By Jim Dresbach
Pentagram Staff Writer
Many personal races were completed at the 37th annual Marine Corps Marathon finish line.
Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors ran Oct. 28 for fallen servicemembers and military buddies. Civilians from every state may have conquered the 26.2 miles for a family member or friend stricken or fallen by cancer. Other racers kicked another item off their bucket lists, but all 23,515 finishers of The People's Marathon beat Hurricane Sandy.
Active duty distance enthusiasts, including Army elite runners who claimed the top two finishing positions, as well as civilian weekend marathoners collectively thumbed their noses at the Frankenstorm as many deemed the conditions – gray yet dry at the 7:55 a.m. start – optimum.
Both champion Augustus Maiyo and runner-up Kenny Foster deemed the weather conditions above average, and the only factor holding the grade from being perfect was a race-ending head wind.
Maiyo, an Army specialist who was an All-American steeplechase runner from the University of Alabama who originally hails from Kenya, clocked a MCM time of 2:20.20. Foster was second with a 2:22.39 finishing pace.
“Right around 20 or 21 miles, we had a real nice tail wind,” said Foster, a military intelligence officer who is currently completing the captain's career course at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. “I used that tail wind to pick up any kind of speed I could. Around 23 and a half miles, it worked in the opposite direction. From 23 and a half to the finish, there was a head wind to work against. That was pretty tough.”
With the mega-storm looming 500 miles from the District of Columbia metro area offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, runners from every state and 54 countries took their first competitive strides at the 7:55 a.m. starting gun and two hours and 22 minutes later, a 2012 male champion made his own history.
“It was my first [Marine Corps] marathon. It was tough,” said Maiyo, who finished second overall in Oct. 21's Army Ten-Miler. “I kept thinking, when am I going to finish it, especially with two miles to go. About the 18-mile [mark], I was feeling strong, and at the 25-mile [mark], I knew I was in control [of the race]. I was running against some real good guys from the U.S. Army, and to win by a big margin is a big achievement for me.”
Besides claiming the first two overall spots, the Army elite runners earned the MCM Armed Services championship.
Ethiopian-born runner Birhanu Tadesse was third overall with a 2:23:03 time. His fellow countrymen were one-two in the women's marathon portion. Hirut Beyene Guangal was the first overall female finisher in 2:42:03 while Wayinshet Hailu came home in 2:47:04.
During the 10K segment of the marathon Sunday, a stoppage and a final mile-and-a-half sprint were set in place by a suspicious package encountered on the raceway. The incident, called “a brief operational stop” by MCM staff in a written press release, caused a delay of approximately six minutes.
Falls Church native Susanna Sullivan, a Notre Dame graduate who lettered in cross country and track at South Bend, won the 10K female title in 47 minutes and 31 seconds, but she also needed to conquer some anxiety and restlessness brought on by the hold-up.
“I got anxious there because I built a lead and I really wanted to work the last mile – that was my plan,” Sullivan said. “When we stopped, 100 ladies caught up, and we all started at the same time again with a mile and a half to go.
“It was basically just a sprint to the finish. I do a lot of interval work, so it wasn't completely foreign to stop and start sprinting,” she added.
Finishing second and third in the women's 10K were a pair of Naval Academy grads, Jess Palacio (47:44) and Erin Demchko (48:29).
The men's 10K winner was Glenn Collins, who completed the course in 46 minutes and 34 seconds.
For the other 23,510 MCM runners, the excursion though Washington D.C., and northern Virginia streets was done for the unique experience of running a marathon or as a personal challenge. To root on those personal experiences and challenges, 2012 Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan offered all runners encouragement four minutes before the Sunday morning start.
“I want everyone to take a deep breath,” Flanagan said over the starting line's public address system. “Savor this moment. Today, the streets of D.C. are yours. Go out and define yourselves.”
After the start, which took around 20 minutes for all the runners to clear Virginia's Route 110 starting line near the Pentagon, the race was on for creativity and originality. Some racers ran dressed as Halloween pumpkins while others were dressed as red devils or their favorite movie superhero. At the Iwo Jima Memorial finish line, real heroes met real heroes when Marines from Henderson Hall, Quantico and Marine Barracks 8th and I welcomed and assisted MCM finishers after multi-hour foot-trips over D.C. pavement.
“Since they are more than willing to take part in something associated with the Marine Corps, we are more than willing to come out and support them,” said Sgt. Jorge Diazramirez of Fort Meade's DMA group. “The inspiration they bring out is that they are challenging themselves above and beyond their limitations to come out and participate in this. This is an amazing feat that most people would not accomplish.”