About 40,000 runners will head to Washington, D.C., on Saturday for the 42nd annual Marine Corps Marathon and Marine Corps Marathon 10K.
One of the largest marathons in the U.S., it’s the largest in the world that doesn’t offer prize money, earning the nickname “The People’s Marathon.” Here’s a half-dozen things to know before race day:
1. Multipurpose marathon. The idea for the race was born in 1975, when retired Marine Col. Jim Fowler came up with a plan to promote community goodwill, showcase the Marine Corps, entice potential recruits and give Marines an opportunity to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
“After the Vietnam War, popularity of the military services declined in the eyes of many,” Fowler said. “At the same time, distance running was gaining considerable positive attention.”
Originally named the Marine Corps Reserve Marathon, participants paid a $2 entry fee to run through the nation’s capital on Nov. 7, 1976.
The first finisher was two-time Olympian Kenneth Moore of Eugene, Oregon, who crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 21 minutes, 14 seconds. The first female finisher, Susan Mallery of Arlington, Virginia, completed the race in 2:56:33.
2. Mile markers. In 1977, the marathon introduced a wheelchair competition. The next year, it officially took the Marine Corps Marathon name.
The attached 10K began in 2006. It can accommodate up to 10,000 participants.
Despite the approach of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the 37th MCM garnered the event’s largest field to date, with 23,519 athletes completing the race.
Last year, returning 2014 MCM champion Army Spc. Samuel Kosgei, 32, from Junction City, Kansas, won his second MCM in 2:23:53.
3. MCM Forward. Instead of running past D.C.’s iconic memorials, some runners will complete the 26.2-mile course in high temperatures and rocky terrain, or amid the desert sand and wind, as they take part in MCM Forward.
MCM Forward began in Iraq as an event for deployed service members. The first race director, Marine Corps Public Affairs officer Maj. Megan McClung, launched MCM Forward in October 2006; McClung died that December, when an improvised explosive device destroyed her Humvee.
This year, at least nine locations in the Middle East, Africa and Western Europe will host a race, including Iraq, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Portugal. Races are set for Marine Corps and joint military bases, as well as Navy ships deployed worldwide.
4. A fitting tribute. McClung was known for her enthusiasm for each runner, motivating everyone down to the last finisher. At the first MCM Forward, McClung presented a stuffed Penguin to the last runner across the line.
In her honor, the Penguin Award is presented to the final MCM finisher in Arlington each year.
5. The blue mile. The course’s 11th is the “Wear Blue Mile,” which will include 225 posters with photographs of fallen service members, per the MCM website. Volunteers hold American flags at each poster; many of the volunteers are family members of the fallen, or fellow service members.
6. A full slate. Want more than just the race? The Gaylord National Resort, just outside Washington, serves as the host for a series of pre-marathon events, including a Friday party, a health and fitness expo and Saturday’s MCM Carbo Dining In, where racers can load up on pasta and other long-distance fuel.
Details on those events, and more about the marathon, are available at the race’s official website.