How the annual United States Air Force Marathon encourages both local and out-of-state runners
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
Picture life at age 65.
What do you see? Stereotypes aside (hello, dentures and prune juice!), most people will say they will at least be retired, maybe traveling, kicking back and, well, slowing down a bit.
But for Sid Busch the age marker means something a little less conventional. In fact, at 65 years old, Busch can say he has run 178 marathons, waking up at 3 a.m. during the summer months to train and beat the heat that comes hand-in-hand with his home in Goose Creek, S.C. He runs a race nearly every weekend — everything from half marathons to marathons — and has traveled all over the world to do so, stopping in Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, England and Guam to lace up his running shoes.
And you thought 65 was boring.
As a retired member of the Navy, Busch is especially looking forward to participating in the upcoming 15th Annual United States Air Force Marathon on Saturday, September 17 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“The organization, support and volunteers are second to none,” said Busch of the USAF Marathon, which will mark his fifth time participating in the marathon, and 179th marathon overall. “Running a marathon for one of the military services is special to me.”
Molly Louden, USAF Marathon Director said the 2011 marathon will feature the largest number of race participants to date. More than 13,000 runners have registered across all four races with approximately 3,500 full marathoners, 5,700 half marathoners, 2,000 10K runners and 1,800 registered to run the 5K, which will take place on Friday.
“There are a thousand more runners than we had last year,” said Louden. “We sold out the full and half marathons on June 1 and the 10K sold out on June 18. The 5K sold out August 5. This is the second year in a row that all events have sold out, and our sell-out date this year was more than two months earlier than last year.”
It’s an understatement to say the race is popular. In fact, the draw to the race is two-fold for many participants who say they are not only excited to run in honor of military, but to experience the various events the race has to offer, including a Sports & Fitness Expo September 15, a gourmet pasta dinner the evening before the marathon and an after-party at The Greene that will feature live music, a photo booth, and food and drinks.
James Jeansonne of Columbus said after participating in a few half marathons, this will be his first full marathon. Not only will race day mark his 37th birthday, but he is also looking forward to running in honor of his grandfather, an Air Force and Korean War veteran.
“He is/was the most influential person in my life,” said Jeansonne. “I know I will be running with him on my shoulder, helping me to the 26.2-mile mark.”
Jeansonne — who will also be running to raise money for the Fisher House Foundation, a charity that helps to benefit military families — said he is also excited to see the flyover Air Force jets that will start the race.
“I think that will really get the adrenaline pumping,” said Jeansonne.
Like Jeansonne, Sherri Houchins is looking forward to not only honoring her service in the Air Force, but her dad’s as well. But Houchins, who will be participating in the half marathon, has one more reason for training to run 13.1 miles.
“I’m running in the Air Force half marathon, but I’m currently training to run in a full marathon in November in Indianapolis,” said Houchins, who is from Greenwood, Ind. “The full marathon is what I’m doing to celebrate my 40th birthday year and cross it off my bucket list.”
And Houchins isn’t alone when it comes to setting the bar high for accomplishing running goals. Dee Char of Dayton is gearing up to participate in the upcoming half marathon after taking a more than 15-year hiatus from running. Char said she hasn’t run a step since becoming visually impaired and unable to navigate without the assistance of a white cane.
“I had missed running terribly, but I was concerned about continuing to run because it felt extremely unsafe for me,” said Char, who participated in the 1994 New York City Marathon. “I simply could no longer really see where I was going.”
That all changed when she read about Amy Bell McDonaugh, a visually impaired woman who won the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon last spring.
“It reiterated to me something I already knew — that is was possible to run blind,” said Char. “I just did not know how it would be possible for me. I was determined to do whatever it was going to take to start running again.”
For Char that meant training with two women, Candi Nichols and Brittany Waag, who will run alongside her on September 17.
“Training was a challenge at first, but now Candi, Brittany and I run together much more naturally — we are a fluid dynamic team,” said Char. “I could not have asked for a more perfect balance of strength of character and kindness of heart than that which I have come to know as a result of running with them by my side. [Now] this dream becomes reality … I will run the USAF half marathon.”
Run, indeed. Whether you’re a non-runner or an experienced one, it’s hard to ignore the overarching theme here: These people are dedicated.
Lace up your shoes. You have yourselves a competition.
Though the races are completely sold out for the 15th Annual United States Air Force Marathon, for more information go to www.usafmarathon.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Caroline Shannon-Karasik at CarolineShannonKarasik@DaytonCityPaper.com.