Salyer, Ruhlman capture Air Force Marathon titles

  • Published
  • By Vince Little
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – It was a dandy day for a run.

Clear skies and crisp autumn temperatures in the low 50s at the starter’s gun set the stage for Saturday’s 27th annual Air Force Marathon as Jason Salyer fended off a feisty challenge from Connor Roche to claim his second consecutive overall crown with a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes, 49 seconds.

“I had to work a lot harder than I anticipated,” said Salyer, a civilian who works for Defense Finance and Accounting Service. “He pushed me for 21 or 22 miles and made me nervous throughout the race, but ultimately, my training paid off, my discipline paid off – and I was able to pull away at the end. But he gave me a run for my money today.”

The 33-year-old from Tipp City ran side-by-side with Roche for much of the 26.2-mile race, which starts and finishes near the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The two exchanged the lead at least half a dozen times before Salyer finally shook him around mile-22.

Local runner Katie Ruhlman won the women’s full marathon in 2:47:57, breaking the course record by over 4 minutes. Ann Alyanak crossed the finish line in 2:52:15 to win in 2019 and set the previous mark.

Elite runners say the course isn’t conducive to fast times. It features sharp turns and steep climbs early on and late and winds through both areas of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, including historic aviation sites.

The event is a Boston Marathon qualifier – this year’s Air Force Marathon attracted more than 8,500 runners from all 50 states and over 15 countries around the world.

Temperatures had crept into the mid-70s by the time the last pack of participants finished in early afternoon.

Ruhlman, 33, was making only her second appearance in the full marathon. She missed last year’s race while pregnant with her first child.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d have the miles in my legs,” said Ruhlman, a nurse practitioner who lives with her family in Centerville. “Coming into today, I just wanted to enjoy it and celebrate being back out there. Thankfully today, things came together and I was able to take the win and knock off that course record.

“I’m really happy and excited. It was a good race for me. ... This is a huge celebration to be out here, be healthy and be able to run.”

Her gold medal-winning time Saturday was about 40 minutes faster than her Air Force Marathon debut a decade ago.

Meanwhile, Christina Johnston of Xenia claimed her third women’s half-marathon title, finishing in 1:22:35. She was runner-up in 2022.

“It feels pretty good – it was perfect weather today,” said Johnston, a Fairmont High School teacher who also won the event in 2014 and 2010. “You just can’t beat the setup we have here at the Air Force base. It’s a good course. There’s a hill between mile 7 and 8 coming off Kauffman Road that’s always pretty tough. ... It always feels good to come back for the Air Force Marathon every year.”

Jacob Pitman, a second lieutenant who just wrapped up a graduate studies stint at WPAFB’s Air Force Institute of Technology, won the men’s half-marathon in his first outing, setting the pace at 1:08:49.

“I didn’t realize how big of an event this was,” he said. “Being out here, it’s awesome. It’s a lot better than I could’ve ever hoped. ... Obviously, the course is pretty hilly, but having the guys up front with me, it was pretty good getting to feed off each other. And the environment, with all the people cheering, it was very helpful.

“Overall, I could not have asked for a better day and a better course. ... It’s been a great opportunity to see how the community around here comes together.”

In August, Pitman prevailed in the Little Miami Half Marathon near Cincinnati, under much more humid conditions.

Earlier in the day, Daniel Michalski from the Air Force World Class Athlete Program outpaced 10K competitors with a time of 33:50. He then turned around and ran the half-marathon. The Xenia native also won the 5K race Friday night at Wright State University.

Darcy Whyte of Centerville took first in the 10K among the women, crossing the line in 38:15.

Salyer, who’s also a two-time half-marathon champion, plans to run the Columbus Marathon next month and is targeting the Olympic trials Feb. 3 in Orlando, Florida.

But he says the Air Force Marathon remains his “hometown race,” and the tight battle with Roche makes the 2023 race memorable.

“This one will definitely stand out,” he added. “I just love the atmosphere here. I like the display of our military dominance and I love the fireworks. I love seeing the service men and women. It’s cool being awarded this medal by them. I appreciate what they do for me, for us, for our country.

“It’s just a really supportive and energetic atmosphere. I love being part of the Air Force Marathon. ... It’s fun to come back and repeat. And we couldn’t have asked for a better weather day.”

To view a full list of results, official times and more information on the event, go to