Race recap: Imagine running a half marathon on an active military base – a bit intimidating, a bit patriotic and also pretty dag-gum awesome! It should come as no surprise that that logistics for a race on an Air Force base would be top-notch, including a flyover from a B-1 bomber before the marathon start and a pair fighter jets in tight formation before the half marathon start. After the first 2 miles the course winds around a large desolate open area (almost eerily quiet) and through the Wright-Patterson golf course. The desolation is broken up in part by the themed water stations, which included: clowns in full costumes, Elvis look-a-likes, Austin Powers (very shagadellic) and pirates. The crowd support was basically non-existent, so the water stations provided a nice chance to smile. Just past mile 5 Kristin was fighting some mental demons, but once she saw a duck crossing sign, which looked beyond inappropriate, she laughed out loud and seemed to fall into a much easier and happier pace. Around mile 8, just before an on-ramp (one of a few hills on the course) we were in awe as the first marathon runner passed by with a very consistent and seemingly effortless stride (he went on to win by ~5 minutes). Mile 10 served up the largest hill on the course – but thankfully our hill training in Vermont the week prior had made this hill seem tame in comparison and neither of us broke stride. The final ¼ mile is on an old runway where runners are literally surrounded by massive Air Force planes – an extremely memorable sprint to the line with a respectable finish time.
Highlights: After completing the race we were greeted by an active member of the Air Force who placed a finisher medal around our necks and shook our hands.
Tip: While the expo is open Friday until 8:00pm, you won’t be able to park from 6:00pm-7:00pm because all the roads are temporarily closed during the 5k, which runs past all the major parking lots. Race officials ask you to arrive 2 hours before start time for a reason - plan for entry onto the base, parking and walking to the start line to take longer than you expect (at least 30 minutes to enter the base and park plus time to walk ~1.5 miles to the start line).
Registration for all events begins on January 1 with special one-day only discounted registration prices (~$50 = race, shirt, hat, medal, and marathon patch).
Day 1 (Friday):
Despite the fact that we were running in the "Air" Force half marathon we decided to drive from Chicago to Dayton. We kept ourselves entertained during our 830 mile round trip adventure (Avg. 50 mph, Avg. 30 mpg and nearly 16:00 hours in the car) with the free Marathon Gas iPhone app, which includes a checklist of how many different state license plates you see (all-in we found 39 of 50 states) and Auto Bingo (an entertaining "I-spy" game which helps you from getting totally bored by looking for odd objects/buildings/places/etc - giant wind farm sadly didn't make our bingo card).
The first stop of our adventure was in West Lafayette, Indiana for lunch at the Niko’s Spicy Pickle (yes, they do give you a spicy pickle with your sandwich). Apparently the cowboy vibes were strong as we both sampled a sandwich with “rodeo” in the title – I devoured the Rodeo Beef Panini and Kristin feasted on the Rodeo Round Up Wrap. The roast beef was well balanced with fresh provolone, roasted onions and just a hint of tangy spice from the banana peppers. Niko's has mango juice which was a bit strong, but mixed with the lemonade is a pretty tasty concoction.
Our pre-race meal was served up at Mama DiSalvo’s – Dayton’s best Italian restaurant. As you might expect the restaurant was packed the night before the Air Force marathon, but we were lucky enough to find a seat at the bar (which offered full food service). The locals eating and/or enjoying a drink at the bar were really nice and we had some great conversations about our traveling adventures and provided some advice of things to do/sights to see in Chicago. The homemade cavatelli (small pasta that kind of looks like an open hot dog bun) with meatballs was outstanding. While the conversations distracted us a bit from our meal, we really had a great time interacting with locals at what they consider one of the very best restaurants in the area.
