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By Rhonda Apple

Pentagram Staff Writer

With Hurricane Sandy preparing to wreak havoc on the east coast, the 37th annual Marine Corps Marathon and Mother Nature cooperated with each other Oct. 28, despite the fact that about 7,000 of the marathoners and 10K runners opted not to chance getting stranded in the National Capital Region.

From all parts of the world, active duty and retired military were joined by civilian runners early on the cold and cloudy race day morning. In addition to completing the race without injury, the predicted hurricane weighed heavily on the athletes’ minds.

“I am actually leaving at 4:35 p.m. today. Hopefully, I can get out this afternoon; I don’t want to miss my Tuesday exam,” said Kenny Foster, an Army intelligence officer at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Many people decided to change their flights or move from Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va., areas forecasted to suffer a majority of damage once Sandy made landfall. Others were content to just hunker down and ride out the storm.

Others weren’t so fortunate, but took it in stride. “My travel home got seriously delayed because of Hurricane Sandy,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Jim Ritch, departmental lead chief petty officer, Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific, San Diego, Calif. “I am now flying out of Richmond, which is less of a delay than my original airline, but still a delay. I can't say there was any negative weather impact. In fact, I would say the weather was awesome for the race.”

Antonio Alcorda, a native Californian, flew from Clovis, Calif., to run in honor of Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony Butterfield, a Family friend who was killed in Iraq. “I run the 10K and this is my fourth run,” said Alcorda. “I’m leaving at 8 a.m. Monday [Oct. 29]. Originally my flight was at 5 p.m., but my travel agent called to say my flight had been changed so the airlines can get people out of here. I plan to roll with the punches.”

Neil Taylor, a member of the British Army’s101 Royal Engineers, from Brighton, England, had never experienced a hurricane and was unsure what to expect. “We did not know before arriving in D.C. there was a hurricane expected,” said Taylor, attending his first MCM. “Our team plans to leave on Tuesday night [Oct. 30] “We’re staying at Quantico Marine Base – but I’m not sure how long we’ll be here if Sandy arrives before Tuesday.”

Some at the MCM had a long journey to and from the event. “I’m flying back to Pakistan,” said Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, commander of the Office of Defense, a representative for Pakistan. “I’m here for temporary duty, and my schedule worked out so I was able to run the marathon while in Washington,” he said.

“I ran the Army Ten-Miler last weekend and this weekend the Marine Corps Marathon with my son, Jon, a graduate student at Harvard and a captain in the Army Reserve,” he added.

With Sandy’s estimated arrival, Keen decided to move up his departure by one day. “I’m leaving tomorrow [Monday],” he said. “I’ve lived in Miami, Fla., and Savannah, Ga., so I’ve had to dodge hurricanes before.”

Pierry Ramirez, a soldier in the Columbian Army, was excited about his first wheelchair marathon in Washington, D.C. “I’ve never been in a hurricane before,” said Ramirez. “We’re leaving Tuesday, and I hope nothing bad happens.”

Also a bit apprehensive about Sandy’s arrival was Bente Serritslev, a government civilian from Karup Air Base, Denmark. Serritslev and running partner were feeling the stress of the the hurricane. “We’ve never seen a hurricane, and we’re being moved from our hotel in Washington, D.C., to Quantico Marine Base,” said Serritslev.

“Everything should be ok, as long as you’re prepared and stay inside,” advised Peter Vaughan, 11, of Rockville, Md., as he relaxed with running buddies Joey Leon, 10, and Mitchell Jones, 11.

Travis Taylor, who completed the marathon in 40 pounds of body armor in 6 hours and 15 minutes, said, “I have a back-up plan. If they cancel my flight, I have a rental car, and I’ll get it and drive [to Alabama]. I have my Family here, so they can drive; I’ll sit in the back. I’m going to be too tired to be driving.”

“To be honest, we might be stuck. Hey, there’s a lot worse places to be stuck than D.C., but we had not [planned] to be out of here until Monday. We’ll roll the dice; we’ll see what happens,” said celebrity guest starter Rob Riggle. “We might be staying and doing some sight-seeing.”