Not to be outdone by Washington, the city of Frederick holds its first marathon March 30.
Marathons are a rite of passage for many cities, and they tend to take on the character of the places where they're held. There's the Boston Marathon, where the running world's elite strut their stuff; the New York run, a showcase of elbow-jabbing, high-fiving city pride; and the Chicago marathon, known for rowdy crowds lining a route that traverses the city's many ethnic neighborhoods. Washington came late to the party -- its inaugural marathon was last year.
Frederick's marathon, like the city itself, will likely become known as the marathon for runners who want to avoid the hassle and crowds of Washington. Billed as "a big-time marathon in a great small town," the Frederick run follows too closely on Washington's marathon -- slated for Sunday, only one week earlier -- to attract the same runners, unless they're career athletes.
But Frederick is easy to reach from the capital, and its marathon promises to combine small-town atmosphere with a 26.2-mile course that's scenic but rolling enough to challenge seasoned competitors. And yes, the Frederick Marathon is cheaper: The individual registration fee is $55, compared with $85 for Washington's run.
The marathon "will give the community some recognition -- and it's a good place for a run," said John Kippen, 51, who owns If the Shoe Fits, a specialty walking and running shoe shop in Frederick. Kippen ran the Washington Marathon last year. An avid runner, he said Washington's event left something to be desired: "It was perfectly scenic, but to be frank I was a little disappointed with the spectators," he said. "They were a little bit lethargic."
So far, about 1,000 runners have registered for the Frederick Marathon: 175 relay teams of four runners each, and 325 who plan to run the whole route alone. That's only about a fifth of what Washington's first marathon drew last year, but a surprisingly good turnout given a late start to the planning (it was announced in September) and its near-overlap with the capital's second marathon.
The course, Kippen said, "is gonna be fun," a double loop that winds north through the historic downtown, then dips into the countryside's bucolic vistas and gentle hills before heading back to the historic district. The event starts and finishes at Frederick High School.
Runners still have time to register online, at www.fredericksports.com/registration.htm. Online registration closes March 27; there is no race-day registration. The individual entry fee includes a T-shirt and a medal for all those who finish. Relay team registrations are full, and no longer available.
Registration and packet pickup will be at Frederick High School from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 29, with a kickoff pasta dinner at 4:30 p.m. The marathon starts at 8 a.m. the next day.
The marathon course closes six hours after the start time, allowing plenty of time for stragglers. But to prepare the course and accommodate runners during those hours, the city warns residents of traffic disruptions, parking restrictions and street closures along the route between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Parking will be restricted or prohibited along the course, with signs posted advising residents and visitors to remove their cars.
"This affects all of our main arteries," said Mary Duvall, with the Frederick Chamber of Commerce, which is organizing the event. "If you want to go anywhere downtown that day, you'd better get there before 7:30."
For more information, go to the marathon's Web site, www.fredericksports.com, or call the Chamber of Commerce at 301-662-4164.