Runners train for weeks, even months, to make it to the starting line of the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon. This year was set to be no different.
Scheduled for Sunday, May 17 in a jam-packed weekend of spring and social activities, it was clear to the organization that in the midst of the global pandemic, the best plan to protect the public’s health would be to cancel the in-person event.
Instead of packing the streets and passing the mile markers on the Fredericksburg-based route, this year’s race will take place virtually for runners across the country.
“We wanted to honor [the runners’] commitment by offering them the best and most valuable options,” says Jheanel Walters, public relations coordinator for the Marine Corps Marathon.
Runners have until Saturday, May 16 to defer their registration to the 2021 race, or compete in the race virtually up until Thursday, May 21, and all virtual competitors will still receive their participant shirt, a printable bib, finisher medal and a customizable digital finisher certificate with results and options to add special badges, including first timer, personal record, military spouse and Fredericksburg resident.
According to Walters, 5,497 runners have signed up for the virtual race thus far, with 113 “iron milers” that have competed every year since the race began in 2007.
To truly get the full experience (even remotely), participants will also have the option to download the free Historic Half Audio Experience App by Motigo.
“Runners will hear specially recorded messages as they reach designated mile markers as if they were running the actual courses in Fredericksburg. For example, they can hear the Marine Corps Marathon emcee make the official start line motivational announcements; cheer messages from MCM Director Rick Nealis and Col Will Bentley, Commander, Marine Corps Base Quantico; the Mayor of Fredericksburg Mary Katherine Greenlaw; Congressman Rob Wittman; local radio personality Jessica Cash; and more. They can also invite their own friends and family to record cheer messages specifically for them,” says Walters.
But even with nearly 5,500 runners reaching the 13.1-mile distance in their respective locations, the community’s interaction with one another and the uniformed Marines, often the best part of the race, according to Walters, will also have to be online.
“We want to see those moments and share [the runners’] accomplishments,” says Walters. “We’ve been encouraging runners to continue to use #RunWithTheMarines to share their experiences, show us where in the world they’re running, what their water and cheer stations look like, tell us when they set a new personal record and see their families at the finish line.”
So lace up and be sure to take photos, but don’t forget: no matter where you run, the same rules apply (especially for your safety).
“Plan your route ahead of time, share that plan with friends or family, and remember to have a replenishment plan for your run. Don’t skip your fluids and fuel,” says Walters.
As for what the organization will miss most this year aside from the high-fives, supportive hugs and more, it’s the mutual respect and appreciation between the runners, the volunteers and the Marines.
“It is a special moment at the finish when Marines salute and place the medal around the neck of a finisher,” says Walter. “While those moments won’t be occurring, we know the spirit of this event will carry participants through their virtual runs and as they keep in mind all those who serve and sacrifice.”
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