The Changes to the Marine Corps Marathon

At the beginning of the week the Marine Corps Marathon made an announcement that they would be making an announcement. They were vague in the reason for the announcement other than to say it related to the race time, course and transportation. I laughed and said it’s a race, what else could they be discussing. The pre-annoucement immediately triggered theories and rumors throughout various Facebook groups. Nerves and anxiety  began to grow. People started making plans for every conceivable contingency.

Much of the issue thus far has been related to the DC Metro system. For those not local to DC, the Metro system has been going through extensive repairs due to safety concerns and issues. There are regular fires, smoke issues and derailments. For many years there have been jokes about the unreliability of the system. Sadly, a rider died as a result of the issues related to Metro. There are no more jokes, instead pure frustration. For many the Metro is the only source of transportation in the city the changes in track times and closed lines, often during peak hours when people are commuting is causing anger in the community.

Typically during large events, sporting events and especially the MCM, the Metro either remains open later or opens earlier. However since they have begun the repair process known as SafeTrack, they have not deviated from their schedule. They no longer make exceptions for events as they utilize those off hours to make the necessary repairs. the repairs are so necessary that the Transportation Security has threatened to close down the entire system until Metro repairs every single issue. A threat that has thankfully not come to fruition.

Metro’s lack of exception to their policy has been known since the beginning of the lottery process. However for out of towners who were not aware of the situation and booked hotels on opposite sides of the city, expected as they always have that Metro would be open have been panicking. Many thought that MCM would prevail and that Metro would back down from their firm stance. They cited the amount of money we bring to the city. The publicity. The positive benefits the city reaps from our presence. All “benefits” that may or may not be true nor balance out the budgetary aspects of opening earlier. But due to the nature of the repairs and their reason-SAFETY-they are holding firm in their refusal to open.

The announcement that came via a Facebook live video laid out the MCM’s new plan for race day. The resulting changes are actually quite positive for runners.

The start corral will remain open until 8:55 am. This will give runners an entire hour from the time the howitzer fires until the last runner must cross the starting mat. This allows those snarled in Metro or other transportation issues to still get started.

The other plus side of this change is those runners that in are corrals at the 7:55 start will actually have more time to “Beat The Bridge.” The dreaded bridge is the 14th Street bridge, runners must be at the bridge by 1:15 pm in order to finish. The bridge is approximately 19.5 miles into the race.  By extending the start time, the deadline to reach the bridge was also slightly extended. In other words I have over five hours to travel 20 miles.

This year does have the added caveat that you then must be over the one mile bridge by 1:36 pm. I will admit that the 14th Street bridge is the longest mile known to man. It feels like it takes hours to cross, usually because you have pushed yourself so hard to make that cut off that you are filled with relief to have made it and thereby missed the straggler bus.

There were also a few other course changes announced, they shaved a few miles off the Rock Creek Park loop and added them to Crystal City. A change I am ambivalent about, while I am grateful that there is less time in Rock Creek Park, I’m not a huge Crystal City fan. Though honestly I am so grateful about the bridge and start time that I feel that those areas I typically struggle with at the end will be a bit easier to tackle.

The initial thoughts and concern were justified given previous years snafus, but I felt that this year the race director truly came up with a solution that takes any unnecessary additional stressors off the runners. In fact, there is some relief for runners who fear their ability to beat the dreaded bridge.

Back to focusing on training and less on logistics.

Happy Running!



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