RECAP: 2021 Air Force (Virtual) Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Air Force Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!

Disappointed, but not surprised.

That was me – when I found out that the 2021 Air Force Marathon would be going virtual for the 2nd straight year. Not the ideal situation, but I made the best of it!

So what happened?

My original plan was to run the Air Force Marathon on September 18 in-person, followed the next weekend with another marathon. Crazy? Yes. Impossible? No. With the switch to a virtual event, I thought for sure I would still be able to run two separate events. However, another commitment (non-running related) took precedent on what would have been Air Force weekend and shifted those plans. As a result, I decided to “double dip” and count my virtual Air Force Marathon the following weekend (September 25) on a day I was already scheduled to run a marathon at another in-person event in Fargo, ND.

How did it go?

To sum it up in one word – painful. However, the first half of the race was actually fairly decent! The temperature was perfect and the course was very cozy, traveling through mostly residential neighborhoods. I was cruising along at a comfortable 9:30-10min/mile pace through most of the first 13.1. The strategy going into the run was to run a 5k and then walk until the the clock completed 30 minutes. For example, I covered the first 5k in about 28:30 and walked until 30 min, then started running again. To my surprise, this approach was serving me fairly well! However, as I got closer to the halfway point, I could tell that my legs were going to have a rough go the rest of the way.

And I was right.

I got to the 13.1 sign and started walking more than I had previously. Traveling through a few university campuses at the beginning of the 2nd half, I found moments of strength – but ultimately those passed and I was back to walking again. As I made my way back across the river, walking was definitely more comfortable, but still painful. Another moment of hope was just ahead around a few more corners as I was fortunate to see my friend Michael and his son Cooper who had just moved to the area! This much needed support gave me a second second-wind and got me moving (even if at a slow jog) through miles 18-20.

And that, my friends…is where the walking took over – permanently. My legs – done. My energy reserves – gone.

As I began the final 10k, moving at my slowest pace of the day, I began to wonder what I would have been feeling had I actually been able to follow through with my original plan of two back-to-back marathon weekends? Probably even worse that I was in that moment! But I didn’t go all the way to North Dakota to simply not finish – let alone not finish TWO events. So, in the spirit of Dory from Finding Nemo, I just kept walking.

As I got within about a half mile of the end, I could see the building where the race would end and got my final surge of energy to “run” it in for the finish. It was incredibly painful, but before I knew it I was rumbling down the ramp and into the arena to the finish! Ultimately, I completed another marathon (technically, two) – but it wasn’t pretty!

Air Force Marathon 2022?

For the second year in a row, I’ve been proud to sign up for the Air Force Marathon – even if it has been a virtual event. The event organizers have once again been fantastic with their communication and building up the event, despite the challenges of going virtual.

I am hopeful that in 2022 the race will be able to return to an in-person event. The build-up for an in-person version of the Air Force Marathon over the last two years is absolutely REAL! Whether it is with BibRave (thank you again for the opportunity!) or on my own, I will absolutely be marking the 3rd weekend in September on my calendar and making the trip to Dayton!

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