The Everyman: The Marine Corps Marathon Must Go On

The Marine Corps Marathon runs in the shadow of the monuments in Washington, D.C. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

The government shutdown should not affect what’s known as “The People’s Marathon.”

When I first had the idea to write this column, the federal government was still in shutdown mode and things were looking bleak. The Marine Corps Marathon, a staple in the Washington, D.C. area since it began in 1976, was on the verge of being canceled.

Wednesday morning, however, saw a change in the situation. The U.S. Senate passed a plan to end the shutdown, and the U.S. House of Representatives, as of this writing, was scheduled to vote on the plan sometime this afternoon.

So there’s hope that “The People’s Marathon” will go on as scheduled. What a relief!

The government shutdown has affected just about everyone in the country, from federal workers who are furloughed to folks in service jobs that make their living tending to the crowds that flood the monuments in Washington. With those landmarks closed, there’s not much money to be made.

But runners? Runners are supposed to be immune to this type of stuff, right? Running is supposed to be a release, a way to get out and think (or not think) about anything and everything. It’s a way to stay in shape but also offers us time to clear our minds and forget about something that may be troubling us.

RELATED: Shutdown Alters Ragnar Relay D.C. Course

So when I saw this message on the Marine Corps Marathon Facebook page, I was, to be frank, livid:

Dear Runners,

Since the government shutdown occurred, the Marine Corps Marathon continues its coordination with hopes of a conclusion in time to host the event without impact. Without a resolution to the government shutdown this week, the MCM as planned is in jeopardy of being cancelled.

While still considering and exploring all possible options, the MCM has targeted this Saturday, October 19 as the date to officially notify runners of the status of the event. It is sincerely the hope of everyone associated with the organization of this event that MCM participants can run as planned.

I ran this race in 2011 — it was my first (and only, as of now) — marathon. The experience was thrilling. Well, except for the last few hundred meters that had us climbing a steep hill to the finish line next to the Marine Corps War Memorial. That was painful.

But as I look back on it, those final meters were special because they were a culmination of months of hard work for every runner in the field. And it signified the struggles that Marines and other members of the U.S. Military go through every day on the battlefield.

And then there was the one-mile trip over the 14th Street Bridge. The bridge is flat but it starts at mile 20 of the course, the time when runners start to feel the pain of effort settling in. I remember staying in the middle of the road and feeling pretty good as runners all around me were stopping to stretch and catch their breath. It wasn’t the prettiest scene. Anguish and pain were on display everywhere.

RELATED: MCM Course For 2013 Is Flatter, Faster

After hitting the wall with about three miles to go, I received a huge lift by running into actor Drew Carey. A former Marine, Carey was the celebrity ambassador of the race that year. I spotted him at mile 25 and he was struggling as he limped along the road. I stopped and said, “Come on Drew! We have a mile left! Let’s go buddy!”

“Oh man, I’m tired. You go ahead,” was his response. (I’m paraphrasing.)

I wanted to run the rest of the way with him and cross the finish line together — OK, I’d probably run ahead before the line and beat him — but he wasn’t moving very fast. No offense to Drew, but I wanted to keep going so I left him there.

He eventually finished.

Here’s hoping this year’s marathon, scheduled to take place Oct. 27, goes off without any problems. It would be a real shame if the folks on Capitol Hill caused the cancelation — or even an alteration — of the race, even if part of it does cross into federal land.

Runners just want to run. That’s it.

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