What you need to know: Air Force Marathon marks 20 years this weekend

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Carolyn Kugle, of Fairborn, talks about the sights she sees as a volunteer on race day at the Air Force Marathon. Video produced by Barrie Barber.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews


Fact about the Air Force Marathon

Registrants: 15,000+ from all 50 states and 17 foreign countries

Volunteers: 2,400

Awards: 400

Water: 15,543 gallons (includes 31,200 bottles plus bulk water)

Gatorade: 8,908 gallons (19,000 bottles plus 990 24-quart cans of powder on course.)

Ice: 13,552 pounds

Gels: 10,800 packets

Chocolate milk: 12,000 cartons (6,000 pints)

Bananas: 30,000

Bagels: 8,000 (halved)

Beer: 47 Kegs (728.5 Gallons)

Fencing: 15,000 linear ft.

Cups: 125,000

Heat sheets: 12,000

Sponges: 11,000

Port-a-pots: 402

SOURCE: Air Force Marathon

Tips on traveling to and from the marathon

According to marathon organizers, no runner entry will be allowed at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force gate. Runners and family will walk to the starting line from the parking areas and should arrive at least an hour and a half before start time.

RTA shuttling runners

Starting at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, shuttle buses will begin transporting runners from Wright State University’s Nutter Center to the starting line at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Shuttles will run every five minutes until 6 a.m. Runners can be dropped off at the Nutter Center and met at the finish line after 8:30 a.m. or may be picked up at the Nutter Center after 9:30 a.m.

Runner shuttles will return runners from the finish line back to Wright State University Nutter Center. The runner shuttles will depart from the Air Force museum starting at 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Departure times are to be determined.

Buses are for runners only, and a runner’s race bib must be visible. Spectators and family members will not be allowed to board the runner shuttles, organizers say.

All runners with handicaps and spectators with a handicap placard may enter through the main museum gate on Springfield Street.

Runner gates at Woodman and Spinning roads and Gate 22B are for entry and self-parking only. Gates open at 5 a.m. and no exit is allowed until 8:30 a.m.

Safety guidelines; No pets, coolers, glass, or alcohol is allowed and all carry-in items are subject to search. Unattended bags and items will be removed. Only clear runner bags will be allowed at the start line. For more information, check the Air Force Marathon website or smart phone app.

SOURCE: AIR FORCE MARATHON

Started as a way to mark the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Air Force, the Air Force Marathon has now achieved its own milestone: Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary for the annual endurance fest on the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

From a first-time turnout of about 2,750 runners for one full marathon, the spectacle that draws runners from all 50 states and from Australia to Europe has ballooned with over 15,000 runners competing in four races over two days. Over the years, popularity added a half-marathon and 10K race; and a 5K contest the day before the main event.

“It’s longevity,” said marathon director Rob Aguiar. “When you reach 20 years of anything obviously you know you’re doing something right.”

With all those runners and volunteers – an estimated 2,400 during the two days – traffic issues are inevitable. Motorists may might want to avoid major roads around the base until festivities wind down Saturday.

Buses will begin shuttling runners from the Wright State University Nutter Center to the start line at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force beginning at 4:30 a.m. and continue to run every five minutes until 6 a.m.

Organizers are urging runners to arrive at the museum between 90 minutes and two hours before the races, which begin at 7:25 a.m. for the wheeled marathon; 7:30 a.m. for the full marathon and 10K race; and 8:30 a.m. for the half marathon. No runner drop-offs are allowed at the museum entrance, according to the Wright-Patterson.

This year, the marathon got a first-ever mascot, Tailwind, a smart phone app and for the first time, red, white and blue color on the medals runners covet when finish a race.

In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the race was canceled, the one and only time.

Since then, and the added concerns the bombing of the Boston Marathon created in April 2013, security has tightened with new technology and law enforcement keeping an eye along the course, Aguiar said. “From where we were years ago, we have a very robust security team,” he said.

At the starting line

Two decades and hundreds of miles across the expanse of Wright-Patterson, a group of “STARS” – or in runner’s parlance Super Tenacious Athletic Running Squad— will take to the course Saturday.

The band of brothers and sisters of about 30 runners, which has lost members along the way, has run every race since 1997.

That first race in 1997, remembered long-time STARS runner Paul M. Yoe, 53, was “very grassroots, get-it-going kind of culture, but you could tell it was going to blow up.”

“Originally, the packet pick-up started outside the Air Force museum at little card tables and now they have to have it at the Nutter Center” at Wright State University, says Paul M. Yoe, another STARS runner.

Gary J. Moroney, 50, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant, will trek to Dayton from Cypress, Texas to run the 26.2-mile marathon. The former Special Forces gunship crewman has arrived in different years from Florida, New Mexico and South Korea.

His past ties to the Air Force and the glue of camaraderie with STARS runners call him to the starting line.

“You realize quickly that you want them around you,” he said. “You don’t want to be the last one standing because at that point its bitter sweet.

“Though the years we’ve really gotten to know each other and … when you lose some folks … it takes a hit on you,” he said.

This year, he’ll have an extra companion on the course: His wife, Beth, will run her first full marathon.

“He’s going to be resting for a couple of hours by the time I get in,” the 49-year-old joked. “I’m a slow poke.”

Pacing the pack

Yoe, of Aurora, Ohio, always has company on the raceway. He’s a pacer, or a runner who sets the pace for others running in a pace with him. If you keep up, expect to finish the 26.2 miles in just under five hours and 30 minutes, he said.

From a field of 20 to 30, a half dozen typically finish at that pace. “Then what you do is you usually end up sweeping up stragglers at the end,” he said.

“The reality of it is for us runners when we do go run a 26-mile marathon it’s a hard, hard effort,” he said. “Once you do it, you’re not the same. You’re changed.”

At the mile 12 mark, Carolyn Kugle has stood for 19 marathons as a volunteer, handing out cups of water.

“I do see some runners I recognize,” she said. “That’s actually inspired me to keep on going. Not the winner, it’s actually the stragglers because they were so inspiring they kept on going. It just fills you up and (makes you) want to keep helping them because they thank you too along the way.”

Kugle, 56, of Fairborn, said the outposts along the roadways often have themes. Last year, she said, they dressed as “hillbillies.” Every year, she brings family members to help her help the runners.

For Moroney, a Hawaiian theme that “feels like serenity” at one of the water stations was motivation.

“When you go kind of get up to it it’s kind of a calming effect,” he said.

Like Yoe, Moroney has no intention of quitting the race.

“I’m in it for life,” he said. “I’m coming back every year until I die.”

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