Jim Hage seemingly had the perfect strategy for winning yesterday's Marine Corps Marathon: stay close until mile 19, round the tip of Hains Point, then turn on the afterburners. Unfortunately for the 26-year-old Rockville attorney, another runner had the same plan and a bit more fuel when it was time to blast off.
"He did exactly what I wanted to do," Hage said of Brad Ingram, a 29-year-old auto salesman from Mansfield, Ohio, who beat about 10,000 other runners to the finish of yesterday's ninth annual Marine marathon in a relatively slow time of 2 hours 19 minutes 39 seconds. Hage, who shared the lead at mile 19, finished third at 2:22:40, almost two minutes behind Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Thomas E. Bernard of Yorktown, Va., who was second.
The women's championship was won by Pamela Briscoe, 29, of Chevy Chase, a scientist who ran her first marathon in 1979 to win a free meal from a friend. Briscoe, who finished 13th among the women in last year's Marine marathon, surprised everyone but herself and her coach, Jim Hagan, by winning with a time of 2:43:20.
"I just wanted to get as close to 2:45 as possible," said Briscoe, her green eyes looking considerably more energetic than the rest of her, which was wrapped in a silver foil blanket. "But I thought if I ran my race and the weather conditions were right . . ."
Susan Stone, 24, of Waterloo, Ontario, finished second among the women, in 2:45:47. Charlene O'Brien of Jacksonville, N.C., was third in 2:46:32.
The conditions were nearly perfect for the 26-mile 385-yard race through Northern Virginia and the monuments of downtown Washington. The forecasted rain never materialized, temperatures remained in the low 50s and clouds frequently protected the runners from the sun. Of the 10,000 starters (12,000 had entered), 8,491 finished, with the last one clocking in at 5:28:15.
Lt. Cmdr. William Moore, the medical director for the race, said about 300 runners were treated, mostly for minor problems, at the finish line, and six were transported to area hospitals for further treatment. "We had three with chest pains, one with a kidney stone, one with hypothermia and one with a seizure disorder," he said. "But none were life-threatening. We just took no chances."
The race did not have a particularly fast field or the crowds of spectators that turn out for marathons in other cities, particularly New York, where 2 million lined the race route last week. When the lead runners passed through Georgetown yesterday morning, where crowds have been thickest in past marathons, there were only a few hundred people waiting. In one block, more people were lined up to buy bagels than on the sidewalk outside.
Although Ingram's winning time was more than three minutes off the course record of 2:16:30 and 11 minutes off the world record, the early stages of the race were torrid. U.S. Army Sgt. Patrick Key of Silver Spring and Marine Pfc. Thomas McKeown completed the first mile in 4 minutes 48 seconds and the first four in 20:24. The rest of the pack barely could be seen when the two men began circling the Pentagon.
"They're going very fast. If they keep up this pace, there will be some hurting men at the end," said Marine Sgt. Farley Simon, last year's winner, who was prevented from entering this year's race by a groin injury. Simon rode a press truck at the front of the race.
"I was a little concerned in the beginning," said Ingram, who finished fourth in each of the last two marathons. "But I knew if I went out much faster, I'd pay in the end."
At mile five, Key began to pull ahead of McKeown. By the time he crossed Key Bridge into Georgetown, Key had built a lead of a few hundred yards. Ingram, Hage and David McCormick, of Falls Church, passed McKeown, but were unable to close on Ingram as he raced down Constitution Avenue and along the Mall. It was not until mile 13, when the runners began to climb Capitol Hill, one of the few slopes in the course, that Key faltered. He was caught, and left behind, between the 14th and 15th miles, on the south side of the Capitol.
For the next four miles, through West and East Potomac Park, the three runners traded the lead. The pace slowed from five-minute miles to 5:33 when Ingram accelerated near mile 19. Hage followed but McCormack could not.
"We got into the wind and the pace really went down. Nobody wanted the lead," said Ingram, who looks like a skinny Clark Kent in his tortoise shell glasses. "I knew I wasn't running my race, so I picked it up a little."
For one more mile it looked as though it might be a two-man race to the finish. But Hage began to drop back, just beyond the Awakening sculpture at Hains Point, which depicts a buried giant trying to emerge from the earth. The symbolism was not lost on Hage.
"I was dead. My feet were slapping the ground. He just made a good move and I couldn't go with him," said Hage, who held second place until mile 24, at the 14th Street Bridge, where Bernard sped past.
In the women's race, Marian Teitsch of upstate New York seemed to be in command until mile 18, when Briscoe caught her. Teitsch dropped back, finishing 10th, one place behind last year's winner, Sue Cardin. Briscoe was never threatened.
"I had some cramps at mile eight," said Briscoe, who works at George Washington University's medical center as a research assistant. "After that I was just holding on."
While the top finishers were explaining strategy to the press, the rest of the field was walking, running and limping past the finish line at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington. The worst were taken quickly to an adjacent field hospital. The rest were wrapped in the silver foil blankets to prevent hypothermia. It looked, said one Marine official, like so many "baked potatoes" spilling onto the grass where friends and family waited to congratulate them.
"My legs buckled at mile 16," said Carolyn Cappetta, 48, of Concord, Mass., trying unsuccessfully to walk a straight line after finishing her seventh marathon in 3 hours 16 minutes. "Quit? I never do. I just can't stop."