National Marathon Illustrates Growing Popularity of Half Marathons

Friday, March 20, 2009

A funny thing happened to the National Marathon on the way to establishing itself as an event of consequence on the Washington running scene -- the accompanying half marathon has become a sellout.

Now in its fourth year, tomorrow's National Marathon and half marathon boast a total of 8,000 registered runners, with the permit maximum of 5,000 in the half. Registration for the marathon is still being accepted today at the D.C. Armory expo. Last year, a total of 4,019 finished the two events, with half marathoners outnumbering marathoners nearly two to one.

Those numbers reflect a national trend in half marathons as documented by Running USA's Road Running Information Center. In 2007, the number of marathon finishers nationwide remained constant, while the number of finishers in half marathons increased by 10 percent to 650,000.

Since its inception in 2006, the number of half-marathon finishers has always been greater than marathon finishers, although the inaugural year difference of 223 increased to 1,243 last year.

"The half marathon has gained in popularity over the last few years because the training commitment is much less than the marathon and runners still gain a tremendous feeling of accomplishment," said Kathy Freedman of the Capital Running Company, which is helping to time tomorrow's events.

In the marathon, Arlington's Michael Wardian will be going for his fourth straight victory. A prolific long-distance runner and the reigning 50K national champion, Wardian will run another marathon in Virginia Beach on Sunday before next weekend's Marathon de Sables, a six-day, 151-mile race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco.

-- Jim Hage

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