Officials with the D.C. Metro denied organizers of the 41st annual Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) an early opening for racers this year, forcing major changes to the schedule and route.
Roughly 24,000 racers and spectators rely on the metro to get to the annual event, but ongoing repairs from SafeTrack prevent any accommodation to the maintenance schedule, even for special city events. The race begins at 7:45 a.m. EST for individuals using wheelchairs and handcycles, and 7:55 a.m. EST for all other runners. Organizers will keep the same start time, but leave the starting line open to runners for another hour, unlike previous years where it is closed roughly 20 minutes after the race began, reports NBC Washington.
The prolonged start time is meant to accommodate those who will be severely impacted by the lack of metro service. The majority of the marathon’s roughly 30,000 participants relied on metro services in the past. Organizers have also adjusted the route of the race, along with the accompanying MCM 10k, which is heavily altered.
“All of the changes have been governed by the principle that every participant deserves a fair chance to accomplish the goal of finishing the Marine Corps Marathon within the required 14 minute-per-mile time limit,” Rick Nealis, MCM director, said in a statement Wednesday.
The MCM 10k will not start on the National Mall or even go through Washington, D.C. — a big change from previous years. The starting line will be in the north parking lot of the Pentagon, and the adjusted route will keep runners in Arlington County for the entirety of the race. Marathon runners will experience slight adjustments to their normal route, but will still have to meet the MCM’s 14-minute mile standard in order to finish the race on time, reports WTOP.
The altered route will also bring racers over the 14th Street Bridge a little earlier in the course. The bridge acts as a natural cut-off point for the race when it reopens to traffic at 1:15 p.m. EST. Participants have to “beat the bridge” if they want to officially complete the race. Organizers have the bridge at mile 18 this year, instead of mile 20, in hopes runners who are a little late still get a chance to cross over.
D.C. Metro officials will help MCM organizers with longer train cars to accommodate the massive crowds during and after the race. Yellow Line trains will be extended to eight cars Oct. 28-30, and eight-car Blue Line trains will be added for race day Oct. 30. From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. EST, Yellow Line trains will run with increased frequency, and Blue Line trains will do the same from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST. (RELATED: DC Metro’s Plan To Make System Safer Rewritten After Inspectors Find Its Not Safe)
Metro officials are in the process of revising SafeTrack repairs after a scathing safety review by the Federal Transit Administration in August. Officials are expected to release the new repair schedule in mid-September, so racers and organizers may face further inconvenience.
“The MCM will contract expanded services with Metro for event day to include running eight-car trains on the blue and yellow lines, and increasing frequency,” Mark Goldman, marketing manager for MCM, told NBC Washington. “While these adjustments should prove helpful, runners are encouraged to minimize their dependency on Metro.”
MCM organizers will offer their own shuttle service to the starting line for participants beginning at 4:30 a.m. EST, and spectators beginning at 5 a.m. EST. The shuttles will run out of National Harbor and the Gaylord National Resort. There will be free parking in Crystal City at 23rd Street and Crystal Drive, however, organizers warn space will be limited.
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