Marine Corps Marathon organizers were keeping a low profile yesterday pending their own investigation of the missing one-third of a mile in Sunday's race.
Amidst a deluge of phone calls from irate runners, Sgt. Ralph Rose, in charge of public relations for the race, said the course is being measured by marine and The Athletic Congress TAC) officials.
A. J. Vander Waal, who measures courses for most area races, already has measured the Marine Corps Marathon course twice -- once before the race for TAC certification and again afterward -- and concluded that the runners traveled 1,725 feet fewer than the required marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yards.
Yesterday, Vander Waal said he knew nothing of still another measuring.
Phil Stewart, president of the D.C. Road Runners, said, "I'm surprised the Marine Corps or The Athletic Congress would have a remeasurement. A. J. does virtually all the measuring in this area and I certainly feel his findings are completely reliable."
Should it be determined that Sunday's race came up short, all meet records would have to be invalidated, according to Dr. Richard Goode of the Potomac Valley TAC.
The times of the runners would have to be adjusted according to a standard marathon course scale, but, according to Ted Corbitt of the TAC Road Runners Certification Committee, adjusted times still could be used for qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Some runners say they ran the proper course on Hains Point, between the 18- and 19-mile points, which is one of the more disputed areas of the race. Others say they were directed through a parking lot. Should this be the case, there would be a problem accurately adjusting times.
Tony Sarmiento, a photographer riding on one of the press buses, described the situation at Hains Point.
"At the juncture towards the tip of Hains Point, there was a marine sentry stationed. There were three vehicles ahead of the truck I was on and the marine was talking to the people on those vehicles. The marine had an arrow pinned on his chest to direct the runners. We started yelling for the vehicles to move because the runners were coming. Somehow the marine turned in such a way that the arrow pointed the trucks through the parking lot instead of towards the tip of Hains Point. The runners had been following the trucks all the way and they just continued to do so.
"The marine sentry messed up in two places," Sarmiento said. "He was stationed in the wrong place and he had plenty of time to redirect the trucks in the proper direction."
Stewart, who also is managing editor of Running Times Magazine, said that despite the fact that his magazine hears of a few misdirected races a month, "The marines invested thousands of man hours in the preparation of this race. They held a practice on a 10-kilometer race at Hains Point on Oct. 26, but they seem to practice the wrong priorities.
"They did a lot of practicing on things like handing out water to the runners. If they had one person driving the lead truck that knew the course inside and out they would have been better off.I can't place it, but there's something very Byzantine in the way they approached the whole thing."