Government reopens, sparing Marine Corps Marathon

The government shutdown could mean cancellation of the Marine Corps Marathon if not resolved by Friday. Pictured is Bethesda's Maria Kozloski closing in on the 2012 finish. Photo: Cheryl Young
The government shutdown could hav meant cancellation of the Marine Corps Marathon, were it not resolved by Friday. Pictured is Bethesda’s Maria Kozloski closing in on the 2012 finish. Photo: Cheryl Young

With the reopening of the federal government Thursday, the Marine Corps Marathon is back on for Sunday, Oct. 27.

The Marine Corps Marathon had announced, via Facebook, that the continued government shutdown imperiled the race. If the federal budget situation hadn’t been resolved by Saturday, Oct. 19, organizers would have had to postpone or cancel the race.

Race organizers’ hands were forced by a Tuesday report by ARLnow citing an Arlington County Police Department officer who coordinates road closures for events, including races. Lt. Dave Green said, ““I don’t want to put people in panic mode, but if as of Friday evening the government is still closed, it’s probably not going to happen,” ARLnow reported.

ARLnow’s report also shined light on the Army Ten-Miler’s contingency plans for a course rerouting.

The marathon had not commented publicly on specific contingency plans in light of the shutdown, which started its third week Oct. 15. Prior to its afternoon announcement, race officials held firm to the Oct. 27 date, saying the race was working with partners to ensure the race would be run as planned.

The shutdown, resulting from Congress’ failure to pass a continuing resolution funding discretionary spending, meant the closure of “nonessential” portions of the federal government, including the National Parks Service. During the closure, previously-granted parks permits are voided, which has already forced several races to postpone, cancel or relocate events.

More than half of the Marine Corps course is on NPS land, including the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Rock Creek Parkway, West Potomac Park, East Potomac Park, the National Mall and the Marine Corps War Memorial, commonly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, site of the race’s iconic finish.

The situation lent itself to several alternatives:

  • The race could have beenrerouted to avoid NPS land, though that option would likely require a flurry of planning and road closure applications, and would put runners on a route unlike any a previous Marine Corps runner had ever experienced. The inaugural race in 1976, for instance, was run almost exclusively on NPS land.
  • Race organizers could have paid to reopen affected NPS land. Utah spent $1.67 million to open five national parks, two national monuments and a national recreation area for 10 days- $167,000 a day for Zion, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon parks, among others. The 30,000 registered MCM runners could raise that much for less than $5.06 apiece, and opening affected parks property would not require the extensive staffing of the much larger Utah parks.Not every registered runner would line up for the start, so a more conservative estimate — the average number of finishers over the past four races, just under 22,000 — could likely open the race for less than $7.60 apiece. For travelers with nonrefundable plane tickets and even locals who will want to sign up for another race to salvage a training season, it costs about as much as metro fare to and from the course. And, it’s less than 10 percent of the 2013 race’s $99 general entry fee.
  • Congressional action could have reopened the affected NPS land for the race.
  • Postponement of the race, similar to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon, one of the first races in the shutdown’s crosshairs, which postponed its original Oct. 6 date to Nov. 10.

The race has a significant economic impact on the region. A study by the George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies found nearly 69,000 people visited the Washington area to run in or watch the race, spending $38 million on food, lodging, entertainment, transportation and retail, which generated $2.7 million in local and state tax revenue.

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