Way back in 2002, the Inaugural Washington DC Marathon ran through history… but only briefly. I believe their hopes were to become the spring version of the Marine Corps Marathon, but that wasn’t to be.
There was no race morning packet pick-up, so our friend Bob and I drove over to Stadium-Armory on Friday afternoon to pick up our packets at the outdoor race expo. It was pretty small and we were in and out in a matter of minutes.
Sunday morning Bill and I got a late start and arrived at the starting line seconds before the starting gun fired. Somehow we immediately found Bob, and after a little ribbing from him, we settled in for our run.
The race was held on Palm Sunday, and I’ve never seen so many dressed up, frustrated people that just wanted to get to church. I actually felt rather guilty seeing cars backed up so close to the churches, but not being allowed to cross the street because of the herd of people running by.
During most DC races, photographers station themselves so they can get the various historical buildings and monuments in the background of their pictures. One of the photographers snapped this great picture of Bill in front of the capitol.
And later another photographer captured this memory for us in front of the Washington Monument. That’s half of Bob that you can see beside me. Bill and Bob are obviously looking at something on the right side of the street; but not me, I’m smiling it up for the camera!
The three of us ran most of the race together, until we got to an intersection where a police officer was directing traffic and letting cars go through the intersection whenever he could. He tried to stop traffic as we approached the intersection, but the driver of one of the cars refused to stop and gunned his engine to speed past the officer. We had to stop short to keep from getting hit, and Bob tweaked his knee. Fortunately, Bob was able to continue running, but slowed down slightly keeping an eye on his injured knee.
Bill and I continued on with the race, and I had a little extra kick at the end and pulled ahead and finished in 3:57:08 (9:02 minute/mile pace). Bill finished about a minute behind me, and Bob finished just a few minutes later. Despite almost being run down by a car, Bob set his marathon PR that day!
Overall, we really enjoyed the race and all three of us decided to return in 2003 for the second annual Washington DC Marathon along with about 7,000 other runners. We diligently ran our long training runs, tapered, and were set to run the marathon when just four days before the race, it was canceled…
Race officials blamed the recent start of the war in Iraq as making DC an unsafe area and that runners were afraid to travel to the city. They also cited that local police were needed for more important things than working the race. Interestingly enough, the race organizer, H2O Entertainment, filed for bankruptcy at about that time.
On Sunday during the scheduled race time, about 500 runners showed up to run the course, and it was quickly dubbed the “Unofficial Washington DC Marathon.” We did not make the trek downtown to participate, although I’m sure it would have been fun.
Soon after the debacle, we learned that we were part of a class action lawsuit filed in hopes of recovering at least some, if not all, of the entrance fees. I remember getting a letter or two in regards to the lawsuit, but I don’t recall ever getting any of our entrance fee back.
Despite there being a demand for a spring marathon in DC, we didn’t get another one until the 2006 National Marathon. The National Marathon has been a huge success, especially since becoming one of the Rock ‘N’ Roll races.
A couple of years later we got a letter from a company that had obtained the items left behind from the 2003 DC Marathon. We were told that our finishers’ medal and shirt would be available for pickup at that fall’s Baltimore Marathon Expo. Since we were running the Baltimore Marathon and would be attending the expo, we jumped at the chance to pick up these collector’s items from the race that never happened!
- Have you ever missed a race or shown up just as it started?
- Have you ever signed up for a race that was canceled?
- Who raced this weekend?