After selling out entries the past six races, Marine Corps Marathon organizers announced yesterday they plan to scrap their lottery system and accept a record 30,000 registrants for next year's 30th race.
Typically, several thousand runners who enter the random lottery have been declined spots in the marathon, race director Rick Nealis said. But this year's new starting orientation along Route 110 in Arlington can accommodate a larger starting field, and better technology will enable organizers to process thousands of Internet applicants on a first-come, first-served basis when registration begins at midnight April 6.
In another change, several thousand runners will receive guaranteed registration applications from Marine Corps organizers at about a dozen other national races. The remaining spots, probably about 25,000, will likely be claimed within 24 hours on April 6, Nealis said.
The larger field could require minor course alterations in Arlington and on Capitol Hill, Nealis added.
"Because we turn away so many people, I thought if there's a remote chance I could change the course and absorb 30,000 runners for the 30th, we would try it," he said. "We're already excited; it's something new, and we relish the idea to plan and execute something new. It keeps us fresh and young."
The marathon's previous mark for registered runners was about 25,000 for its 25th anniversary in 2000. The new size likely would make Marine Corps the fourth-largest marathon in the country, behind New York, Chicago and Honolulu.
Toasting 26.2 Miles
Runners at tomorrow's Marine Corps Marathon will have a unique way to toast their accomplishment. The marathon has joined with Charlottesville-area winery Jefferson Vineyards to produce three Marine Corps Marathon wines -- a 2003 Cabernet Franc, a 2003 Riesling and a 2002 Chardonnay Reserve.
Who thought to mix wine and running? The idea came from a Marine Corps Marathon official who noticed the New York City Marathon had its own wine. He contacted Jim Barker, president and founder of Washington Wine Academy, who put him in touch with local vineyards.
Wine is "such an intimidating thing," Barker said. "Any time we can get out in front of people and give them a chance to try something they may not have tried, I'm glad to be involved," Barker said. "It's a great souvenir for people."