Road Trip

Marine Corps Marathon: A Spectator Sport

Sunday, October 21, 2007

WHERE: Washington and Arlington.

WHY: Marathon cheer, sports by the course and carb zone.

HOW FAR: About 26.2 miles from start to finish.

O n your mark. Get set. Don't go.

The Marine Corps Marathon hits Washington this week, and the competition offers plenty besides a foot-pounding spectacle and mind-boggling traffic (human and car), even for those not running the 26.2-mile course.

Race-related fun starts Thursday afternoon with the Health and Fitness Expo at the D.C. Armory and doesn't quit until the Post Race Celebration on Sunday afternoon in Crystal City. Throughout the weekend, non-marathoners can mix with the 30,000 hopefuls from 55 countries who will be competing in three races. Between contests, festivals such as Crystal Run in Arlington will keep families active.

The marathon, in its 32nd year, is nicknamed "The People's Marathon" because of its relatively easy course and zero prize money. First-timers will account for nearly 40 percent of racers, but the event also draws serious athletes. Ruben Garcia, for one, returns to defend his 2005 and 2006 wins. And spectators will want to watch Carl Rundell, who finished second to Garcia both times.

The race route differs a little each year. For example, in 2007 construction has forced a detour away from Rock Creek Parkway, usually a favorite stretch. Yet cheerleading opportunities still abound, race director Rick Nealis says. Another cause for applause: Extended daylight saving time means slightly cooler conditions than usual. "This should keep some runners out of the medical tents," Nealis says. Now that's something to cheer about.

-- Ben Chapman

Marine Corps Marathon starts at 8 a.m. Sunday near the Pentagon at routes 110 and 27 in Arlington. For details, call 800-786-8762 or visit Crystal Run is 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Crystal Drive between South 18th and 32nd streets in Arlington, 703-412-9430.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company