Two months ago, Jeffrey Stein had no idea that he’d be participating in — let alone winning — the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon. Mired in a trial that required his full attention, the 32-year-old Washington resident and public defender was only able to carve out time to run during his daily commute to and from the Archives building.
“When you’re in trial, you usually can’t train, and you can’t run because you’re in trial 24/7,” Stein said after Sunday’s race, which brought almost 21,000 runners to its course. “I bought a run commute backpack, which let me run to and from work. No marathon-specific training, but it allowed me to keep a baseline fitness.”
Those five-mile runs were all Stein needed to come out on top, as he notched his first career marathon victory with an official time of 2 hours 22 minutes 49 seconds. California resident and Navy Lieutenant Patrick Hearn crossed the finish line 37 seconds later to claim second place, while Navy Lieutenant Commander Will Christian of Chesapeake, Va., came in third in 2:24:23.
Jenny Mendez Suanca, the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon winner in the women’s division, added to her trophy case by breaking the tape 6 minutes 15 seconds before the second-place woman, Army Lieutenant Lindsay Gabow of San Antonio. Suanca’s time of 2:40:19 was a new personal best by nearly five minutes. Marine Corps 2nd LT Lindsay Carrick of Fredericksburg, Va finished third.
Stein came into this year’s marathon on a mission following a 2017 showing in which he finished eighth. Despite taking a three-month sabbatical in the Middle East, during which he developed a case of runner’s knee, Stein was in control for much of last year’s race before his injury, coupled with a miscommunication about the marathon’s course layout, resulted in him overexerting himself in an attempt to make up ground.
“Part of the reason I picked this race is I felt like I needed to reclaim my dignity after we made a wrong turn last year at the start. I sort of had a chip on my shoulder after that. I wanted to come back and redeem myself,” said Stein, who now has his sights on Olympic trials marathon qualifying.
While battling through a cramping issue, Hearn battled Stein for much of the race, before Stein ultimately pulled away around mile 24.
“I wanted to run the first half in 72 minutes and I was right at it, within five seconds,” said Hearn, 28. “But I was dealing with a cramp in my right calf since the second mile. It didn’t get worse or better. It was just there.”
While the men’s race was relatively close throughout, the same could not be said for the women’s division. Suanca, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mother from Costa Rica, pulled away from the pack around the 20-mile mark. Suanca depended upon predetermined times to keep her pace, writing the rigorous plan that her trainers had set on her left forearm before Sunday’s race.
Both the men’s and women’s champions have already announced that they don’t expect to compete in next year’s Marine Corps Marathon because of scheduling conflicts with other races.