Military Marathons

Updated: January 29, 2024
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    Military marathons have become a traditional part of life in uniform for many athletes. There are many to choose from; The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps all have marathons, half-marathons, and similar events.

    Not all of these marathons are officially endorsed by the Department of Defense (see below) but some branches do have “official” marathons.

    These can be service-specific in the case of the Marine Corps Marathon, but other events are co-sponsored, such as the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon.

    Military marathons offer service members the beneficial opportunity to compete together and challenge themselves physically. For those military members who are sick or disabled, the DoD Warrior Games offer team sports and Olympic-style competition.

    The Army Marathon And The Army 10-Miler

    The Army Marathon is an event that is not officially sanctioned by the Army or the Department of Defense. It has operated in the past as “The Army Marathon”, but is organized by a group known as Run With Heroes.

    The official site describes the Army Marathon as a for-profit group/event not affiliated with any government agency, “money raised through the races and other events will be contributed to multiple charities at the direction of The Army Marathon volunteer advisors”.

    Unfortunately, the last “physical” race the Army Marathon held was in 2015. Since then the group has canceled its in-person events, opting for a “virtual marathon” for charity, using online tracking tools. The event started as an in-person 26.2-mile race in Killeen, Texas in 2013, featuring more than 600 runners.

    At the time of this writing it is unclear whether the Army Marathon will become a live event, but a staff writer for the Killeen Daily Herald wrote in 2017 that one of the problems plaguing the race (as cited by the president of the Army Marathon organization) was that in its’ prior form it simply wasn’t “Army enough”.

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    The Army 10-Miler: The Official Race Of The United States Army

    The Army 10-Miler, also known as the Army Ten-Mile Race and Expo, is the official race of the United States Army. It is held once a year in Washington D.C. and features more than 35,000 runners and 900 teams from around the globe.

    This event is open to military and non-military athletes alike and is diverse and accessible for wounded warrior competitors.

    Who Can Compete In The Army 10-Miler?

    The Army 10-Mile Race and Expo is open to all competitors age 15 and older. All participants under the age of 18 must have written parental consent with no exceptions.

    There is a Wounded Warrior division for competitors who are visually impaired, amputees, or otherwise disabled athletes who are Active Duty, Reserve, Guard, Veterans or Retired U.S. Service Members. There is also a Wheelchair Division for civilians and U.S. Service Members.

    Brief History Of The Army 10-Miler

    The Army 10-Miler began in 1985 and has had more than 400,000 athletes compete since then. The very first Army 10-Miler saw overall winners Kevin McGarry and Marianne Dickerson complete the course in under 60 minutes each. One of the fastest finishing times occurred in 2009 during the 25th Army Ten-Miler when Alena Reta completed the course in 46 minutes and 59 seconds, an event record.

    The Marine Corps Marathon

    The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is also known as “The People’s Marathon” is among the largest marathons, operating without offering a cash prize.

    The Marine Corps Marathon Organization doesn’t hold a single event for the entire year billed as a Marine Marathon. Instead, it hosts a series of events including the traditional marathon held at the Pentagon, plus a 10K run, half-marathon, and the MCM Event Series held at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

    The Marine Corps Marathon has been hailed as “Best For Families” and “Best For Beginners”, and features competitors from all 50 states and from more than 60 nations around the globe. These events are open to anyone.

    Who Can Compete In The Marine Corps Marathon?

    Anyone 14 or older on event day can register for MCM events. There is no minimum qualifying time required to compete, but runners must be able to maintain a 14-minute mile pace for the duration of each event.

    Some MCM events including the main Marine Corps Marathon welcome and accommodate wheelchair and hand cycle contestants. Other events, such as the MCM 10K run cannot accommodate wheelchairs or hand cycles due to safety issues, according to the official site.

    Brief History Of The Marine Corps Marathon

    The origins of the Marine Corps Marathon go back to the 1970s when a retired Marine Colonel came up with an idea that eventually became what we know today. Col. Jim Fowler, came up with plans to for Marine Corps Reserve Marathon (MCRM)” to promote community goodwill, showcase the Marine Corps, serve as a recruiting tool and also give Marines an opportunity to qualify for the marathon in Boston,” according to the MCM official site.

    The first of these events happened on Nov. 7, 1976. There were more than 1,000 finishers, something MCM claims was “the largest inaugural participation” for such a marathon. The winner of that event was a two-time Olympic athlete, Kenneth Moore of Eugene, Oregon. Susan Mallery of Arlington, VA, was the first woman to finish.

    The Air Force Marathon

    The Air Force Marathon is described by its’ official site as “an annual endurance event” held the third Saturday of September at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

    Who Can Compete In The Air Force Marathon?

    The Air Force Marathon is open to all participants (military and civilian) including those who wish to walk the course. All participants must be 16 years old on or by race day. Parent or guardian permission is required for those under 18. This race also features a wheelchair division.

    Brief History Of The Air Force Marathon

    The very first Air Force Marathon was held in 1997 as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Air Force as a separate branch of military service. Since then it has grown to an event with more than 13,000 participants with athletes from all 50 states and many countries around the world.

    Today, Air Force Marathon time is a full weekend of competition including a full marathon, half marathon, plus 10k and 5K races. The race course is considered “Boston Qualifying” with the finish line at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The race’s official site says the 26.2 miles takes runners on a tour of “over 110 years of military airpower history”.

    The fastest overall completion time for this marathon happened in the 2007 competition with Josh Cox completing the 26.2-mile course in two hours, twenty minutes and 57 seconds. The fastest female runner set the record in 1997; Lori M. (Eppard) Wilson finished the course in two hours, fifty-five minutes and four seconds.

    The Navy-Air Force Half Marathon

    The Navy-Air Force Half Marathon is an annual event that is organized by Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR), a government non-appropriated fund agency that offers services on U.S. military bases worldwide. In 2018 the event was scheduled on Sept. 16th in Washington D.C.

    This event features the complete half-marathon, but also a five-miler course, and a third party-sponsored Active Endurance event. The Air Force and Navy have no affiliation with this event.

    Who Can Compete In The Navy-Air Force Half Marathon?

    Registration is open to both military and civilian athletes aged 10 or older, and there is a wheelchair division and Wounded Warrior division offered.

    Brief History Of The Navy-Air Force Half Marathon

    The Navy-Air Force Half Marathon began in 2004 in five-miler form but has since grown to more than 10,000 participants. The half-marathon event was started later; 2018 was the seventh year for the half marathon.

    In 2012 the first place finisher of the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon was David Burnham with a race time of one hour, ten minutes and eleven seconds. The first female finisher was Shannon Miller who finished in one hour, twenty-one minutes and thirty-nine seconds.

    Written by Team