In his position at the Officer Candidate School of the U.S. Coast Guard in Yorktown, Va., Thomas Bernard teaches, among other things, military strategies. Yesterday, Bernard came to Washington with a strategy of his own: to win the 10th running of the Marine Corps Marathon by a game of attrition.
Bernard stubbornly clung to defending champion Brad Ingram until the 24th mile, while the other front-runners fell from the pace, before he broke away to win in 2 hours 19 minutes 16 seconds. Ingram finished second in 2:19:46.
"I wanted to stay with the leaders and run within what I thought would be my pace as long as I could," said Bernard, 37, who was second last year in 2:20:45. "I couldn't run any faster at any point, but I felt maybe the other people weren't running as fast as they could. I just tried to push myself at each mile point."
The first woman to finish the 26-mile 385-yard race around Northern Virginia and Washington was first-time marathoner Natalie Updegrove of Richmond. Updegrove, 24, led for good with two miles remaining and won in 2:47:47. Susan Patterson, 29, of Sun Valley, Idaho, also running in her first marathon, was second, more than 10 minutes back, in 2:54:54.
The cool and drizzling weather was mainly responsible for keeping down the number of spectators. But those who braved the 20-mph winds and the 50-degree temperatures were treated to an exciting competition.
The traditional blast of the 105mm howitzer started a parade of an estimated 10,000 runners from the Iwo Jima memorial down Rte. 110 and around Crystal City. A slow 5:09 first mile attracted a lead pack of 12 runners. From that point on, the number of front-runners slowly diminished. Rockville's Jim Hage, who finished third in 2:23:30, brought the leaders through five miles in 26:13, and by the time Hage reached the Iwo Jima memorial again at the seven-mile mark, the pack had been pared to seven.
A half-mile later, Chuck Crabb of Mount Laurel, N.J., claimed the lead and crossed Key Bridge into Georgetown. Two more runners dropped off the pace in the next two miles. Crabb still led, with Hage, Ingram, Bernard and Patrick Key of Frederick, Md., right behind.
Over the next two miles, the five ran single-file into the wind along Constitution Avenue toward the Capitol, taking turns in the lead to break the wind for the others. The hill up Louisiana Avenue at the 13-mile point on Capitol Hill broke Key, who later dropped out, and Crabb, who finished seventh. Passing the half-marathon (13.1-mile) mark in 1:08:51, Bernard and Ingram dumped their last opponent, Hage, with a 5:23 mile, and it became a two-man race.
"I felt fine up to that point," said Hage, 27, who was also third last year. "The only reason I was up front at the point wasn't to get on TV. Nobody was moving. Everyone was running 5:12 (per mile), 5:16. I didn't want to go any slower than 2:20 pace. Then they got away at Capitol Hill."
Meanwhile, Updegrove already had given up the lead to Patterson after running in front for seven miles. The longest race either woman had ever run was 10 miles. Updegrove, a dietetic intern at the Medical College of Virginia, passed the halfway point in 1:20, with Patterson nearly 30 seconds ahead.
Bernard and Ingram ran side by side for 11 miles, each occasionally testing the strength and nerve of the other with a minor surge or two.
"I think we both tried a few surges between 18 and 22 (miles), and I think he tried a little bit and I tried just a little bit, but there was never more than two or three yards separating us between the Capitol and 24 (miles)," said Ingram, 30, last year's winner from Mansfield, Ohio.
A year ago, it was Ingram who outran Bernard by over a minute when he took command at mile 20 and left Bernard to chase him to the finish. But Ingram couldn't shrug off Bernard as the two ran through West Potomac Park, around the Tidal Basin and through East Potomac Park past Hains Point.
"I was thinking that I didn't want to come from behind (like last year) with a burst and end up in second," Bernard said.
Ingram was thinking the same thing. "I recognized him from last year when I saw him come beside me with his Coast Guard shirt on," he said. "I knew who he was, and honestly, it worried me a little bit, simply because I know I'm not a strong finisher.
"If I'm not ahead, I could have a problem at the end. I remember last year, he gained on me at the end. I said to myself, 'He's running different tactics, or if he's able to finish as strong as last year, I'm going to have a problem."
Coming off the 14th Street Bridge onto Boundary Channel Drive, Bernard quickly established a 15-meter lead in a quarter-mile. His 25th mile was only 5:29, but Ingram was more than 70 meters back.
"I think he fell off because we were neck and neck for so long, and then all of a sudden, someone said he was 100 yards behind me. So I think he did fall off on the way back," Bernard said.
Said Ingram: "I just slowed down. I really don't think he made a move. I think he just continued to go at the pace we'd been going, and I just started packing it in there."
Updegrove trailed Patterson at one point by two minutes, but by 24 miles, she led again. "I really didn't worry about it because I wanted to keep on my pace, especially because it was my first marathon," said Upedgrove, who ran with a sore foot from the 12th mile.
Patterson, an ex-skier who began running two years ago, said she was "not really disappointed because I really didn't expect much, but when you're passed at mile 24, it's kind of demoralizing."
Defending champion and women's favorite Pamela Briscoe of Chevy Chase finished in three hours, nearly 17 minutes slower than last year's time.
Ken Archer of Bowie led the wheelchair competitors from the start and won his fourth Marine Corps title in 2:15:30, 10 minutes faster than his best for the race but 11 minutes off his best ever.
The race also served as the National Masters (age 40 and over) Marathon Championship, which was won by Norman Green, 53, of Wayne, Pa., in 2:31:19.
Eddie Benham, 77, of Ocean City, Md., set the only world record, taking 47:10 off the mark for a 77-year-old with a 3:42:50.
Jack Waitz, the husband of world-class distance runner Grete Waitz, dropped out after 23 miles.