Race Celebrates Its 21st Birthday with Largest Field in Its History

By Nearman, Steve | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 26, 1996 | Go to article overview

Race Celebrates Its 21st Birthday with Largest Field in Its History


Nearman, Steve, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The Marine Corps Marathon turns 21 years old tomorrow.

This race would still be considered young, but in marathon years this is a mature, well-organized 26-mile, 385-yard endurance run which continues to attract more runners every year.

This year's field is 19,138, a far cry from the 1,175 who lined up in Washington in 1976. And depending on the number of finishers, Marine Corps could be the sixth-largest marathon in the world this year behind Boston (35,868), New York (to be run Nov. 3), Honolulu (to be run Dec. 8), London (25,000) and Paris (18,000). Los Angeles had 16,100 finishers March 3.

Each race but the Marine Corps awards money to the top runners.

But that's part of what makes the Marine Corps Marathon unique among its peers, a race which caters to the back of the pack as much as the front-runners.

Case in point: The starting time for this year's race was moved up a half hour to 8:30 a.m., taking part of the hour gained through the switch back to standard time.

"A lot of comments from the athletes said that they'd like the extra half hour to get across the 14th Street Bridge [at 22 1/2 miles]," said Staff Sgt. Donna Stehley. "So we moved the time to enable more runners to cross the bridge before the 3 p.m. closing."

Stehley added that the earlier start will also allow the athletes more time in the cooler temperatures.

The Marines said that the average temperature for Oct. 27 is 59 degrees, but meteorologists are predicting morning temperatures in the 60s, moving to 80 by the heat of the day, which could pose a problem for many entrants.

But the Marines are not worried.

"We are expecting an average of 72 degrees," Stehley said. "I think that's good running conditions. I don't think that will bother many of the runners."

First Lt. Guillermo Canedo, with Marine public affairs, agreed. "When we set out to do the marathon, we take the weather into consideration," he said. "The warmer the weather, the higher the possibility of heat-related injuries. We factor that into our planning."

While it typically has been on the cooler side for race day, there have been a few hot years, including a sweltering humid 1986 run for the 11,255 registered runners.

"Personally, I like it hot," said Bob Bieri, an eight-time Marine Corps finisher now handling day-to-day operations for the race. "You just have to be careful in your planning in taking in a lot of fluids early on in the race.

"But most of the people here have trained throughout the summer and many of them are training at lunch time so they are used to the weather."

Most runners said they are anticipating warm temperatures.

"I would prefer it to be cooler. I would prefer it in the 50s," said 49-year-old Army colonel Raul Colon of Centreville, Va., who is looking for a four-hour finish in his first marathon with 40-year-old wife Linda. …

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Race Celebrates Its 21st Birthday with Largest Field in Its History
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