-shirt and other trinkets, runners who take part in this year's race will declare a unique claim-to-fame.

"As an official 60th U.S. Air Force Anniversary event, runners participating in the 2007 U.S. Air Force Marathon, too, will become a permanent part of our service's history," said Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of AFMC.

No stranger to running, General Carlson has issued a challenge to the men and women of the Air Force. Last year, 5,000 runners participated in the various races, this year he hopes to see that number reach 10,000. For active-duty Air Force Airmen, a permissive temporary duty assignment is authorized to participate in the race.

Not only is this year's marathon a historic milestone for the Air Force, the course itself covers hallowed grounds, including Huffman Prairie, where the founding brothers of modern-day flight, Orville and Wilbur Wright, perfected the science of flight following their landmark first flight in 1903.

Full marathon just part of three days of activities

So maybe you're not up for running an entire 26.2-mile marathon. There are other options to consider, including a half-marathon, wheelchair and four-person marathon relay races.

Also part of the USAF Marathon will be a five-kilometer race, which will be held Sept. 14, Ms. Louden said. Historically run in conjunction with the full marathon, this year begins a new tradition and partnership with neighboring Wright State University, on whose grounds the 5K will take place.

Other associated USAF Marathon activities include the Sports and Fitness Exposition on Sept. 13 and 14 at WSU's Ervin J. Nutter Center, and the gourmet pasta dinner at the National Museum of the United States Air Force on Sept. 14. World-renowned runners Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley and legendary coach Bill Squires will sign autographs, conduct clinics, speak at the dinner and will participate in the Sept. 15 races.

Additionally, festivities on both race days, including the sounds of the Air Force Band of Flight, are scheduled to take place.

To read more about these events, and to register for the marathon, log onto .

Recertified course

One thing long-distance runners appreciate more than anything is throngs of people cheering them on throughout the race, Ms. Louden said. While the race is open to the public to run it, parts of the course have not been open to spectators since 2001.

In the beginning the USAF Marathon course, which is mostly run on Wright-Patterson AFB, was open to spectators. The events of 9/11 changed accessibility for them, and runners faced long stretches with few sightings of non-running "cheerleaders."

This year, the race is being recertified, she said. Thus, family, friends and other well-wishers will be able to better position themselves to cheer on runners throughout the race.

"We are changing the route to include streets in both neighboring downtown Fairborn, and on the Wright State University campus," she said.

Additionally, there will be hydration stations about every mile, each of which will be sponsored by local businesses and community groups, thus, adding even more cheering spectators, she said.

The race still will be a Boston Marathon qualifier, as officials from USA Track and Field, the national governing body for long-distance running, will bike and measure the route, Ms. Louden said.

The marathon race(s) still will finish at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, where runners will make the final stretch of their race down a final "runway," flanked by static vintage aircraft and cheering crowds. Air Force generals, colonels and chief master sergeants will present all runners with a commemorative medal as they cross the finish line.

A new competition

New for Air Force Airmen is the addition of a service-wide competition, which will determine which major command in the Air Force has the best long-distance runners. And, the stakes are high: The winning major command of runners will be the recipient of the first USAF Marathon Commander's Trophy.

The competition will be based on a point system which factors both participation and performance in both the full- and half-marathon events, Ms. Louden said. The challenge is intended to serve as incentive for MAJCOMs to encourage participation in this nationally-recognized fitness event.

The trophy will be awarded annually by the Chief of Staff during the Fall Corona to the commander of the winning major command.

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