Partly cloudy skies and warm temperatures welcomed approximately 13,500 runners and walkers from all 50 states and 16 foreign countries to take part in the 21st annual U.S. Air Force Marathon at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Sept. 16.
Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, gave the opening comments, welcoming throngs of colorfully dressed runners from all walks of life to Wright-Patt.
"This is, most importantly, our birthday celebration. Many of you may not realize this but the Air Force marathon was started in 1997 as part of our celebration and this year is a very special birthday for the Air Force because it's our 70th birthday," Pawlikowski said. "The future is in the Americans that every day volunteer to protect our freedoms and put themselves in harm's way so that we can be out here today."
Col. Bradley McDonald, the 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, said he often hears appreciation for the efforts of the more than 2,400 volunteers from the community and base bringing this annual event to life.
"When you talk to the runners, one thing that keeps coming up is their appreciation for our outstanding volunteers. That's what they say sets our U.S. Air Force Marathon apart from all others and I couldn't agree more," McDonald said. "The Miami Valley community really comes together with our exceptional Airmen to make this a world class event. I am very proud of each and every one of them."
The three-day event kicked off Sept. 14 with a free sports and fitness expo at Wright State University's Nutter Center. More than 100 exhibitors filled the court's floor and concourse, featuring the latest fitness clothing, nutrition and gear. Along with exhibitors, guest speakers instructed attendees on pacing and use of yoga in fitness and an F-22 cockpit simulator gave guests a first-hand look at Air Force innovation.
Pre-race activities included the Breakfast of Champions on Sept. 15, featuring guest speaker, former U.S. Army Special Forces officer and published author Ivan Castro at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn. Castro lost his eyesight in a mortar blast in Iraq in 2006 and served as the only blind Special Forces soldier in the Army until his retirement in 2016. Castro also spoke at the expo and later at the annual Gourmet Pasta Dinner at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Lt. Gen. Robert D. McMurry, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center commander applauded the determination to overcome challenges by not only marathon runners but Airmen as well.
"I'm amazed by the commitment and dedication to training each athlete made to overcome this challenge," McMurry said. "Just like our United States Air Force, these runners came here to "Fly, Fight and Win" their own personal battle against time. Many of these same people display the same fortitude every day in support of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and I'm proud to have them in the command."
Tailwind, the official Air Force Marathon mascot introduced last year, made a return to the event, entertaining adults and children alike as participants celebrated the U.S. Air Force's 70th birthday. Brand new signage, banners and finish line were produced specifically for the event. This year's marathon featured the F-22 Raptor and P-51 Mustang in a joint flyover, highlighting Air Force technology, both new and historic.
In addition, and for the first time, misting stations along the course and at the finish line helped runner's cool down to enhance their comfort. The efforts were all part of making the marathon the best possible for attendees.
"Every year, for me, is more special and better," said Rob Aguiar, the Air Force Marathon race director. "The only reason is because the team, who's much smarter than I am, are learning and executing."
Runners had the option of competing in the full marathon, a half-marathon, 10K, and 5K as well as a wheeled division. The Air Force Marathon is sanctioned by the USA Track & Field Association and is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
In conjunction with the marathon, in its ninth year, the U.S. Air Force sanctioned races oversees at seven deployed locations. These races offered more than 1,800 deployed military members the opportunity to share the marathon experience while far away from home.
This year's men's full marathon winner was Maj. Bryan Kelly, an Air Force Materiel Command test pilot from Edwards Air Force Base, California with a time of 2:40:34.
"It's surreal," Kelly said. "This has been a goal of mine for probably five to seven years. To actually do it is amazing."
Even though Kelly said the run felt good because it was nice and cool at the start of the race, "I knew it was going to be hot toward the end, so I took it easy in the first half," Kelly said. "Then, I just started picking it up and it worked out."
This year's women's full marathon winner was Ann Alyanak, of Bellbrook with a time of 2:56:57.
"The last ten miles were rough -- it got warm at the end," Alyanak said.
Alyanak overcame rising temperatures and a beating sun in clinching her win on a route she said was enjoyable, though a little more than she initially believed.
"It was a good course. The middle of the last 10K was a little hillier than I thought but it was good."
This was Alyanak's first attempt at the Air Force marathon, an event that is more than just a run to her.
"Great organization, great atmosphere," Alyanak said. "It's just great to be out here to honor the military. We have a lot of Air Force friends and just want to thank the Air Force for all they do. It's a great day."
Winners are listed below. All times are unofficial at the time of this release:
-- Men's Full Marathon Overall, Individual: Maj. Bryan Kelly, Edwards AFB, California – 2:30:34
-- Women's Full Marathon, Individual, Ann Alyanak, Bellbrook, Ohio – 2:56:57
-- Men's Full Marathon, Crank Wheelchair Division: David Berling, Avondale, Arizona – 1:12:13
-- Women's Full Marathon, Crank Wheelchair Division: Holly Koester, Walton Hills, Ohio – 2:03:40
-- Men's Half Marathon, Individual: Jason Salyer, Columbus, Ohio – 1:13:34
-- Women's Half Marathon, Individual: Tech. Sgt. Emily Shertzer, Jonestown, Pennsylvania – 1:21:55
-- Men's 10K, Individual: Dustin Sprague, City, Dayton, Ohio – 33:04
-- Women's 10K, Individual: Molly Brown, Grove City, Ohio – 40:29
-- Men's 5K, Individual: Brandon Hough, Beavercreek, Ohio – 16:28
-- Women's 5K, Individual: Julie Hartenbach, Alexandria, Virginia – 19:12