WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE -- An early starting field for the 2016 Air Force Marathon was crowded with about 5,700 runners signing up New Year's Day, a jump of more than 500 over the holiday in the previous year, the race director says.
And for the first time since 2012, the marathon -- a series of races -- will add 500 more runners' spaces to compete in the 5K race, said marathon director Rob Aguiar.
Jan. 1 marked the first day runners could sign up for one of the 15,500 places on the starting line. Compared to Jan. 1, 2015, about 5,100 runners had signed up. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 17 event, a factor that may have boosted first-day numbers, Aguiar said.
"More people are registered this year because they're excited about the 20th anniversary," he said.
Aguiar said runners could expect extras to mark the two-decade anniversary, but would not release the details.
"We've got so many cool things going that it's a bit of a surprise to the runner," he said. "This is what anniversary runs do ... It's going to be a little bit bigger, better than what they are expecting."
As of Monday, nearly 6,100 runners had signed up. The popular Miami Valley sports gathering hosts a full-marathon, a half-marathon and a 10K race at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Runners can compete in the marathon's 5K race Sept. 16 near the Nutter Center at Wright-State University.
Last year, the 5K sold out April 1. All races in the 2015 marathon sold out last May, he said.
With demand strong, the 5K race was boosted above a cap of 2,000 to 2,500 runners in 2016. "We talked it over with Wright State University and there was room for growth," Aguiar said. "It's the first time we've increased since 2012."
The total number of runners back then was limited to 13,000.
Runners had an incentive to sign up the first day they could: Prices are cheaper.
For the first time, an extra incentive was added: Tickets to see the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship First Four tournament in March at the University of Dayton Arena. Marathon officials had not announced a winner Monday.
Historically, runners have traveled from at least a dozen countries around the world and all 50 states to compete in the fall classic.
Registration now through April 1 for the marathon is $80; half-marathon, $65; 10K, $35; and the 5K, $25. Prices rise April 2 and again on June 2 until the race sells out.
For more information, click onto www.usafmarathon.com.