Girma Bedada grabbed an energy snack and took a few bites during the 13th mile of the Marine Corps Marathon, a mid-run picnic as he cruised around Hains Point along the Potomac River. He looked calm. Boats glided in the water. Helicopters buzzed overhead. Fans cheered for Bedada, without another runner in sight. There was the applause for him Sunday, and then there was the applause for everyone else.
Bedada created separation at the gun and never looked back during a dominant performance, finishing in 2 hours 21 minutes 32 seconds to win the 38th annual Marine Corps Marathon on a brisk morning in Washington. Alexandria’s Patrick Fernandez finished second with a time of 2:22:52. Colorado resident Kelly Calway finished first among the women (2:42:16) with Virginia Beach’s Gina Slaby (2:48:04) second in a race that drew nearly 30,000 total participants.
In a stark contrast from last year’s finish, Sunday’s result came as no surprise: Bedada, from Ethiopia, was one of the favorites heading into the race. But his margin of victory was particularly stunning. The 33-year-old became a one-man pack shortly after the first mile, pulling away from the durable Fernandez, who won the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon in May. Burkeville’s Richard Morris finished third in the men’s competition with a time of 2:24:02.
Bedada “was way out of sight. It would’ve been nice to be able to catch him, but there’s always more race,” said Fernandez, who took control of the second spot near Hains Point. “I hadn’t realized he had got that far ahead.”
Aside from ramped-up security in the wake of April’s Boston Marathon bombing, the event also featured a slightly restructured course that flattened the terrain between its sixth and ninth miles. Runners ventured through Rock Creek Park instead of a steep stretch past Georgetown Reservoir as in years past, which contributed to faster times.
Like Bedada in the men’s division, Calway trampled the course — and the field. She stayed within striking distance through the first eighth of the race, which weaves from Arlington to the District, took over the lead around mile 8 “and I said I wasn’t looking back,” she said. Calway, 29, said she didn’t train for this marathon because of her job as a captain in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., and that made for a more “painful” and punishing race.
“I was hurting,” she said.
She still found her second wind and controlled the end of the marathon, which she first ran in 2008. Calway said she will deploy next week to Kuwait. That made Sunday a big day. Calway spent time with her 6-year-old daughter and the rest of her family, who cheered for her at the race. She relished talking to Marines, getting a kick out of them calling her “Ma’am.”
And she ran. It was the last trip she wanted to take before leaving for the Middle East, and she will leave Washington with a battered body and a major marathon win.
“It’s awesome to win this race, representing the United States Army. . . . This race is amazing,” Calway said. “It’s the last thing I’m doing before shipping out. So it means the world to win this race.”