Veteran draws on passion for running as Air Force Marathon director
By KARA DRISCOLL | The Journal-News | Published: February 2, 2019
HAMILTON, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — For Air Force Marathon director Brandon Hough, the success of this year’s race weekend is personal.
For the second year, Hough is leading the marathon as director — an opportunity that he calls a dream job. An athlete and Air Force veteran, Hough has been a runner since he “came out of the womb,” and he’s determined to make this year’s marathon weekend an experience unlike any other race in the United States.
Directing the marathon is like coming home for Hough, who served as a contracts manager with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Not only has he run the Air Force Marathon, but he was able to squeeze in the 5K last year while managing the entire weekend of events.
After learning from participant feedback surveys, the Air Force Marathon will debut a new course for runners on Sept. 21. Runners can expect redesigned full marathon, half marathon and 10K courses as well as the addition of a corral system with staggered starts based on previous or predicted start times. Without corrals, the start of the race can become clogged with runners.
“We’ve altered the courses to not only improve the runners’ experience as they make their way through the rich, historic backdrop of Wright-Patterson’s military community but also to ensure proper separation of the different races to make it safer and easier to maintain whatever pace runner’s chose throughout the event,” Hough said in a statement.
The marathon is one of the region’s largest events, bringing in millions during the weekend. The race had an estimated $13.7 million economic impact on tourism and travel-related spending in 2016, according to the Greene County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The first official AF marathon was held on Sept. 20, 1997, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Air Force.
The marathon helped Dayton become a designated Runner Friendly Community this year by The Road Runners Club of America. Communities designated as a Runner Friendly Community have shown that they meet the program’s criteria, which includes community infrastructure, community support and local government support for running.
Participation for the event has fluctuated in recent years, but marathon registrations opened with a 22 percent increase over the same date from the previous year, Wright-Patterson announced. Race participation nationwide has tapered in recent years.
The vast majority of road races of all sizes across the U.S., participation held steady in 2017, according to an analysis of road race participation trends by national trade organization for the sport Running USA. U.S. running registrations in 2017 remained consistent with the total registrants in 2016. In 2017, there were a total of nearly 18.3 million registrants, down just slightly from 18.5 million in 2016.
Registration for races slowed in the past five years after boom in the running industry — partly due to women runners. The majority of runners of U.S. road races continued to be women in 2017, while the most popular race distance was the 5K, according to Running USA. Around 59 percent of participants in a given road race are female, while 41 percent are male.
“The women’s running boom of more than 15 years ago remains healthy and strong,” said Running USA CEO Rich Harshbarger, in a statement. “This is an asset for our sport and a trend that we expect to continue.”
The Air Force Marathon draws a split crowd of female and male runners as well as military and civilian runners, Hough said. He said it’s a race every runner should do at least once in their life — taking runners under a military aircraft at the finish line.
A featured aircraft for 2019 will be the Air Force’s newest tanker, the KC-46 Pegasus.
“It’s just a race unlike any other you’ll run across the country,” he said.