U.S. shuttle astronaut Gregory Johnson signs awards as race organizer Amy Kentner grabs them.
In the past a man dressed in an astronaut’s suit would meet runners as they finished the “Run to the Moon” 5K race, this year a real NASA astronaut will greet the participants.
“Definitely the biggest change this year is something that has been in the works for about a year-and-a-half now is getting an astronaut to not only come to the race but come to museum itself,” race organizer Amy Kentner said. “Gregory Johnson is coming July 20 and July 21 to really support the museum, but we are very excited to have him be part of the run.
“We are really pleased to have him and he feels it as a privilege to help with a run in the hometown of his hero, Neil Armstrong,” she said.
Johnson, who retired as a colonel with the U.S. Air Force, is a veteran of two space flights. He served on two Endeavor shuttle flights including serving as pilot of the last Endeavor flight from May 16 to June 1, 2011.
Born in South Ruislip, Middlesex, United Kingdom, Johnson graduated from Park Hills High School, now Fairborn High School, in 1980. He earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1984 and a master’s degree in flight structures engineering from Columbia University in 1985.
During a recent visit to Wapakoneta, Johnson signed all 166 awards to be given to race winners in each of the age divisions and is available at the race to sign “Run to the Moon” shirts for people who have pre-registered for the race.
The former 5K race has added a second distance race for the second consecutive year. This year, a 10K race becomes part of the race structure, a year after a 1-mile fun run was instituted for the race.
“The 1-mile fun run is really to promote the family being able to run together or at least here at the same event,” Kentner said. “It also helps children get excited about running and to see the benefits of healthy living which includes exercise.”
The idea came to her because too many runs she attends leaves the children and other family members behind and this lets them participate in a distance they can enjoy. The 1-mile fun run is free.
All the runs start and finish on Saturday, July 21, at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum. The 10K race starts at 8:15 a.m., the 5K race starts at 8:30 a.m. and the 1-mile fun run starts at 9:30 a.m. Participants are encouraged to pick up their race packet from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, July 20, or they can pick it up on the morning of the race.
Kentner noted the race continues to grow as does the number of participants.
Through the years, they have added a free snack. This year each participant receives a Moon Pie, while in past years they have received space ice cream and other treats, including TANG, the drink of early astronauts.
Participants also receive complimentary entry into the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, space-themed music, approximately 40 space facts and recordings of Apollo and shuttle missions along the race.
“I think it is not just a race, but an experience,” Kentner said. “When we look at the race, we look at the entire event itself and we try to build on the space theme.
“I think one of the best things the museum provides for the race is the bib actually gets you in free to the museum so you can really learn about space from the first person to walk on the moon to present day,” she said. “The neat thing we have had this year is some national exposure with an article in Runner’s World magazine showcasing the good things we are doing here in Wapakoneta.”