Former Tippecanoe standout wins Air Force Marathon

FAIRBORN – By midmorning Saturday – as the winners were coming in at the U.S Air Force Marathon at Wright Patterson AFB -- Jason Salyer had to be pleased with his reflection.

Some 18 months ago he was not.

“When I looked at myself in the mirror then, I wasn’t happy with what I saw,” he said.

He had gained 30 pounds and lost his desire as a competitive runner.

Some of it had to do with the COVID pandemic that cancelled all races for a year or at least turned them into solitary efforts for virtual events.

Although with the help of his friends he did set up a “bike path marathon” in Beavercreek that he ran with some pacing partners and a few other friends handling logistics and encouragement – and he completed it in an impressive 2 hours 30 minutes, or so – it was one-shot deal and his desire eroded afterward.

“This might sound like an exaggeration, but I took a full 12 months off of racing from mid-2020 to the middle of 2021,” he said. “I had decided to get into lifting, but when I went into my bulk-up phase, I did it all wrong. It was a dirty bulk. I was eating gummy bears and Snickers bars. I gained some muscle, but a lot of it was blubbery fat.

“I’ve got some good friends and we joke around with each other, but we are honest, too, and they let me know in no uncertain terms that I was looking like a slob, at least compared to my former self.”

The old Jason had been standout runner at Tippecanoe High School and Bowling Green State University. He won the USAF Half-Marathon in 2017 and again in 2019.

Finally, as his friends needled and even his wife Megan, an occupational therapist at Dayton Children’s Hospital, dropped some hints, he decided he needed to shed his new look and return to his old 125-pound self.

“I got to a point where I said, ‘I’ve got to get into my passion and do what I do best,’”

He said the first steps on the path back were provided by his old high school:

“My cross-country coach asked if I’d like to help coach the high school team and I said ‘Yes!’ I began to train with them and started to drop the weight and eventually I was running at a high level again.”

Although he works as a financial analyst for the defense department, the 32-year-old immersed himself in running again.

“He’s out running every morning before the break of dawn,” said. Megan. “He’s working really hard again.”

He said for the past three months, he’s run 100 to 110 miles a week in training. Earlier this year he ran a marathon in Houston in 2 hours 25 minutes.

And Saturday, had he looked into that magical mirror from the Snow-White tale – “Who is the fairest of them all?” -- he would have seen a reflection he liked.

His smile no longer came with chubby cheeks, just the medal of the winner draped over his neck. He finished in 2:27.23.

Gabby Bobadilla of Cincinnati was the women’s marathon winner, finishing in 3:00.87.

John Mascari of Westfield, Ind. won the men’s half-marathon in 1:09.02. Mascari is a graduate of Indiana State University and works for Adidas.

Jason Bruns, also a Tippecanoe grad, finished second in the men’s half-marathon.

A two-time All Horizon League runner at Wright State – who is now an accountant at the Hobart company in Troy – he was cheered on by his family. His wife Liz was a WSU tennis player. The couple now has two children, three-year-old Hazel and five-month-old Wilbur.

He is named for Wright State and Wilbur Wright his dad said.

Hazel held a homemade sign that read: “Daddy is fast, but he can’t keep up with me.”

The women’s half marathon winner was Rebecca Murray (1:18.48). A dozen years ago she won the women’s full marathon, but said she took several years off to deal with life struggles, including addiction. She’s now running well again.

The 10K winners both had local ties.

Grace (Norman) Taylor is best known as a gold medal- winning U.S para-triathlon champion from Jamestown and Cedarville University. Running with a prosthetic lower left leg, she won the triathlon at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro and took silver in the Tokyo Games which were held last summer.

She’s currently ranked No. 1 in the world and already this year has competed in Florida, Japan, France, Spain, Canada and Wales. She’ll wrap up her season in November at the World Championships in Dubai.

She got married last August and was living in Fort Lauderdale. Recently she and her husband Evan moved to Bloomington, Indiana for his schooling, but she will continue to train for Dubai in Florida.

She was back in town this weekend to help with a prosthetics clinic at the Nutter Center.

Brandon Hough was the men’s 10K winner.

A graduate of the Air Force Academy, he served as the race director of the Air Force Marathon for four years, He’s now a fund raiser for Antioch College. He lives in Yellow Springs and said he has run on every street in the town and regularly trains on 10-mile loop along country roads encircling the Greene County village.

J.W Moreno, a former bull rider whose resulting knee surgery came with severe complications and cost him his left leg below the knee joint, has become a champion hand crank cyclist and won that division of the marathon.

Holly Koester won the women’s side of it.

Major Heather Sealover won the women’s push rim competition in the marathon.

As for Salyer, he’s aiming toward the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November. It’s not as hilly as Air Force Marathon and with a slightly better time, he hopes to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

“There probably will be only 100 or 200 people in the nation who qualify for it,” he said. “To be part of that elite group would be a dream come true.”

And a reflection he would like to see.

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