I Love Dayton: Behind the tradition of the Air Force Marathon

I Love Dayton

FAIRBORN, Ohio (WDTN) –  Runners aren’t the only ones who prepare for the Air Force Marathon. Thousands of volunteers and numerous other supporters work behind the scenes to make the race a successful tradition.

Tom and Mary Jane Rumpke have each collected more than a dozen volunteer t-shirts during their time helping with the marathon.

“It’s like meeting long, lost family members year to year,” said Tom Rumpke, a retired Navy medic.

The Springfield couple considers their marathon volunteer work a way to pay it forward for the support they saw during Tom’s military career.

He said, “Giving back our time is the least we can do.”

Over the course of thirteen years, they’ve filled whatever need the marathon had.

“He works at the volunteer check-in,” Mary Jane Rumpke said of her husband. “I’ve passed out bibs, passed out t-shirts, (worked at the) information booth — anywhere they need me.”

The Air Force Marathon officially started in 1997, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force, and today it relies on about 2,400 volunteers for preparations, set-up and clean-up.

Numerous others, who are not officially affiliated with the event, put in equal effort to celebrate the race.

Part of downtown Fairborn, where runners pass through on two legs of the full marathon course, calls itself the “Fly Zone.” The neighbors and businesses along Broad Street, Main Street, Maple Avenue, Xenia Avenue and Grand Avenue come out en masse to celebrate the race.

Julie Jenschke, the owner of Chantilly Cream Dessert Shop, has been serving breakfast on the sidewalk outside of her business since the marathon’s inception.

Jenschke said the event has become a neighborhood staple, and often sees the same out-of-town visitors frequent her shop on an annual basis to watch family and friends participating in the race.

The bakery employees stay late preparing pastries in the days leading up to the marathon and the shop is one of the first open on race day.

“You would think we were running because by the time we’re done with the marathon that afternoon and we’re done cleaning up here, we’re tired,” Jenschke laughed, adding it was “a good kind of tired.”

She said Fairborn, in addition to the many volunteers, takes pride in contributing to a successful event.

“It is really important to this area because there are so many people that get involved,” Jenschke said.

The 2018 Air Force Marathon is on September 15th.

You can find a full list of events and register to volunteer or run by clicking here.

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