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.
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.”
- General registration for the Oct. 31 Marine Corps Marathon races opens at noon eastern Wednesday, May 26 and proceed on a first-come-first-served basis.
- The lottery for the Sept. 12 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile will run fom June 1- June 30 at 11:59 p.m.
- The Army Ten-Miler has not annouecd plans for an in-person race, but the race is preparing for one, likely Oct. 10. Registration for the race’s virtual component will open June 14.
The Marine Corps Marathon announced it will hold a race in-person Oct. 31.
Runners who had registered for the 2021 virtual races or who deferred from the canceled 2020 race, rather than opt for the virtual 2020 race, will have the first opportunities to register. General registration will available, first-come-first-served, at noon eastern May 26.
Race fields for the marathon, 50k and 10k will be reduced and runners will be divided into waves beginning at 7 a.m., among other public health measures. to all Since 2013, the number of marathon finishers has ranged between 18,355-23,513, the 10k has seen 5,069-7,778 finishers and the inaugural 50k in 2019 drew 1,329 finishers.
“Throughout my many years heading the MCM Organization, we have faced various challenges and hurdled them all, often repeating the Marine Corps mantra to “adapt and overcome.” This year will be no different,” said race director Rick Nealis. “The MCM’s mission is to highlight the high standards and organizational excellence of the United States Marine Corps and we are excited to showcase that as we plan to safely gather and celebrate the 46th MCM in person.”
A former West Point classmate needed a new kidney, and Dave Ashley did a blood test to see if he was a match.
After further testing, it turned out he was. But when he tried to research whether he’d be able to keep doing endurance sports, which helped him with anxiety issues resulting from deployment, he wasn’t able to find answers.
“So I really had to make this decision kind of blindly, hoping that on the other end I’d still be able to do at least some of the activities that I’m really passionate about and are therapeutic for me,” said Ashley, now 46, who lives in Arlington.
This coming January will mark four years since the now-retired U.S. Air Force colonel donated his kidney — and he’s showing that living with one kidney isn’t stopping him as he completes athletic feats, from ultramarathons to bike rides.
Though she put away her jumping spikes a few years ago, Lake Braddock alumna Maddie Manhertz Swegle is still flying through the air, this time in a navy fighter jet. On Friday, she will become the first African American tactical air pilot.
Though she was primarily a long and triple jumper at Lake Braddock and later at the U.S. Naval Academy, Swegle was willing to pitch in on the track too, including running a leg of the 2012 AAA state champion outdoor 3200 meter relay team that finished with a six-second lead over West Springfield in 9:20.9.
“My guess is that she enjoyed jumping more than she enjoyed the 400 and 800, but if we needed her on a relay, she was always in,” said Bruins Coach Mike Mangan. “That tells you a lot about her, doing that for the state championship. She was super team oriented and her teammate adored her. People felt good just being around her.”
The race tried to go on, to fight to the end. But with a little more than three months to go, the Marine Corps Marathon reached a point where the reality of the coronavirus pandemic was too much to face on Oct. 25. It followed other large marathons in canceling, including Chicago and New York. Marine Corps will offer a virtual racing option. A day later (July 21), the Army Ten-Miler announced that it too would not hold an in-person race. It had been scheduled for Oct. 11 but had delayed registration.
“We explored various approaches to safely execute a live event and held numerous meetings with Marine Corps leadership, local government and public health officials,” said Race Director Rick Nealis. “We understand this is disappointing news for many, but we could no longer envision a way to gather together in compliance with safety guidelines. While we are unable to celebrate in-person this October, we are excited about the opportunity to bring the 45th anniversary event to the homes of runners around the world through a rewarding and engaging virtual experience.”
The bottleneck for the race came in the start and finish areas near the Pentagon and United States Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington County. Virginia limits gatherings to 250 participants and the starting line can see crowds of more than 20,000 runners in close quarters. In an attempt to reduce the roughly 28,000 runners who show up ever year on the last weekend of October, the race tried to shed runners, canceling the in-person 10k (good for 5,000 – 8,000 finishers annually). An attempt to stagger starts would run up against the deadline to reopen the 14th Street Bridge, forcing the race to tighten pace restrictions to 12:00 per mile, which would have cut nearly 8,000 of 18,000 who didn’t maintain that pace in 2019 and nearly 7,300 of more than 20,000 finishers in 2018.
The drew criticism from runners who questioned the race’s self-appointed moniker as “the people’s marathon.”
“Health and safety are our top priorities during this challenging time,” said Libby Garvey, Arlington County Board Chair. “The Marine Corps Marathon is a treasured event and tradition in our community that Arlingtonians look forward to each year. As we celebrate the race’s 45th anniversary this year, we will be enthusiastically and virtually cheering on each runner. We can’t wait to welcome these dedicated athletes and fans back to Arlington in person in 2021.”
A little farther away, the Baltimore Marathon (Oct. 17) and Richmond Marathon (Nov. 14) remain on schedule as of their most recent updates.
Just seven years ago, Marine Corps came within a day of canceling supply orders, and the race, in the face of the federal government shutdown that would have prevented runners from using most of the course.
As her World Class Athlete Program team stood victorious in winning the 2015 Army Ten-Miler, Kelly Calway lowered her five-month-old daughter, Hattie, into the trophy. She fit perfectly.
Four months later, when Calway came home from Los Angeles with a stress fracture, it was her eight-year-old, Hazel who told her, “Mom, I love you,” and helped ease Calway’s fears that she had let the family down when she dropped out of the 2016 Olympic Trials.
As Calway, of McLean, nears the 2020 Trials, she’s counting on pushes from her family to help her get closer to the 25th place finish she notched at the 2012 Trials or her 2013 Marine Corps Marathon title than to her injury-shortened 2016 race.
“My dream is to get my whole family running together,” she said.
She’s close to it. Her husband, Chris, is training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Half Marathon. Hazel, now 12, has been running 5ks since she was a four-year-old in Girls on the Run, and Hattie, now 4, has run a mile. The three set up water stops and cheering stations on her long runs as she puts the finishing touches on her training.
It took U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Lindsay Carrick two hours and 43 minutes (and 43 seconds) to run the Military World Games marathon in Wuhan, China. It took more than three weeks to find out her effort was good enough to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials.
But the course and race management checked out, and it made the fall and winter a lot simpler for Carrick, who had been aiming to run under 2:45 for two years.
Her coach, Patrick Gomez, said the Olympic Trials qualifying time was a larger goal, but he wanted her to be able to do well at the Military World Games without overdoing it. They had a backup race planned if needed.
“We went into the race saying let’s set ourselves up to be as successful as possible, and it just happened to be an Olympic Trials qualifying mark,” he said.
After running his 16th Army Ten-Miler, Gen. Dennis J. Reimer, the former chief of staff of the U.S. Army, reflected on the role that physical fitness plays in today’s military, his career in the Army and his life as a runner.
This year, at age 80, he ran the course in 2:07:07. During his tenure as chief of staff from 1995-1999, he ran the course, in 1998, in 1:10:45, finishing 1,207 out of 7,933 men.