Washington, DC

More than 600,000 white flags have filled part of the Washington Monument lawn in late September, a temporary art installation memorializing and visualizing the American death toll from COVID-19. Anyone practicing the 18th mile of the Marine Corps Marathon course run nearby, and the juxtaposition became unavoidable when the race announced its second straight cancelation.

Citing safety and security precautions, Marine Corps canceled the Oct. 31 in-person marathon, 50k and 10k on Sept. 24, 11 days after the Army Ten-Miler canceled its Oct. 10 race. After the Army cancelation, Marine Corps race director Rick Nealis said he felt good about his race’s logistics to reduce crowding by runners before, during and after the race, including a vaccination requirement, but the linchpin was the support staff’s availability. Nealis had been confident enough in the race’s outlook that he had executed nonrefundable supply contracts for the race.

“It came down to the federal workforce and the national priority of defeating COVID-19,” Nealis said. “I draw my workforce from the Marine bases in the National Capital Region, and we’ve had some uptick in case positivity recently. Looking out 30 days, the feeling was that we probably aren’t going in the right direction.”

The U.S. Marine Corps is working toward a Nov. 28 deadline for COVID vaccinations, and Nealis said earlier in September that the availability of Marines to work the race was a significant variable, but one he hoped would be mollified by vaccination efforts.

In addition, conducting the race requires hundreds of law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, and Nealis said it was a tough sell to divert them to support the race and potentially expose them to the coronavirus.

“Everybody has their own opinion or definitely of ‘safe,’ but in the end, the Marine Corps Marathon has to look at the debate over keeping 9,000 runners safe, the Marines safe and the support staff safe,” Nealis said.

The race will offer full refunds, deferrals to the 2022 race and cover any price increase or a transfer to the virtual race and a refund for the difference.

A 2013 study by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute charted the race’s economic impact at $88 million throughout the Washington, D.C. area, with $59.7 million spent in Arlington County. The 2021 race was planned to be much smaller, with roughly 9,000 runners entered among three races, compared to nearly 31,000 finishers in 2013’s marathon and 10k.

D.C.’s John Camarillo was left looking for a contingency marathon after running his first effort virtually in the 2020 Marine Corps Marathon. He completed his run in heavy rains on Oct. 25, running solo around the National Mall and Mount Vernon Trail, with fluid and vocal support from his wife.

“I was really hoping it would go off as planned,” he said. “I was really looking forward to running an actual time,” with a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Camarillo soon found the Mayflower Wind Cape Cod Marathon, also scheduled for Oct. 31, which will allow him to stay on his training schedule.

Arlington’s Emily Hart, who also ran her first marathon virtually in 2020, is deciding between running her race Oct. 16 or just running 26.2 miles tomorrow in lieu of her planned 20-mile training run.

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Running Shorts

  • Oakton alumnus Garrett Woodhouse, running for Utah State, was named Mountain West Freshman of the Week following his 14th place finish in the Montana State Cross Country Classic.
  • Loudoun Valley alumna Kyra Holland was named William and Mary Student-Athlete of the Week following her ning place finish at the Virginia Invitational.
  • George Washington junior James Glockenmeier was named Atlantic 10 Performer of the Week folliwng his win at the James Madison University Invitational.
  • George Washington first-year Olivia Syftestad was named Atlantic 10 Rookie Performer of the week following her ninth place finish at the James Madison University Invitational.
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Update: The Marine Corps Marathon races were canceled on Sept. 24.


Despite last week’s cancelation of the Army Ten-Miler’s Oct. 10 in-person race, Marine Corps Marathon race director Rick Nealis believes his Oct. 31 race is ready to go off as planned. 

The key to Nealis’ hopes is a waiver from the Department of Defense that will allow the race to assemble groups of 250, 10 times more than current COVID-19 mitigation policy on the Pentagon grounds. The race uses the Pentagon as a staging area and “runners’ village” before moving to the start on Virginia’s Route 110. There, the race will be free to arrange runners in whatever size starting wave it wishes.

“I think the measures we provided met the spirit of covid mitigation safety,” he said. “We did our homework for this back in May based on Arlington County’s guidance at the time, and I think the whole process has been pretty reasonable.”

