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Marine Corps Marathon

29th annual event criss-crosses Arlington streets

The 29th annual Marine Corps Marathon will begin and end in Arlington Oct. 31.

Dubbed "the people's marathon" by many runners for the high number of first-marathon participants it sees each year, the trek will begin at the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial near Rossyln. More of the route will extend through Arlington than in any prior year.

It will begin on Route 110, heading towards Wilson Boulevard, turn right onto Lee Highway and continue to Spout Run. From there, it will proceed across the Key Bridge and into the District of Columbia. Police are working to alleviate traffic problems that may be caused by road closures and detours.

"We're trying to make this event as user-friendly as we can for the community," said Officer Donald Grinder. "We're worried about people being able to get in and out of their neighborhoods."

The police department began an ad campaign weeks ago distributing flyers about the marathon and suggesting alternate routes for residents of areas, like Lyon Village, which is bisected by part of the course.

COMING BACK FROM the District of Colombia, runners will cross the 14th Street bridge to Eads Street and continue south to Army Navy Drive and Crystal Drive. Restaurant and store owners in Crystal City lobbied the Marine Corps to extend the route into their area, Grinder said, where they will host a kind of outdoor street fair along the route.

Making a U-turn on Crystal Drive, the race leads North to the Pentagon and will terminate back at the Marine Corps Memorial. Security around the finish line will be tight.

"Based on the up-coming elections and security concerns given to us by the department of homeland security, the Marine Corps is putting an eight-foot fence around the Iwo Jima Memorial and there will a series of security checkpoints that people will have to go through," Grinder said.

Arlington Police will be out in force for the event, three times the number seen in prior years. Security is one reason for the heightened deployment, but so is traffic.

"This year we're using in the area of 220 Arlington police," Grinder said. "It's quite an increase. Mainly it's because we've added a lot of the arterial routes to the course in Arlington, so it takes more traffic control."

Police and the Marine Corps anticipate more than 20,000 runners. The Arlington Fire Department will be coordinating emergency medical response during the race, setting up a special command post at the Iwo Jima Memorial and several others along the route.

"The race won't keep us so busy that we can't respond to other emergencies in the county," said Battalion Chief Jill Saulnier.

She added that mobile emergency units, including paramedics on bikes, will be patrolling the course.

And the best place to see the marathon? Grinder suggests Freed Park in North Arlington. A segment of the route runs past the park's southern boundary and the Key Bridge is not far to the North.

"You can watch the race from the one end and then migrate up to the Key Bridge, so you can see it from two different locations," he said.

Expect the route along Lee Highway to be filled with spectators, he advised.

THE MARATHON BEGAN in 1975 as part of an effort to bolster the image of the military in an era when it had lost favor with the American people following the Vietnam War, according to Col. James L. Fowler.

"At the same time, distance running was gaining popularity," he said.

Fowler outlined the first Marine Corps Marathon Route, one that has changed several times since.

"The name marathon evokes military history and is the kind of event the public finds in consonance with the image of the Marines."

The Corps' first marathon had 1,175 runners, the largest premiere of an annual marathon in its time. By comparison, the New York City Marathon only had 123 participants at its first run.