Rudy Robinson of Washington had to deal with the inclines of Georgetown that break one's spirit and the slopes of Southeast that break one's stride. He also had to deal with a taxi that came within a foot of hitting him and the 200-yard detour he inadvertently took near the finish of yesterday's sixth annual D.C. Marathon.
But Robinson overcame that adversity to win the 26.2-mile race in a course-record 2 hours 25 minutes 2 seconds.
The last obstacle might have been the greatest. In the final mile, Robinson was heading straight down Independence Avenue when he missed the turn on Fourth Street. District police officer Forrest Tracey Jr. caught up to Robinson in a squad car about 100 yards after the turn to correct his route.
"You don't want to get lost after running 25 miles," Robinson said.
The second-place finisher and defending champion was not as fortunate. James Alexander of Boca Raton, Fla., closed within 100 yards of Robinson at the 23-mile point, but said he got lost on the course and never could recover. "At that point I was closing quick," Alexander said. "I don't know how much I went off course. It's hard to tell."
Alexander finished in 2:27:49. John Harper of Jackson, Miss., who along with Alexander had run most of the race 200 to 300 yards behind Robinson, finished third in 2:29:13.
Among women, Stephanie Schneider of Boyertown, Pa., won her second consecutive D.C. Marathon, running 2:57:55. It was a personal best for Schneider, 25.
After only two miles, a group of four men moved ahead of the rest. Robinson, a part-time student studying accounting at District of Columbia and a fulltime sales clerk at the Navy Exchange in Arlington, aggressively attacked the hills of 28th Street through Georgetown. "The first four or five miles, runners were running slower than I run," he said.
Robinson moved ahead of Alexander and Harper at the 5.7-mile mark. When they turned off Wisconsin Avenue, just south of Massachusetts Avenue, Robinson surged and moved 20 yards ahead.
"At that point I wanted to let him [Robinson] go," Alexander said. "I know how difficult the course is. I thought he would come back to me."
Robinson never did.
By the ninth mile, he led by 350 yards. Robinson's split at 10 miles was 55 minutes. He ran the 11th mile in 5:40 and his half-marathon time was approximately 1 hour 13 minutes.
Drinking lemon-lime juice mixed with sugar and wearing a blue wool cap, Robinson stayed fresh. He led handily when he turned on Florida Avenue and a cab came within a foot of hitting him.
"I saw the incident," said Rudy Robinson Sr., who handed his son the shampoo and baby bottles containing the juice during the race.
Alexander made his move at mile 19 on Minnesota Avenue. "It's freaky," Alexander said. "The press truck [which was in front of Robinson] was 100 yards ahead of me and then it disappeared."
Alexander's strategy of following the press truck was ruined when the truck broke down at mile 23.
When Alexander realized he was off the course, he stopped. "Just for a quick minute to look to see if I could see cones or policemen. At that point I looked to get my bearings."
When he did get on track, he was no longer in sight of Robinson.
In the women's race, Schneider said she passed a woman competitor for the last time at the one-mile mark. "At Georgetown," Schneider said, "in the hills, [the only women near her] started slowing down."
For the next 20 miles, Schneider had plenty of company. "There was a group of guys around me I was running with . . . At 25 [miles], I looked at my watch and saw I had eight minutes to break three hours. I just took off and ran as hard as I could."