Though Nealis acknowledged that canceling the pre-race expo and pasta dinner would detract somewhat from the race weekend experience and camaraderie, it would be a small price to pay.

“If we had to give up indoor events to keep the race, that’s an easy decision,” he said. “We’ll mail everything out in early October, well before anyone starts driving or gets on a plane to come to the race.”

The smaller in-person field size, with roughly 9,000 entrants, will also be a price to pay for having a race at all.

“We knew we couldn’t have 30,000 person race, but we didn’t want a 30,000 person race,” Nealis said. “This makes it all feasible.”

The race will require masks while on Pentagon grounds and before the start, but new masks will be supplied at the finish line and required at the US Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington and will be suggested in Rosslyn 

Nealis did not expect much resistance to the race’s vaccination requirement, but said any objectors will be free to choose a deferral to 2023– when he anticipated not needing vaccine requirement–the virtual race or a refund.

“If you love the sport, you’ll know it’s time to follow the rules,” he said.  “Take it easy on race management, we’re trying to make things happen, here.”

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D.C. private school runners won both individual varsity races at the Landon Invitational in the first large cross country race for many runners in almost two years.

St. Albans senior Pierre Attiogbe was the first of five D.C. school runners across the line, running 17:25 to Sidwell Friends senior Michah Lachman’s 17:44. Attiogbe broke away in the third mile and relied on the focus he had practiced most days during the height of the pandemic.

“I ran a lot of time trials, so I got used to running hard alone,” he said. “The rest of the guys slowed down in the second mile, but I kept going. I tried to practice feeling comfortable leading.

“Training last year helped me feel more at home running on my own. Getting to do it in a race felt right.”

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Running Shorts

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Kenyan Edwin Kimutai left the American field behind to fend for itself at the rescheduled Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, pulling away in the third mile and cruising to a 32-second win in 45:45.

Behind him, Abbabiya Simbassa and Augustus Maiyo battled for the U.S. 10 mile championship, with Simbassa gapping Maiyo, the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon champion, by five seconds, finishing second overall in 46:18.

“I felt good,” said Kimutai, 28, who has a 1:00:57 half marathon PR. “The course was good. It was flat, and I like racing on the roads. I was good the whole time. I normally run the marathon but wanted to run some speed. I’m running the Paris Marathon, so it was time for me to come see if my speed was good.”

It was indeed good.

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Apparently finishing second at the state meet at the end of an abbreviated freshman season didn’t give Sailor Eastman much confidence.

It wasn’t until she was battling Olympic Trials 800 meter runner Juliette Whittaker in the last mile of the Oatlands Invitational that she realized she belonged in the race.

“I kept thinking they were all going to catch me and outkick me,” Eastman said. “I just decided to fake it until I make it.”

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It takes a few glances to notice what’s different about this year’s Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile t-shirt.

There’s no date to be found. Just recognition that it’s the race’s 48th running.

“We were looking for ways that we could avoid waste if the race got canceled,” said race director Phil Stewart. “The medals are dateless, too, but we’re including a little plastic strip you can add that says Sept. 12, 2021.”

Up until a few weeks ago, Stewart was still a little unsure the race would happen as the Delta variant’s progress soured national optimism for the COVID-19 pandemic to wane. But with a few alterations, Cherry Blossom will serve as “opening day” for the fall road racing season this Sunday.

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Running Shorts

  • The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail will hold its annual meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13. The guest speaker will be John Noel, Deputy Superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, which is responsible for the DC section of the CCT. RVSP here
  • The Active Transportation Advisory Group (ATAG) wants your input regarding improving bicycling and walking in Prince George’s County. M-NCPPC staff will update attendees on bicycle and pedestrian-related initiatives, opportunities for input regarding specific projects. ATAG also wants to hear your concerns, ideas, and recommendations on improving bicycling and walking in the county.
  • George Washington’s Olivia Syftestad was named the Atlantic 10’s rookie performer of the week for her third place finish at the Mount St. Mary’s Duals
  • GW has also hired the District Track Club’s Quamel Prince as an assistant coach.
  • American University hired Samford University volunteer assistant Tyra Massey as an assistant coach.
  • Former D.C. resident Brittany Peterson has written, directed and edited a short film about two runners completing ultramarathons in D.C. during the pandemic. Learn more here 
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