Rather than traditional dessert we decided to taste-test the best donuts in town with a stop at Bill’s Donut Shop. It was almost 9pm but surprisingly the shop was bustling with six or seven tables full of locals chatting and playing cards over donuts and coffee. We tried a smattering of donuts, with the true highlights including the butter twist (fresh from the oven, this melt in your mouth donut puts national donut chains to shame), the pumpkin cake (the real pumpkin flavor with a hint of nutmeg and spices made this Kristin’s favorite) and the Persian with nuts (a delicious cinnamon roll topped with caramel icing and chopped nuts). Bill’s knows what they are doing and their donuts are outstanding.
Tip: Ask the friendly employees which donuts are the freshest as these are the best and the longer the donuts sit the more they taste like the stale national chain variety.
Day 2 (Saturday - Race Day):
After finishing the race we stopped in the United States Air Force National Museum (literally at the finish line). Admission is free, which is surprising as this museum is completely awesome and would be well worth a paid entry. The museum is separated into three different hangars (Early aviation/ WWII, Korean War/ Southeast Asia and Cold War/current operations). In addition to seeing hundreds of full-size restored planes we also ventured into the missile gallery, which was very impressive. You could easily spend a ½ day here based on the shear number of planes and artifacts scattered throughout the museum, so make sure to plan some time post-race to browse this great museum.
Milano’s Atlantic City Subs is almost like the love child of Quizno’s and Chili’s. Milano’s offers a full service restaurant with a bar as well as a to-go sandwich counter in the back of the restaurant. As we were starving and in a bit of a hurry we opted for the to-go counter and sat on barstools to enjoy our baked turkey sandwich (make sure to tell them to hold the mayo – they apparently put mayonnaise on everything). Bread can make a sandwich, and in this case the bread definitely was a winner.
Instead of driving straight home after the race we decided to take a detour to our Alma matter in Bloomington, Indiana to watch our Hoosiers take down South Carolina State 38-21! The halftime band show by South Carolina State was highly energetic and super entertaining. Not only did the band play current pops songs but all 101 band members were rocking and dancing the entire performance – a really great show. It was fun to be back at our old stomping grounds, and it was nice to see the Hoosiers come up victorious on the gridiron.
One of the best parts of dining in Bloomington is the eclectic food options available – everything from Tibetan to Turkish to Indian to Afghan inspired fare. Samira’s served as our first ever taste of Afghanistan cuisine. The Hummus (chickpea spread with garlic, lemon and tahini) and lentil soup were both quite good and served as a nice appetizer to our main course of chicken kabobs. The kabobs were well seasoned and tasty, but a bit different from what we were used to (the only thing on the kabob was chicken, the vegetables were kind of a mush on the side of the plate). Overall, we were glad we put on our adventure pants and treated our taste-buds to Afghan fare.
Nick's English Hut was our favorite bar in college - and to no surprise is still our favorite bar in Bloomington! It was fun to grab a few locally brewed pints and people watch at our old hangout (the Quarrymen pale ale was the best and the Dragonfly IPA was decent but a distant second).
Day 3 (Sunday):
Breakfast at the Runcible Spoon (a name derived from a children’s book) was extremely good. I had the biscuits and gravy, which dispute their reputation were actually not too heavy. Kristin sampled the traditional eggs, bacon and toast with a homemade pancake topped with fresh strawberries – which she described as “the best pancake” she has ever eaten! If that’s not a ringing endorsement to try this Bloomington favorite, I don’t know what is. The coffee is locally ground and a bit sweet, so make sure to sip on it before adding any cream or sugar.
Tip: Make sure to visit the bathroom on the first floor to see the transformation of a bathtub into an open air aquarium – very odd, but fairly amusing.
On our drive home from Bloomington we stopped at the Fair Oaks Farm and sampled some fresh cheeses (the vegetable infused Havarti was our favorite). We took a brief look around the various farm exhibits, but decided that watching the birthing of a cow was not worth the $20 admission...or the guaranteed nightmares when trying to sleep later that night.
Ohio Half Marathon Medals
September 16, 2011: Air Force Half Marathon