WASHINGTON - The crack of a Howitzer signaled the start of the 38th Marine Corps Marathon in the National Capital Region Oct. 27.
A sea of runners lined the crowded streets for miles. At 7:40 a.m., contestants in wheel chairs and hand cycles, some of which were Wounded Warriors, began the race at the front of the pack. Shortly after, the ocean of runners rolled forward, beginning the 26.2-mile race on Route 110 between the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery.
According to the Marine Corps Marathon’s official website, the race earned the nickname “The People’s Marathon” because it was originally created to promote goodwill between Marines and the communities they serve.
With more than 100,000 spectators and 30,000 runners, it is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money. The race’s course is also relatively flat, making the event more beginner-friendly.
“We didn’t really do much training for the marathon,” Giulia Cajati, a first time runner of the Marine Corps Marathon, said. “We are here because we love the Marines.”
The marathon’s course ran through many of the nation’s most iconic monuments. After running through Georgetown, Va., runners passed historic sites like the Kennedy Center and Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. The Arlington Memorial Bridge was next, followed by famous monuments such as the John Ericsson National Memorial and Jefferson Memorial. Runners then passed the National Mall and, finally, the Marine Corps War Memorial.
Participants were required to maintain a 14 minute-per-mile pace to remain in the marathon. If runners failed to run the minimum 14-minute mile pace by the time they reached the 14th Street Bridge, they were driven to the finish line in “straggler” buses.
Runners wore a bib, which included an embedded “B-tag” chip that recorded runners’ times when they crossed the start line. The chip stopped recording at the finish line. The first three male and female finishers were based on the opening gun time, while the chips decided all other awards.
Girma Bedada won first place for the males with a time of 2 hours 21 minutes 32 seconds, followed by Patrick Fernandez (2:22:52) and Richard Morris. Kelly Calway won first for the female category (2:42:16), followed by Gina Slaby (2:48:04) and Emily Shertzer.
The recent government shutdown caused operational concerns for the marathon. The Marine Corps was functioning under operation-pertinent guidelines during the closure, causing public relation events to be cancelled. However, the government reopened, allowing the marathon to continue as scheduled.
“The atmosphere here is great,” Robin Cross, a runner who traveled from California to participate in the race, said. “People come to have fun and support our Marines.”