A Day in the Life: Race Director

A Day in the Life: Race Director

If you are reading this but have yet to read the other blogs in this series, I would encourage you to first learn what some of the other members of the Air Force Marathon team does first. Those blog posts can be found linked below.


Assistant Director

Events Manager

Volunteer Coordinator

It’s the third Saturday in September, the time is 2:30 AM and I’m alone at the start line of the Air Force Marathon. For the moment it is perfectly quiet, no staff is yet onsite, no volunteers have begun to show up, and I’m even there before Security Forces. In a few hours participants from all 50 states and numerous countries will begin to trickle in at first and then more steadily fill the area until you blink and 10,000 participants and their family members are everywhere. It won’t be long before everyone toes the line, nervous energy and butterflies abound shortly followed by a joyous cacophony at the finish to celebrate the momentous occasion. But how did we get to this moment in time? What about the other 364 days? And what was I doing for all of them? Great questions! Let’s figure that out.

If you read the blogs my team members have posted, you’re probably left wondering what roles and responsibilities could be left for me. The reality is that while there are a lot of things I can specifically say I do, much of what I do day to day is extremely fluid and varies depending on the time of year and what my team needs support on.

The first main item I’m in charge of is steering the direction of the event on a more long term journey. While we know where we want to be week to week and month to month, I spend a lot of time thinking about not just the next year’s event but the events 2-3 years out and building the path to get us there. What that boils down to is that the only constant is change. Since joining the team I’ve worked aggressively to encourage the team to try new things, some of which don’t always work out! In the end though it has challenged us to think bigger and to breathe a new life into the event. Some of these visions are small and some large but all have required thought and planning. Examples of these changes have included the introduction of the green program, adding a kids’ fun run, bringing the Blue Mile to the marathon, the reintroduction of the Assistant Director position, the creation of the Museum Mile (our first new event in our 24 year history), taking the Blue Streak Time Trial under our wing, adding a prize purse for national, local, disabled, and military elite athletes, redesigning all the race courses, and rebranding the entire event, etc. Many of these changes take 3-12 months of planning to pull off and I spend a lot of my time seeing that they go off smoothly.

The next area of responsibility under my umbrella is the budget. The Air Force Marathon is proud to be a non-appropriated fund instrumentality (that’s fancy Air Force speak for, we do NOT take tax payer dollars, AT ALL). The Air Force Marathon is funded by registrations and sponsorships only, thus it is imperative that we keep a balanced budget. With 8 team members, 3 events, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts and supplies to procure, balancing a budget is our highest priority. Simultaneously we have no incentive to be profitable, thus if there looks to be a surplus we look to figure out how we can add more value to the experience for our participants. This is why we recently have been able to offer fireworks at the start, offer a prize purse, have premium finisher hats for our half/full marathoners, etc.

Beyond long term planning and budgeting, I also work a lot on the contracts with Rachael, our Assistant Director. Prior to joining the running industry I was active duty Air Force and worked in contracting right here at Wright-Patterson AFB. So while not exactly an expert in the contracting process, I have a fundamental understanding of the components that make for a successful government acquisition. I have been sharing that knowledge with Rachael who has quickly learned the process too. I can’t stress enough how important is to have two people on the team with contracting experience, it is definitely invaluable!

Let’s be honest though, long term planning, budgeting, and contracting certainly don’t take up all of my time or even the majority of it, so what else am I doing? That can really be divided into two parts.

The first part is helping and empowering the team every day. The reality is that producing a major marathon on an active duty military installation has an incredible amount of hurdles and an even more impression amount of red tape that all need cleared to get the job done. My team constantly gets held up by the hurdles and red tape so it’s my job to clear the path so they can continue on with their work. This means I send way too many emails and attend a healthy amount of meetings (enter Chair Force joke here) with finance, safety, legal, base leadership, civil engineering, public affairs, security forces, etc. Many times it’s just finding the right person and that’s what I am therefore, connecting my team to the people that can make things happen. Simply put, I connect the dots. With dozens of on base entities that we need the support of, I work hard to connect everyone with my team to keep the ball rolling forward.

The second part of the more fluid work I do is simply being a liaison and representative of the marathon outside the walls of Wright-Patterson AFB. Whether it is meeting with a potential new (or existing) sponsor, planning with a local city manager, visiting a local run club or running store, or even dropping by the local news for a quick spot to promote the event, etc., I spend a great deal of my time moving around and engaging the local partners that really make the Air Force Marathon a success.

To ask again what I do the other 364 days…well, it changes every day. Yes I help envision the future of where the event is going and try to keep the budget on track, but every day is a new journey. I never know what to expect when I step in the office. The job is filled with incredible highs and sometimes some very tough lows but it’s all made worth it on race day…

“The job is filled with incredible highs and sometimes some very tough lows but it’s all made worth it on race day…”

Speaking of race day, that’s where this discussion started and where I will end it. In an ideal world come race weekend I don’t have much of a role. The truth is my team is awesome and they’re all experts at what they do and frankly they each know far more about their respective areas than I do. Thus you’ll find me on race day sitting down with my feet propped up eating a sandwich…I wish! Inevitably things go sideways behind the scenes and it is my job just like every other day of the year to help my team overcome those issues, except on race day solutions need to happen in minutes. Things can and will go wrong, that’s the nature of producing events. However, we are in the business of finding solutions and making sure every participant who shows up has an amazing time. Thus we work to ensure that when you leave the venue, head home, and finally have a moment to reflect on what occurred, that you’re simply stunned by how awesome of an experience you had. And if for any reason that’s not the case and you feel disappointed or something wasn’t up to standards, the buck stops with me and I encourage you to let me know so that I can work to resolve the issue.

Best of luck in your training and I hope to see you all on race day. I’m a pretty easy fellow to spot! Regardless of how stressed I am you’ll find me with a big smile, probably walking too fast, but not so fast that I won’t slow down and chat if you say hello!

Thanks for reading about what the entire team at the Air Force Marathon does. I am privileged to work alongside this great team and honored to be able to produce this race that means so much to runners the country and world over.

Happy running!


Written by: Brandon Hough, Director, The United States Air Force Marathon


Related Pages:

Charity Partners
Air Force Marathon 2021

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