Yesterday's fair weather was ideal for a stroll around the District, but more than 6,200 people took it one step further, hiking 23 miles to raise an estimated $700,000 for the March of Dimes.

"A lot of it's been pretty doggone hilly," said a perspiring Chuck Guarracino as he neared the end of the 36-kilometer "WalkAmerica," a day-long event held in cities across the United States to raise money for the March of Dimes' campaign to prevent birth defects.

The walk, which began and ended at the Washington Monument, took participants through downtown, Georgetown, upper Northwest and then south through Rock Creek Park.

Organizers said similar walkathons were held yesterday in Fairfax County and at three locations around Maryland in Charles, Frederick and Washington counties.

Louise Peloquin, a Silver Spring resident who directs a March of Dimes education and grants program, said money pledged to 6,235 city hikers should exceed $700,000 this year, for a new record.

"There are more team walkers this year than ever before," said Peloquin, referring to the corporations that sponsored employes in the walkathon. The March of Dimes has held the event here for at least a decade, she added.

The weather was near perfect for the walkathon -- temperatures in the mid-70s with a light breeze -- and today promises more of the same.