The 2014 Air Force Marathon is in the books after the event's 18th year concluded with Saturday's running. From broken records to shattered participation numbers, it was one of the best years yet.
Steve Chu took home the men's full marathon title, winning with a total time of 2 hours, 28 minutes and 15 seconds that was some eight minutes shy from the event's all-time record. Ohio native Nicola Holdsworth won the women's marathon—her first ever marathon win—coming in at 2 hours, 56 minutes and 3 seconds.
Professional runners, military veterans or just anyone who wanted to participate flocked to Dayton, Ohio and woke up early Saturday morning to compete. The event was stronger than ever in 2014, with yet another record-setting crowd and 15 champions from various events crowned.
Let's break down the top results from Saturday's Air Force Marathon.
|2014 Air Force Marathon Men's Top Finishers|
|2014 Air Force Marathon Women's Top Finishers|
At a blistering pace that had him running a mile at an average of 5 minutes, 39 seconds, Chu sprinted past the field—literally—to comfortably win the men's full marathon.
The 32-year-old out of Colorado Springs posted his best marathon finish yet, topping his previous time by a whopping 30 minutes. In doing so, only two other contestants finished within 10 minutes of his winning time of 2 hours, 28 minutes and 15 seconds.
Winning marathons is nothing new for Chu, but doing so in a way that honors his wife—a member of the Air Force—was understandably special for him. Laurel Pfahler of TCPalm.com noted his sentiments afterward:
Records were broken in the half marathon, however. Josh Ordway made sure of that, as the Waynesville, Ohio native shattered the half marathon men's record with a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes.
CRC Elite Team captured his feat:
Taking the victory in marathon events wasn't as familiar of a sight for the women's champion. Holdsworth marked her first ever marathon victory on Saturday, and the former University of Kentucky soccer player did so in her home state as she's from Columbus.
It was one of the best women's performances in the marathon's history. Her winning time was just 59 seconds shy of the all-time record set by Lori M. Wilson.
Her win, however, was considerably less relaxing down the stretch—as if the closing moments of a 26.2-mile journey can be relaxing at any rate. Elissa Ballas of Beavercreek, Ohio finished just over a minute behind, and the two were neck-and-neck late until Holdsworth pulled away.
"The conditions were great today," said Holdsworth, per the Wright-Patterson Air Force website. "I knew where all the hard parts were going to be. It was all adrenaline at the end."
The full marathons were only the start of the action. There were half marathons and a 10-kilometer race with wheelchair divisions for many of them.
After naming an overall active military winner for each race category, some 15 championship medals were handed out to the victors.
Here's one Air Force member with his wife, who finished the half marathon, per Wright-Patterson:
But while so much of the event is about competing and winning, that's not what pulls these thousands of people together. It's the feeling of a mutual goal, along with the patriotism that undoubtedly permeates through this American event.
And it shows. This year's race featured approximately 15,000 runners—exceeding last year's count by more than 3,000, per the Wright-Patterson official website.
"It's fitting that just two days after our Air Force's 67th birthday, we conducted the marathon on a course so rich with aviation history. What a privilege for all of us today to have the opportunity to set foot on ground made famous by Orville and Wilbur Wright more than a century ago," said Wolfenbarger. "I want to sincerely thank all the runners, volunteers and spectators for making this 18th Annual Air Force Marathon yet another historical and celebratory event."
Participants will have to wait until next year to break the records of Josh Cox and Wilson, but there's little doubt that both could be shattered soon if the event continues to grow immensely year after year.
Whether or not they are, it's safe to say that the 19th year of the Air Force Marathon will guarantee to live up to the 18th. The blend of respect for the military, camaraderie and athletics makes for it to be one of the most anticipated marathons for thousands every year, and that won't change in 2015.