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Arlington Becomes Official Home of Marine Corps Marathon

For the first time in 31 years, the Marine Corps Marathon has a home.

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Thursday in Rosslyn, civic and business leaders, along with representatives for the race, announced their partnership with the Oct. 29th event, the world’s eighth-largest marathon.

THE CEREMONY was also a chance to announce a change in the marathon's Finish Festival: the outdoor party for spectators and families of runners traditionally held on the grounds of the Iwo Jima U.S. Marine Corps Memorial.

Starting this year the Finish Festival will take place along a quarter-mile stretch of Lynn St., beginning at the Iwo Jima Memorial and ending at Wilson Boulevard. The festival will include local bands, a beer garden, and offerings from local restaurants — all meant to entertain an expected 100,000 spectators over a four-day period.

Marc Goldman, sponsorship manager for the marathon, said the broader scope of the Finish Festival was due primarily to increased participation in the race — 34,000 runners are registered for 2006 compared to 20,000 four years ago. Goldman also cited the limitations of using government-owned property as another reason for the change.

“On park grounds, there are commercial restrictions to what sponsors can do,” Goldman said. “The marathon was growing but we weren’t able to grow with it.”

In 2004, Goldman and marathon officials went to the Arlington Economic Development office with an impact study conducted by George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies. The study showed that Virginia received two-thirds of the $19.6 million in spending generated by that year’s marathon. This despite the fact that 17 of the 26.2 miles of the marathon are run in Washington, D.C.

“I felt there was a compelling reason for [Arlington] to want to work with us,” Goldman said.

COUNTY BOARD Chairman Chris Zimmerman echoed that sentiment: “It was like, ‘Hey, the county actually benefits from this.’”

In 2005, Arlington County and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District became sponsors of the Marine Core Marathon. Their involvement sparked the expansion of the Finish Festival and has Goldman hopeful that the county can help provide services during race day.

“We’re still in dialogue with Arlington County over what services we should contract versus what they’ll provide for us,” Goldman said.

According to the Office of Emergency Management, Arlington spent nearly $128,000 on fire and EMS personnel as well as police and public service aides. That amount was then billed back to the marathon.

As of press time no collaborations between the county and marathon had been announced, but Goldman said areas being explored include environmental services, promotion, and youth outreach.

In addition to Rosslyn’s race-day activities, Crystal City will hold their third-annual Street Spectacular along Crystal Drive, between miles 22 and 23 of the race. Similar to the outdoor food and concert environment of the Finish Festival, the Street Spectacular is the first large initiative undertaken by the Crystal City BID, formed in April.

“We’re going to have dueling parties!” said Cecilia Cassidy, executive director of the Rosslyn BID.

Although the marathon provides Arlington County with a healthy revenue stream, the main purpose of the race continues to be promoting a healthy lifestyle and having fun, said Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee.

“Not everybody can run the marathon,” Carlee added. “But everyone can enjoy it.”