Photo by Rachel Larue
Girma Bedada, upper left, runs the Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 27, 2013. He went on to win with a time of 2:21:31.
On any given Sunday before dawn, the majority of streets around the National Capital Region have little traffic and very few people are filing onto the sidewalks and pathways. However, Oct. 27 was not your typical Sunday. It was the day of the "People's Marathon" – the 38th annual Marine Corps Marathon.
Thousands of runners, supporters, marathon staff, charity organizers and volunteers – including Marines stationed throughout the NCR – began to congregate near the Marine Corps War Memorial and along the entire race course from Arlington, into Washington and back toward Rosslyn before daylight. Excitement filled the crisp morning air, with the temperature hovering around 49 degrees.
MCM announcer Rob Power's upbeat voice boomed with encouragement and inspirational messages as runners gathered at the marathon arch, located between Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon on Route 110. Among the 30,000 registered marathoners were those wearing trash bags for added warmth over their running clothes. Others wore costumes – from ballet tutus to a couple dressed as a carton of milk and a box of cereal. There was a Washington Redskins fan decked out in a team jersey juggling three semi-inflated footballs and a runner without shoes. Dozens of charities' logos flanked colorful running apparel.
Family members, friends and locals lined the sides of the road with colorful signs and cowbells, chatting amicably.
Marine Staff Sgt. James Sides, a Marine Explosive Ordnance Disposal tech from Gainesville, Fla., completed his first official skydive near the MCM start line. Sides was blinded in his left eye and lost his right hand attempting to dismantle an improvised explosive device in July, 2012. He was joined by fellow skydivers retired Marine Lt. Col. John Bates and retired Army 1st Sgt. Dana Bowman, a double amputee and former member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team. The three were part of the 11-member skydiving team, which carried a 7,800 square foot American flag, the largest flag to be included in a performance jump. They also carried smaller U.S. flags and the five flags of each military service.
About 20 minutes after the skydiver's performed their "jump into the MCM," a celebratory gun salute from a 105mm Howitzer M2A1 (M101) fired to signify the start of the race with the wheelchair and hand-cycle racers beginning their 26.2-mile journey, followed by runners for both the MCM10K and full marathon.
"It's exciting being here for the first time to see my husband run the marathon. There is so much energy here," said Jennie Cross of Cumberland, Md., wife of retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. Joe Cross. He finished the marathon in 3:24:15.
Jennie said her husband had run 18 marathons, and this was his fifth MCM. "It's just awesome here and there are all these charities that will benefit from this. The Marine Corps Marathon does it big," said Jennie.
Marine Maj. Seth Goldstein, stationed at Quantico Marine Corps Base, said he was at the marathon to support his friend, Marine veteran Tony Katafiasz of Toledo, Ohio. Katafiasz crossed the finish line at 5:52:17.
"He decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon for the first time this year, and this is the first time I've attended," said Goldstein. "The mass of people here is incredible, not only the people coming out to run, but so many people get up early to come out and watch it," he said.
About an hour after the race started, Reggie Payne, a former Army National Guardsman from Georgia, rested under a large tree on the grounds of the Marine Corps War Memorial. "I'm having a little picnic," said Reggie while munching on cookies.
"I'm here to support my wife, Katherine. It's her first marathon and we came from Fort Myers, Fla., where we relocated for my wife's job. She's an Army veteran and worked as a communication specialist. She's been running for about 20 years, but she never ran an official race other than a 5K in Atlanta. Katherine said running the Marine Corps Marathon was on her bucket list and she had to do it," Reggie said with a smile.
After training for the MCM for 18 months, Reggie said there was valid concern his wife might not be running the marathon this year if it was cancelled due to the recent government shutdown. "She was mad because she had been getting up at 4 o'clock every morning to run, she was concerned it might not happen, but here we are, and it's incredible to be here," Payne said. Katherine Payne completed her first MCM at 5:34:00.
Pre-race ceremonial events included the presentation of colors by the Marine Ceremonial Platoon from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The a cappella group the Liberty Voices performed the national anthem.
The MCM10K, held simultaneously with the MCM, had 7,576 finishers who completed the 6.2 mile run from the National Mall to the finish at the Marine Corps War Memorial.
The 2013 Marine Corps Marathon hosted 100 wheelchair and handcycle participants.
Girma Bedada of Columbia, Ga., captured top honors, winning the MCM in 2:21:31. Coast Guard Lt. Patrick Fernandez of Alexandria, Va., placed second overall at 2:21:51.
Military women were competitive, with Army, Navy and Air Force runners taking top honors. First was Army Capt. Kelly Calway, of Manitou Springs, Colo., finishing in 2:42:15. Navy Lt. Gina Slaby, of Virginia Beach, Va., captured second among the women coming in at 2:48:03, and Senior Airman Emily Shertzer of Jonestown, Penn., finished a close 2:48:07.
Of the 30,000 who registered for this year's MCM, 23,480 people officially finished, according to the MCM website.