Air Force Marathon returns in person with 8,000 runners in four races this weekend

Race returns to the course at Wright-Patterson after two years of virtual races

FAIRBORN — Rachael Ferguson took over as director of the Air Force Marathon in July but has worked with the race for many years, so she can put in perspective what it means to see the runners return to the course at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base after two years of virtual races.

“It’s very emotional,” Ferguson said Thursday during the Health and Fitness Expo at the Nutter Center as runners picked up their race bibs.

“It’s a year-round job, so we put all of our efforts into what we do year-round. To watch it come to life again, especially after the hiatus with COVID, it’s difficult to put it into words because we just are passionate about what we do.”

Close to 8,000 runners will participate in four races. There are 1,300 competitors in the full marathon (26.2 miles) and about 2,600 in the half marathon (13.1). The others will race in the 5K and 10K distances.

The 5K started at 6:30 p.m. Friday with an opening ceremony at 6:15 p.m. followed by an awards celebration at 7:15 p.m. at Wright State’s Setzer Pavilion behind the Nutter Center.

The other three races take place today, and all the runners in those races will cross the finish line beneath a C-17 Globemaster III. There will be an opening ceremony for the 10K at 6:20 a.m. That race begins at 6:30 a.m.

The opening ceremony for the half and full marathon starts at 7:15 a.m. The wheeled race starts at 7:25 a.m. Runners start at 7:30 a.m.

Spectators are welcome to attend the Finish Line Festival from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

There will be awards presentations for the 10K at 9 a.m., the half marathon at 10 a.m. and the full marathon at 11 a.m.

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Ferguson, a 2000 Cedarville High School graduate, said it was a different experience holding virtual races in 2020 and 2021.

“That was our first time producing something virtual,” she said. “We learned a lot through that. We found some really creative ways to enhance the running experience, although being virtual, it was hard. We missed the people. We missed the excitement that comes out of the expo and race morning.”

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The 2020 marathon was cancelled in June of that year because of the pandemic. A virtual race was held, and it still sold out with 3,000 runners deferring their entries to 2021.

The 2021 race also shifted to a virtual format a month before it was scheduled to be run.

Col. Christopher Meeker, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, confirmed the 2022 marathon was a “full go” in late July.

“After holding the marathon virtually for the last two years due to the pandemic,” Meeker said in a press release this week, “I am thrilled to bring the marathon back in-person. I look forward to seeing all the runners and spectators as we celebrate the return of the marathon and the Air Force’s 75th anniversary.”


HOW TO GET ON BASE FOR MARATHON

TRAVELERS FROM THE EAST & SOUTH: Those coming from the east on Interstate 70 should exit onto I-675 South (Exit 44A). Those coming from the south on I-75 should exit onto I-675 North (Exit 43). Travel to Exit 15 (Colonel Glenn Highway). As you exit, merge onto the left lane and continue straight to Gate 22B at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (Area B).

TRAVELERS FROM THE NORTH & WEST: Those coming from the west on I-70 should merge onto I-75 South (Exit 33A) toward Dayton. Travel 8.5 miles, merge onto U.S. 35 East (Exit 52B) toward Xenia. Go about 5 miles. Take the Woodman Drive Exit and turn left. Travel on Woodman Drive for about 1.5 miles through four traffic lights. After you cross Airway Road, the Woodman Drive gate entrance is on the right.

TRAVELERS ON U.S. 35: Travelers from U.S. 35 (east or west) should take the Woodman Drive Exit. From the east, turn right. From the west, turn left onto Woodman Drive. Travel on Woodman for about 1.5 miles through four traffic lights. After you cross Airway Road, the Woodman Drive gate entrance is on the right.

TRAVELERS ON COLONEL GLENN HIGHWAY OR HARSHMAN AVENUE: From the southbound lanes of Harshman Avenue, turn left onto Airway Road. Go 0.8 miles and turn left into Spinning Road Gate. From Colonel Glenn Highway, head west. The route turns into Airway Road. Turn right at Spinning Road Gate.

There is NO RUNNER ENTRY at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Gate. From parking areas, runners and family members will walk to the start line. Competitors should arrive at least 90 minutes before their start times.

GATE CLOSURES

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will host the Air Force Marathon on Saturday. The following gate hours and road closures are scheduled:

Area A:

Gate 1A (Commissary Gate)

The gate will be closed from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. as it’s part of the marathon route. Operations return to normal hours following the race.

Gate 12A (24-hour gate at Air Force Materiel Command)

Gate 12A will be open 24/7 for vehicle traffic; however, vehicles will only have access to Spruce Way via Redbud Lane. There is no access via Estabrook Road or Sugar Maple Drive. This will maintain access to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, 88th Security Forces Squadron, Wright-Patterson Medical Center and Kittyhawk area.

Gate 16A (state Route 444, commercial vehicles)

Gate 16A will be open from 4 to 7 a.m. for volunteers only. Area A-only commercial vehicles will be inspected at Gate 12A for commissary and Base Exchange deliveries.

Gate 26A (Truck Gate)

Gate 26A will be open from 4 to 7 a.m. and again 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. for marathon volunteers and Fire Department personnel entry and exit only.

Gate 15A (state Route 844)

Gate 15A will be closed as it is part of the marathon route.

Area B:

Gate 19B (National Road)

Gate 19B will be open as normal; however, restricted access throughout Area B is in effect until the last runner passes Eighth Street. It should be lifted by 1 p.m., but that is subject to change.

Gate 1B (Springfield Street)

Gate 1B will be closed as it’s part of the marathon route.

Gate 22B (Interstate 675 gate):

Gate 22B will be open 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. for public access.

Public access parking gates (4 a.m. to 4 p.m. only)

The public may access Air Force Marathon areas via Spinning Road Gate, located at the intersection of Spinning and Airway roads; Armory Gate off Harshman Avenue; and Gate 22B, the I-675 gate (left turn only).

The gate at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Springfield Street will be open from 4 to 7:30 a.m. for Air Force Marathon and museum staff, people with disabilities, shuttles and distinguished visitor parking (Lot A or Lot B pass will be required).

After 7:30 a.m., the museum gate will be open to the public during its normal hours of operation.

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