Can’t stop the feet

October 22, 2013
Greg Snyders of Washington high-fives spectators while running last year’s Marine Corps Marathon. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
Greg Snyders of Washington high-fives spectators while running last year’s Marine Corps Marathon. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Hurricane Sandy nearly washed out the Marine Corps Marathon last year. But the race wrapped up just before the storm came in. This time around, with the federal government shutdown, the forecast was looking pretty grim again.

“An alternate date wasn’t going to happen. Not everybody can change planes and hotel rooms,” says race director Rick Nealis. “And we couldn’t find another course. A couple blocks in any direction and you end up in some national park.”

But instead of having to tell everyone he was throwing a banana feast with a lot of portable toilets, Nealis got to announce last week via YouTube that “We are on!”

That’s good news for the 30,000 people signed up for the 38th running of “The People’s Marathon.” And there’s more: The weather is looking ideal, with a start in the low-40s and a high in the mid-50s. (Similar conditions in the past have led to the fewest number of medical issues on the 26.2-mile course.)

It’ll be a slightly different experience racing this year, and not just because of some tweaks to the route.

In response to the attack at the Boston Marathon, both the Marine Corps Marathon and the New York Marathon (on Nov. 3) are prohibiting runners from wearing CamelBak-type hydration packs.

That and other security precautions, Nealis says, will ensure that everyone ends up at those bananas safely.

Where to Watch

Spectators can follow this plan (from marinemarathon.com):

-Take the Metro to Rosslyn or the Pentagon station to see the opening ceremonies at 7:20 a.m. on Route 110.

-Head across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial for views at miles 11 and 16.

-Go east on Independence Avenue to the National Mall, where you can cheer runners on at miles 18 and 19.

-Ride Metro from Smithsonian to Crystal City for miles 22 and 23 (and a bunch of family festivities).

-Board the MCM shuttle to get to the Finish Festival in Rosslyn.

mockneckshirt
Mock Neck Trial: Just like many of the people tackling their first marathon on Sunday, the Marine Corps Marathon participant shirts have gotten more athletic this year. The cotton has been swapped for a performance fabric, so folks can run comfortably in the souvenir. But traditionalists don’t need to worry — the tops are still that distinctive mock neck style, says race director Rick Nealis. (That’s been the look since 1997, when Nealis was inspired by the attire on the series “NYPD Blue.” He was watching TV and thought, “Don’t they look sharp?”) It’s considered bad luck to wear a race shirt on race day, so Nealis advises runners to save it until their recovery jog on Monday.

Getting Warmer: The first mile of the race is particularly important to homeless people. That’s when runners start to heat up and strip off their jackets, shirts and other apparel. “We’ve also seen socks. But I don’t know how they’re taking them off,” says Lee Anne McLarty of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District. What she does know is that the clothing isn’t dumped in the trash. Instead, volunteers pick up whatever they find, get it laundered and donate it to local shelters — just as the need for warm clothing is on the rise. One way runners can help? Wrap gloves together before tossing them away. “They tend not to fall in the same place,” she says.

Distance Chances: Before anyone can win the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon, they’ll have to win a spot in the race. Registration is switching to a lottery system for next year’s event. There were too many sob stories back in March from people with computer issues who got shut out when the race sold out in less than three hours, race director Rick Nealis says. “This will take the pressure off,” says Nealis, who expects 60,000 to enter — giving folks a 50 percent chance of snagging a spot.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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Marc Silver · October 22, 2013