Olympic aspirant Will albers, whose 2:17.50 marathon time is the best in the field of 837 runners for the first D.C. Marathon Sunday, says he's not as concerned with crossing the finish line first as he is with doing a bit of sightseeing.
"I live in Fairfax and haven't seen all of Washington," said Albers, 25, running his first marathon since undergoing knee surgery in December. "So I plan to do a lot of sightseeing as I go along. I love the idea of a local marathon, especially in D.C. I understand we go through every part of the city.
"I'll run conservatively for the first half of the race. If the knee doesn't feel good, I'll stop. If I'm in good position near the end, I'll go for the win. But winning is secondary to finishig."
Albers, Doug Wood of the Quantico Marine Base, Jacob Wind and Marc Sengegusch of Arlington are among those expected to vie for first place in the 8 a.m. race, sponsored by the D.C. Recreation Department.Some top-flight marathoners, including Bill Rodgers, have passed up the race to concentrate on the Boston Marathon April 20.
Some critics have contended the financial burden of the race is too great for a city already saddled with a $59 million deficit and forced to lay off hundreds of city employes. Others say the timing is off, one week after the Perrier Cherry Blossom race here and one week before the Boston Marathon.
Samuel LaBeach, the Recreation Department's associate director and race chairman, says he "expected some people to critcize because they want this race to fail.
"Despite what people think, we have been planning this event since '79 and we think it will go over very well," LaBeach said. "A lot of people, in this department, as well as other organizations, have donated their services free to see this marathon work. We got two big sponsors who put up the majority of the approximately $50,000 cost. We also got other monies from dozens of other organizations.
"Some people have said this is bad timing because money is being spent for this event at a time when people are being riffed from their jobs," LaBeach said. "But the Recreation Department isn't spending one dime. If I went to our marathon sponsors and asked them for money to rehire the people let go from the recreation department, I know they wouldn't give it to us. But they will donate money to this.
LaBeach said the Distict government will pay the estimated $47,000 cost for overtime for the 350 police officers who will be stationed along the route.
The 26-mile, 385-yard race will begin at the Mall and cut through parts of all eight city wards. Local runners make up 96 percent of the field, which includes 72 women.
The runners will follow a trail of yellow paint that crosses 281 intersections into Rock Creek Park, parts of Georgetown and Cleveland Park in Northwest Washington, the Brookland and Brentwood sections of Northeast, and the Anacostia section of Southeast.
"We have aid stations, water stations and even buses to pick up the participants if needed," LaBeach said. "The only problem may be a slight traffic delay."
Like Albers, another participant will be doing his share of sightseeing. He is Ocean City's Edward Benham, who at 73 has the distinction of being the oldest entrant.
"I'm looking forward to the race," said Benham, a former jockey who holds several age-group running records. "This is only my second marathon and I'll see what I can do. I'm tough now and I always do pretty good in Washington. Running has been very good for me, kept me young."