Air Force Marathon 10K – Dayton, OH (September 15, 2012)
Race: Air Force Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K
Place: Dayton, Ohio
Date: September 15, 2012
I just want to start this entry off by saying that I was completely surprised by how efficiently and wonderfully this expo and race was put together and run. Honestly. It only makes me want to return next year (and run the half marathon instead of the 10K). Honestly, one of the best organized races I have participated in. So much fun. I enjoyed every moment of this…including the expo.
Which is where the story begins…
Cathy, Jenn and I left Columbus, Ohio shortly after noon on Friday to drive to Dayton for the expo. This was very important as it was the only time I would have to pick up my race packet. So…we made a concerted effort to get there in enough time to peruse the expo, get the packet, and see what else was happening. I knew one important fact about this expo and that was that Dean Karnazes (THE Ultramarathon Man) was in attendance and if at all possible, I wanted to meet him. The Web site for the race didn’t have an appearance schedule up, so there was no guarantee that this would happen…but in the back of my mind…I was hopeful.
The expo itself was amazing. The entire top floor of The Nutter Center was filled with booths that held vendors, other races, and a bunch of freebies. I love big expos because I absolutely love taking in every bit of it, seeing what other races are out there, talking to vendors, and finding the Bondi Band booth to add to my growing collection of bands to wear on race days. The last couple of races have had some pretty disappointing expos. That changed here.
The three of us made our way around the circuit of booths, taking a peek at different tables, seeing what merchandise was out there, and just following the signs to packet pick-up. This just happened to be on the other side of The Nutter Center and down the stairs to floor level. Packet pick-up, however, was simple. Just show your idea…tell them your bib number (12051) and you’re golden. You get handed a packet with your race bib in it and are sent across the way to retrieve your t-shirt. I somehow ended up with a Medium…so it’s really big on me…but…it still rocks.
As I was in line, Cathy and Jenn went to find seats in this section off to the side, because for once in our lives…we had good timing. Dean Karnazes was set to talk at 3:30. And it was around 3:00 p.m. YAY! I was stoked. So, after I gathered all my stuff for the race, I went to find them in the seats and join them. Poor Jenn got stuck sitting next to another creepy “friend” who pestered her the entire time. Sorry Jenn. I don’t know why that always happens to you!
Soon, the man of the moment was there. The announcer was trying to kill time and didn’t realize Dean had already shown up…so when he was finally clued in…he made the big introduction. And I was hooting and hollering because…Dean Karnazes is just awesome. And I count him as one of my running heroes. And here he was…about 30 feet or so from where I was sitting. My first thought was that he looks smaller in person than he does in “UltraMarathon Man” (the documentary he did about running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days). That was my last rational thought because then he started talking. And I was hooked from the first word, which I believe was “Hello!” LOL! But…his talk was extremely informative and entertaining. And we got to see him attempt to mess with the AV equipment as the sound was malfunctioning. Then the microphone wanted to give lots of feedback. It was sorted…and he got the hang of it. Let me say this…the man is an absolute doll. Very humble. And yes…he is every bit as super human as he sounds. But nothing short of awesome. He said he had to run to the airport to catch a flight to Wisconsin, but after he finished talking, lots of people went down to the table to see if he would sign something. I happened to have his book “50/50 Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days — and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!” with me and went to go stand in the line. He began signing and doing a few pictures, then said that people with books were to step forward because he promised he would sign all the books. I was never happier to have a book of his with me. So, I got into the much shorter line and even scored a photo with him. He signed it: “Karen – Good luck on your first marathon! –Dean” I was telling him about how I was training to run my first marathon next year…hence the message. For the rest of the night, I was on cloud nine. Seriously.
