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ARLINGTON, Va. -- Not even the threat of a hurricane could prevent the running of the 37th Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 28. As the District of Columbia braced for the winds and rain of Hurricane Sandy, 23,864 runners and thousands of spectators filled the streets of the nation’s capital for the historic 26.2-mile endurance challenge. Not all participants were technically able to run. More than 140 wheelchair and handcyclists, some of whom lost limbs or suffered paralyzing injuries in various combat-related incidents, also competed in the challenge.
The race began with two Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 22 MV-22B Ospreys flying from the Pentagon over the starting line, and the thunderous boom of a 105mm Howitzer.
Lt. Col. Rob Riggle, notable actor, comedian and Marine Corps reservist, served as this year’s official race starter.
Spc. Augustus Maiyo finished the 26.2 miles first, posting a time of 2 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds. Maiyo, running his first marathon – ever – was impressed by his finishing time. "It's a one in a million [chance of happening]," Maiyo said. "It's exciting. I worked really hard along the way. It's a lift to finish."
More than 11,000 participants competed in their first marathon along with Maiyo. Runners aged 14 to 86 endured the rigors of the course.
Kim Phillips, a first-time runner from San Antonio, said she was well prepared to complete the task before she even began.
“This is probably the best for me because the communication before the race was phenomenal,” Phillips said. “The Marines wanted everyone to finish. And knowing that the race supports the Marine Corps makes it more meaningful.”
The MCM course featured two time hurdles, which runners had to complete to officially continue the course. Participants had to maintain at least a 14 minute-per-mile pace to reach the National Mall Gauntlet at mile 17.5 by 12:20 p.m. Runners then had to reach the 14th Street Bridge and successfully “Beat the Bridge” just after mile marker 20 by 1:05 p.m., before the bridge was reopened to Washington downtown traffic.
Other than the excitement of completing a marathon, there is always a competition within this race that goes unnoticed by many spectators. Annually, members of the British Royal Navy and Royal Marines travel thousands of miles to compete against the US Marine Corps All-Marine team in the Challenge Cup Competition. This year’s competition was as close as ever, with the Royal Navy/Royal Marines team edging the Marines by one second.
Staff Sgt. Michael Wood, a first-time runner with the All-Marine running team, was the second Marine from the team to cross the finish line, finishing in a time of 2:37:26.“It was great with all the crowd out there,” Wood said. “Wearing the jersey, everyone sees you and shouts ‘Ooh-Rah’ and “Semper Fi.’ You get caught up in the crowd and realize you’re running 30 seconds faster than you should be. But it was a great experience.”
But not all runners ran the marathon for competition. Many runners participated to honor family members killed in combat while serving their nation. Others ran in support of their favorite charity.
As he crossed the finish line, one runner explained his group was raising money for families that don’t have the money to provide medical equipment to their special needs children.
Another runner said he was running for Team Travis and Brendan, a team honoring Marine 1st Lt. Travis L. Manion, killed in 2007during his second tour in Iraq, and Navy Lt. Brendan J. Looney, a SEAL killed in Afghanistan in 2010. The two service members were roommates at the US Naval Academy and are buried next to each other in Arlington National Cemetery.
Another marathon participant ran in support of Goose Perez, a bi-athlete friend who is battling cancer for the fourth time.
The Fisher House based in Boston fielded a team of about 450 runners supporting their organization.
As runners crossed the finish line, some burst in tears or leaped into the air in triumph; others raised their hands in victory or yelled shouts of joy. Couples hugged and kissed as they finished the race together. Some put on a last burst of speed to cross the finish line before their legs gave out or they crumpled in pain. All were a testament to the dedication required to run 26.2 miles in keeping with the Marine Corps Marathon mission: to promote physical fitness, generate community goodwill and showcase the organizational skills of the United States Marine Corps.
Known as the People’s Marathon, this is the largest marathon to not offer prize money. It is the fourth largest marathon in the nation and ninth largest in the world.
The 37th MCM concluded at its scheduled time of 3 p.m., with very little rainfall or wind, beating Hurricane Sandy to the finish line. 237th Marine Corps Marathon Top finishers: Men Spc. Augustus Maiyo 2:20:20 Army Capt. Kenneth Foster 2:22:39 Birhanu Tadesse 2:23:03 Women Hirut Guanqul 2:42:03 Wayinshet Hailu 2:47:04 Erin Richard 2:48:11 Wheelchair competition Men Leonardo Varon 1:23:17 Ludoric Narce 1:28:05 Scot Seiss 1:28:08 Women Sherry Schulz 2:25:18 Peggy Sprouse 2:32:33 Andrea Cook 3:27:24 Notables 1st Male All-Marine runner Capt. Sean Barrett 2:35:03 1st Female All-Marine runner Capt. Maureen Carr 3:11:58