US Air Force Marathon 2010

Last year’s Air Force Marathon was such a good experience that I chose it again for this year’s marathon goal. Overall, I am glad that I ran it again this year. I had some issues with last year’s event that I hoped could be improved upon, and this year I had some different issues.

It was a beautiful morning for a run, about 55° at the start. It grew warmer as the day went on, to about 75° by the finish.

One of the most memorable aspects of last year’s event that made me want to participate again was the opening ceremony. The emotional rush from the paratroopers with their enormous flags, the pin-drop silence during the national anthem, and the F‑18 flyover were unforgettable. Unfortunately, due to the biggest snafu of the day, the opening ceremony and the start of the race was spoiled for many participants. I’m sorry to say it, but the traffic and parking situation before the race was an unmitigated disaster.

Last year, we planned to arrive about an hour prior to the starting gun. We left the hotel 75 minutes before the start, and drove right onto the base, found a parking spot, took a short shuttle ride, and arrived with plenty of time to stretch, relax, get our minds in gear, and make that final pit stop before the race. It was as smooth as anyone could imagine, highlighting the best of what one would expect from military planning and logistics.

This year was a stark contrast. Our hotel was a bit closer to the base, so we chose to leave the hotel 60 minutes before the start. As soon as we turned left out of our hotel’s parking lot, we were sitting in a mile-long line of traffic that was going absolutely nowhere. As our safety margin quickly eroded, I asked Emily to continue ahead in the through-traffic lane and just drop me off at the next intersection nearest the gate, and I would run to the start. She did, and I jogged to the start, arriving just as the national anthem began.

Meanwhile, Emily and David did manage to re-enter the line of traffic somehow to get onto the base.

The cause of all this mess was anyone’s guess, but apparently only one of the three main gates along the south side of the base was open for people to enter. There were no parking shuttles this year (again, we do not know why), so they trekked across the field and old runway from their makeshift parking spot along with a throng of other runners and spectators. Emily reports that as they heard the announcer’s “ready” signal, there was a collective expletive all around her from all the runners who were stuck in traffic and unable to reach the start in time. I wish there had been some kind of warning that the traffic flow was going to be so different. What a disappointing way to start the morning.

Once we were underway, the day improved quickly. Again, it was a beautiful morning, and the B‑52 circling overhead was an inspirational kick in the rear to get moving. While it wasn’t completely effortless, the first several miles ticked past faster than expected. I was trying hard to control my pace and conserve energy because I did not feel well prepared for this race. I had missed a number of the longer training runs on my schedule due to travel, sickness, and self-inflicted injuries. Apparently being mindful of this helped, because it wasn’t until after the halfway point that I was aware of anything worth complaining about.

The crowds in Fairborn were great! Four buses shuttled spectators from the starting area to Fairborn shortly after the start of the race. Four buses does not seem like a lot, considering the number of people in the area, but Emily and David boarded one and headed to one of the few spots off the base that friends and family could see their runners. They enjoyed some hot chocolate while they waited on the pack to pass by. I’m glad I got to see them, and they didn’t even look too bored!

As with last year, I cannot say enough good things about the volunteers along the course. Since friends and family could not be along the majority of the course that was on the base, the aid station volunteers and safety personnel where just about the only form of mental support that could be found. They did an outstanding job. The Nerd station, alien station, 80s station, the ladies at the station near mile 16 yelling their brains out and having fun were all memorable and lightened the experience.

I was tapped out by the end of mile 20, near Huffman Prairie. I wound up walking on and off for the rest of the race, a little over a mile in all. Next time I will be better prepared (by not getting sick, cracking any ribs, or having any last-minute travel). Sounds doable, since I’m so firmly in control… sure.

The Dayton Daily News has a small gallery of photos from the day’s events. The Garmin Connect widget below has an interactive tour of my trackpoints. If it’s not visible, here is a direct link to the activity page, which can export to KML for toying with in Google Earth.

One Response to “US Air Force Marathon 2010”

  1. Papa says:

    Excellent narrative! We wish we could have been there.

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