After the expo, we went to get checked into the hotel, then head out to shop at Half Price Books before hitting up a place for dinner. I had scouted out Find Me Gluten-Free and found a place called Sinfully Gluten-Free to try out for dinner. They had a small, but versatile menu. So, we arrived there and all placed orders. I got the pizza sandwich (no pepperoni, of course, for this vegetarian) with fries. Cathy got the chicken tenders with fries. Jenn got an 8-inch cheese pizza. They make everything to order, so it does take a moment for food to arrive. And that’s fine by me. When it did, I dug right in and was so happy with my sandwich. I even stole a piece of Jenn’s pizza and…absolutely loved it. Perfectly safe meal before a race. That’s what I am talking about. I love piece of mind when it comes to meals before a race. Afterwards, we raided the place for baked goods (I got LOTS of gluten-free cookies and a brownie, and while we were there, the three of us split one of their lemon bars – which was like eating a lemon cheesecake…SO GOOD!) and finally called it a night and headed back to the hotel to unwind and get ready for bed.
Now, the hotel had made an error with our booking. We had put in to have a room with two double beds, but we ended up in a room with a king size bed. The couch did pull out, so we arranged for Cathy & I to crash in the bed and Jenn took the hide-a-bed. Cathy offered to trade with Jenn, but she maintained she would stick it out on the hide-away for the night. We called down for sheets and get the bed set-up after playing around online for a little bit. We knew we were going to have an early morning, so we called it a night around 9:30 p.m. I set my cell phone alarm for 4:45 a.m. and then crashed out. I never slept so well before a race before…but I was out like a light.
The alarm sounded that following morning and after scaring Jenn half to death, I shut it off and shambled into the bathroom to change into my race clothes (which I had laid out the night before) and then eat my cereal to at least get something in my stomach pre-race. We all took turns in the bathroom, packed up our stuff, then went to check out of the hotel. The hotel happened to have take-and-go goodies out for runners and families of runners, so we all snagged something. I grabbed a banana and an orange. Cathy snagged a banana. And Jenn grabbed a bagel (which was itty-bitty…but a bagel nonetheless). From there, we made the short trip toward the Air Force Museum to attempt to find parking and make our way to the starting line.
Getting in wasn’t too difficult. Traffic was still light at this point, so we followed a stream of cars through a gate and just went where we were directed. We parked and then began the very, very, very long hike from the area we were parked in to the starting line. It had to at least have been a mile, if not more. Because every runner wants to hike that far before running in either a marathon, half marathon, or 10K race, yes? Anyway…we managed. I got to bypass security since I was a runner, but Cathy and Jenn had to have bags searched and get wanded down before entering the race area. But once we were through, we made our way past the finish line and to the start area of the race. It was still dark. And…yeah…it was about 43 degrees out. I had packed my running skirt and a tank top, so thankfully I had arm warmers with me. Or I might have been a little colder than I was. As it was, I kept my hoodie on for as long as I could before the start of the race. But as the sun began to come up and the 7:30 a.m. race start crept closer, Cathy took the hoodie from me. She and Jenn went to go find a spot along the start area to watch for me and I started to line up with the marathoners and other 10K runners.
At the Air Force races, the marathon and 10K head off together. They split at mile 3 and go separate directions. The half marathon starts an hour later at 8:30 a.m. The opening ceremonies were done. The national anthem was beautifully sung. And then the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber flew over the start line. It was SO cool. I was grinning like a fool. Then…the wheelchair participants were sent off 5 minutes ahead of time…as well as the blind runner who was doing the marathon. And soon…the marathon and 10K racers were off with the shot of a gun.
I was actually through the starting gate faster than anticipated. Jenn luckily spotted me and got a picture of my back as I ran past. Cathy totally missed me until Jenn pointed me out. That’s what happens with bigger races and all four of the race events for the Air Force Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K and 5K were SOLD OUT! So, it was pretty big.
And so…I was off. Sans music, by the way. I mention this because I normally run races with my iPod Nano. But Cathy didn’t pack it. She thought she had…but it was left at home in the gym bag. So, I ran this one completely without my tunes. I have run without music at races that don’t allow headphones, but this one had no restrictions…so I was a bit bummed about that. But…you know…you just get over it and get going.
