The Army Marathon will not go on this year, but event organizers said they intend to build up for another physical race by 2018.
The 26.2-mile race from Killeen to Temple was started April 21, 2013, with 611 runners, with the intention of building the race to a status equivalent to the annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., which had about 30,000 participants in 2016.
In the Army Marathon, little more than 1,000 runners participated in 2014 and nearly 1,400 in 2015, the last physical race.
The marathon went virtual in 2016 with a “Staff Ride Heritage Series” intended to continue raising funds for military charities and the marathon’s primary recipient, the National Mounted Warfare Museum, said Ed Bandas, president and CEO of the Army Marathon.
The virtual race tracked run miles online using a tracking device that allowed participants to earn Google street views of their route locations as they recorded their activity. It wasn’t exactly the same thing as a real marathon.
Will there be another Arm y Marathon?
“As of this moment, there is no solid date for our next marathon,” Bandas said. “It will probably be in 2018 in order to build up our fundraising, but for now, we’re in a holding pattern.”
The problem with raising funds for the event, which costs approximately $250,000 annually to put on, is that the event isn’t “Army” enough, he said.
“We’re working on that problem, but we need to get (Fort Hood) much more involved,” Bandas said. “Unlike the Marine Corps Marathon and the Air Force Marathon, this is not actually put on by the Army. Without (Association of the U.S. Army) and Department of the Army blessing, it’s an Army Marathon in name only.”
Since the race is a local endeavor, it is not officially sponsored by the Army, said Scott Malcom, spokesman for U.S. Army Installation Management Command, located at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
“For something to receive commercial sponsorship and or advertising support from the Army, it must be officially designated as an Army event and further designated as an MWR (Morale, Welfare, Recreation) event,” Malcom said. “The official Army race is the Army Ten Miler, held each October in Washington, D.C. We use the Marine Corp Marathon as the venue for the Armed Forces competition.”
The Army Ten Miler gets about 30,000 participants every year, including people from the Fort Hood area who travel to compete in the annual race.
Bandas said he has spoken with retired Gen. Raymond Odierno and Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s top officer and a former Fort Hood commander, in the past about the marathon, but with issues such as deployments and budgets at the forefront, building support for the event is on a “back burner.”
But the Army Marathon deserves support from the top brass the way the Army’s sister services support their marathons, he said.
“And the Army Marathon deserves to be here. It makes sense to run the Army Marathon at the largest Army post in the world,” Bandas said.
When it comes to the Marine Corps Marathon, Marines are actively involved in the planning and execution of marathon events, according to the marathon’s website, www.marinemarathon.com. Marines are assigned a specific area of responsibility to plan and coordinate while managing a workforce of fellow Marines and civilian volunteers.
The Marines serve in a variety of roles including security, course operations, water points, food stations, aid stations, medal presentation and in ceremonial roles including the Marine Corps Color Guard and Quantico Marine Corps Band, according to the site. Participation in the event is limited to 30,000 runners annually.
The Army Marathon relies on volunteers for those roles, Bandas said. “All the cities in the area have just been fantastic.”
Bandas, a Belton resident and former Marine himself, said the more he’s told “no,” the more he pushes to ensure the marathon becomes fully established, including changing the marathon to a for-profit status to allow participation by the Army, which is necessary according to Army regulations on sponsorship.
“The biggest challenge of the last few years has been making this fly, so I’m not going to let this die quietly,” he said. “We just need to grow our support within the Department of the Army.”