The title of this little column remains the same; today's is not a special tribute to the 17,000 who ran the rerouted Army Ten-Miler, which turned into an 11-plus mile affair by the time everyone got back to the Pentagon last Sunday.
But lauding those hearty runners, who ponied up entry fees, endured parking hassles at packet pickup and again on race day, navigated a ring of metal detectors at the finish area, all for what turned out to be not a race at all but what the Army deemed a "fun run," would certainly be appropriate.
Of course, it was the discovery of a "suspicious package" by D.C. police under the 14th Street Bridge just after the race started that caused officials to make an interagency decision, according to Army Col. Joe Torres, and change the course mid-race. And -- of course again -- the package turned out to pose no danger; in fact, it was construction debris.
But what is it that now twice in the past five years has virtually eliminated the country's largest 10-mile race as an event of consequence? Bad timing surely has something to do with it -- the 2001 race was canceled five weeks after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 but just days before its scheduled running. Two weeks after that, however, thousands of Marine Corps marathoners ran right past the breached walls of the Pentagon, a signature moment in the history of that race.
What if a similarly suspicious package were found at FedEx Field just after kickoff at a Redskins game? Would police and officials turn out the crowds, postpone or reschedule the game? Or would there be a more coordinated effort to determine what was found, weighing the pros and cons of proceeding?
Some will claim it is easy to say now that officials acted overcautiously. Others will cite the tenor of the times as part and parcel of the decision to reroute. Indeed, the mantra "better safe than sorry" was parroted by officials last weekend.
Running, more than most sports, involves risk. The costs and benefits are something every runner understands and accepts. Most of the time runners ask only for a small piece of the road; sometimes, however, we need others to get out of the way.
* MARATHON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: At the Twin Cities (Minn.) Marathon last Sunday, Mary Kate Bailey, last year's Marine Corps Marathon winner from Arlington, finished 10th in an Olympic trials qualifying time and personal best of 2 hours 46 minutes 3 seconds.
Joan Benoit Samuelson, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist, finished 11th in 2:46:27 and qualified for an unprecedented seventh Olympic trials. Samuelson is 48.
Susannah Kvasnicka, from Great Falls, finished 17th in a personal-best 2:47:57, missing the qualifying standard for the 2008 trials by 57 seconds. Kvasnicka, the top local runner at both the Cherry Blossom and Annapolis 10-mile runs, skipped Army and a chance to win the local 10-mile triple worth $2,000.
Only three men met the qualifying standard of 2:22; Philippe Rolly, from Fairfax, finished 17th in 2:26:48. The qualifying window reopens for good on Jan. 1.
-- Jim Hage