The chilly weather was a nice change of pace, since the last big race I ran was the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon in the 90% humidity that nearly killed me. Once I got moving, the chill didn’t feel so cold. I was still glad I had those arm warmers on, but very glad I didn’t pack the long pants. The skirt was perfect.
The first mile of this race felt good. I took it easy. I decided I was just going to run this one easy. Not push too hard. And I just sort of paced myself for the first mile, leading up to this long, steep incline that lasted from just before mile 1 to around 2.5 miles. Seriously. This is not an exaggeration. For a moment I never thought it would level off or start any sort of descent. But, with the hill behind me, I was now making my way to the split where the Marathon runners go one way and the 10K runners go the other. I was on the wrong side at first…so, I quickly changed lanes and got into the proper side to make my turn into Mile 3. I was almost halfway there. I made a point not to look at my pace or my time. I just wanted to run what was comfortable. So…that’s how I kept it.
Mile 4 brought us back to the Air Force Museum. We were about to lap the museum. And as I hit Mile 4.5, I could hear them announce the winner of the 10K, followed soon after by the first female and 2nd place overall. Awesome. I was now feeling the excitement. Mile 5 ticked by and I knew that I was down to the last 1.2 miles. I pushed only a little…because I was determined to pass a woman who passed me up long before. She pushed too hard too soon, and I sort of saved some for the finish…so I passed her and just kept on going. I could hear the announcer, saying names of the finishers, talking about groups finishing together. Now it was getting real. I ran closely behind two guys as we rounded into Mile 6, and the Finish line came into view. That is an amazing sight no matter how long or short the race is. I pushed a bit more, feeling my tired legs. One of the airmen on the side cheering the runners on said “WOOO KAREN! YOU GO WITH YOUR PIGTAILS!” It made me smile. And so I pressed on and blew across the finish line, waiting before I stopped my Garmin. I have learned. LOL!
I walked through runner services, receiving my finisher’s medal from a very handsome airman, who also shook my hand and congratulated me. For the first time ever, I was handed a “space blanket” to wrap around myself to keep warm. This made me stupidly happy for some reason. Go figure. I stopped to get an official finisher photo in front of the backdrop, then went through the area where bananas and chocolate milk and bagels and pizza were being offered. I snagged a banana and a bottle of chocolate milk before meeting Jenn and Cathy outside of the runner services area.
We hugged and I snacked on my KindBar I brought with me. Then hurried over to get my results from the tent. I was hoping it would give official stats, but it only spit out my time. As I wandered back over to where Cathy and Jenn were waiting, I glanced at my time…and thought I might have set a new 10K PR. I had Cathy look up my time for the Rhodes City Run (my fastest 10K to date) while I finished snacking. When she said my time, I jumped in the air, pumping a fist with an exclamation of “FUCK YEAH!” I was a little excited…because I beat my time by almost 3 full minutes. Beyond happy. For real.
We stood around a little bit longer, then began to make our way back toward the Air Force Museum. Cathy went to see if she could find out what my placement was (that was a negative). So while she was gone, Jenn and I cheered on more 10K runners coming around the curve to head for the finish line. It was then we saw the first wheelchair racer in the marathon come in. It was SO cool. When Cathy joined us, we went to the museum, checked out the gift shop, and then headed out to grab Starbucks and return to Columbus for the remainder of the weekend.
The official results of the Air Force Marathon 10K have me finishing in 51:58. I was 120/1233 overall. I was 25/711 women runners to cross the finish line for the 10K. And I placed 25/96 in my age division. I couldn’t have been happier with these results, honestly. I was just elated with them. And I set a new 10K PR! Thrilled!!
The way this race was run, the people, the setting, the amazing atmosphere, the organization…all of it was awesome. And I do hope to make it back next year…perhaps to try for the half marathon instead. I had a great time and loved every single moment of my race experience. If you are looking for a well-run race…consider one of the Air Force races in Dayton. It’s totally worth the trip.