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Some races in Air Force marathon still open through charity

Jun. 23, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Airman raises $1,700 for Enlisted Village, earns t
Airman 1st Class Casey Nation, shown here on the trail linking the Air Force Academy's Cadet Chapel and the Visitor Center, earned a spot in the 2013 Air Force Marathon by raising $1,700 for the Air Force Enlisted Village. The Enlisted Village serves to provide a safe, secure and dignified place for indigent surviving spouses of retired airmen. (Air Force)
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Airmen who failed to get a spot in the now sold-out Sept. 21 Air Force 5K, 10K and half-marathon races [the full marathon is still open], here’s another opportunity. It just may cost a little more, although it’s going to a good cause.

The Air Force Enlisted Village is just one of nine charities that have partnered with the Air Force Marathon, and more runners are welcome to sign up before the July 19 deadline, which includes slots for the sold-out half-marathon.

The AFEV, headquartered near Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was founded in 1967 and has housed more than 500 widowed or elderly spouses of retired Air Force personnel over the years. Today, the nonprofit operates on contributions from hundreds of individuals and organizations.

Each runner must commit at least $500 to be a part of the AFEV team, which had more than two dozen spots open June 19.

“We opened it up with 49 slots in January and to date, we have filled 22 spots with eight more anticipated sign-ups this week,” said retired Master Sgt. Jena Sweeney, human resources director for the AFEV and coordinator of the event.

Runners can create their own fundraising page on active.com, where AFEV has set up an open registration, and family members and friends can donate on the runner’s behalf, Sweeney said.

“They aren’t limited to $500 ... [some runners] have goals of $2,500 to $5,000 and a couple of them are already near $2,000,” Sweeney said.

“Interestingly, we have a team within the team, and we call them the ‘Dragon Slayers,’ ” she said. The “Dragon Slayer” runners are Major Command-sponsored, and each MAJCOM participating has one runner representing in the marathon.

Why Dragon Slayers?

“That’s a Chief Binnicker-ism,” Sweeney said. James Binnicker, the ninth chief master sergeant of the Air Force and current president and CEO of the AFEV, was once called “Mister Dragon Slayer” by a 5-year-old boy. It was just a joke until Binnicker was struck with cancer.

“Every day for 38 days while receiving radiation, the chief stared at ceiling tiles painted by previous patients. Many were hand-painted with messages of hope, prayers and inspiration. It was at that point the chief’s cancer became the ‘dragon’ and the ‘Dragon Slayer’ was born,” she said.

Sweeney said this is the message AFEV is using to inspire runners.

“A T-shirt won’t inspire anyone to run 26 miles. But ‘slaying dragons’ will,” she said.

AFEV has a goal to raise $75,000 from runners to fund approximately 75 additional residences and enhance existing facilities. The funds raised by Team AFEV will assist with the estimated $15 million needed to finish the project by 2020.

To register for the team, go to http://www.active.com/donate/teamafev and click “register.”

Runners can also register for the team by visiting www.afev.us — simply click the “marathon” tab and follow the instructions.

The Sept. 21 Air Force marathon will start and finish at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. To register for the still-open full marathon, go to http://www.usafmarathon.com.

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