The Air Force Marathon 2023

Submitted by Bob Baker N8ADO
Volunteer registration for the 2024 Air Force Marathon opens on May 1, so it seems appropriate to release a report on last year’s event. Hopefully, this will build a little interest and encourage volunteers to join.

The 2023 running took place on Saturday, September 16. The US Air Force was created on September 18, 1947, and each year, the race date is set on the Saturday closest to the birthday. As usual, there were three main events: A 10 K race, a half marathon, and the full marathon. The 2020 and 2021 races were canceled due to COVID-19, and the 2022 race had fewer entries than usual. While still smaller than some previous years, the race day runner count was over 6000.

This year will likely have more runners. Regardless of the number of runners, the course is the same as always and it takes a lot of volunteers to cover all of the assignments.

We provide a number of services to the event. Foremost is that we create networks to provide communications between hydration stations and medical stations and the incident command post. We also have a ham in the security trailer, which is the backup incident command post. The hydration stations are part of the logistics or “LOG” net. The hams supply race status information to the captains, report race leader information, relay reports of “runner down” and other medical problems, and help with other
logistic issues. The medical tents are part of the medical net. The hams provide status information to the medical leaders, report the need for advanced medical care to incident command, provide a back-up to the medical logistics communications, and provide back-up to the medical dispatch communications. Reports of runners needing transportation back to the finish area are also made. We operate a number of other networks. One is “talk-in” which helps to direct the ham volunteers to their assigned location and to resolve issues with base security. We operate a finish line net to funnel “progress of the race” information to the announcer, including the approach of the race leaders. The hams in the finish area act as spotters, keeping an eye on the runners and the net changes into a medical support net if there is an incident. Finally, we have several hams whose vehicles are equipped with APRS equipment and follow the “tail end Charlies” so it is quick and easy to determine where the ends of the full and half marathons are. We also equip bicycle escorts with tracking devices so that we can determine the locations of the lead male and female runners in the various races. The hams in the incident command locations have the ability to display the APRS information which is greatly appreciated by the command staff.

The Sunday before the race, we held a training session. The session was well-attended and the discussion was meaningful. I had posted all of the information in a Google Drive folder so that our out of town volunteers could be up to speed without actually needing to attend the meeting. Everyone did a spectacular job. Race day started out with nearly ideal running conditions. The race actually started under condition “Green” and finished under condition “Yellow”. There are always a few problems and the amateur radio volunteers did a great job of helping the Command Staff in solving them. One complication is that the traditional flyover by the featured aircraft was expanded due to the featured aircraft being three types of helicopters. It was decided to cordon off a section of the field near the start line so that the choppers could be seen and HEARD (!) by the crowd. This, in turn, disrupted access to the shuttle buses that spectators were to use to go to the Fairborn viewing sites. We helped to make
the race officials aware of the issues and they moved the bus stop to an accessible area. The biggest unsolved problem for the amateur radio volunteers was the early closing of some of the ingress routes. Some were bold enough to move the barricades, but, in spite of some last minute shuffling, we ended up with one hydration station without amateur radio support because access was blocked. The number one complaint by the volunteers is how early we must arrive to get in place before the road closures. It is frustrating when early is not early enough.

Several hams provided pictures to share. Use the following link to view them.

To all of the volunteers: thank you for your help with this event. Your performance was truly outstanding. The race director told me that they couldn’t do the event without our support. I hope that you had some fun and that you come back again on September 21.

The Air Force Marathon is not affiliated with any particular club, but we could not imagine doing the event without the support of a number of clubs and I would like to thank all for their support: DARA and XWARN for providing the vehicles used for the net control stations; UVARC, HHARC, and XWARN for letting us use their repeaters; DARA, XWARN, and MoCoARES for letting us use their APRS
trackers. Of course, our volunteers come from the clubs noted above along with many from BARC, Greene County ARES, Shelby County ARES, Miami County ARES, MARA, MWA, VOA, QCEN, Franklin County ARES. I suspect there are others, but we do not collect that information. Drop me a line if I failed to name your organization and accept my thanks for your support.

I wish to thank a few individuals who provided special support: KE8FMJ who was my general assistant and attended meetings, helped with the assignments, and helped to prepare and present the training material; N2TUJ who coordinated the Logistics Net Team; KD8DGB who coordinated the talk-in and Medical nets; K8ZOZ who built a custom PC-based logging system. Thanks to the volunteers who showed up on the day before the race and helped to set up the Command Area operation.

The 2024 Air Force Marathon takes place on Saturday, September 21. Save the date and be a part of the biggest Community Support Event in the Dayton area.

Best 73,
Bob Baker, N8ADO — Volunteer Lead for Amateur Radio Support of the Air Force Marathon

P.S. I maintain a mail list and a gmail account ( that I use to recruit volunteers and to send out information to the volunteers who have signed up. If you wish to be added to the list, send an email stating your desire, Also, registering for the Air Force Marathon and selecting the race day job “Amateur Radio” will get you on the list. Volunteer Registration opens May 1.