WASHINGTON —Thousands of runners checked through security to compete in the 39th annual Marine Corps Marathon early Sunday, a 26.2-mile through the Washington area with a high-five from a Marine at the finish line.
Over 30,000 people were registered for the marathon and 10K. There were 8,000 military and service participants, 3,700 of those active duty. Whether honoring family members or overcoming their own struggles, many were running for a cause.
With 3,200 Marines running, and more on the sidelines for support, Marine Col. David Maxwell said whether he’s a runner or official the Marine presence makes the marathon special.
“The Disney marathon has its characters, London has Big Ben,” he said at the press conference. “The Marine Corps has the United States Marines.”
Army 2nd Lt. Meghan Curran, of 2nd Bn., was the first female finisher at a time of 2:51. Curran said running with a Marine Corps pack at mile 20, and hearing words of encouragement from them, got her through the last few miles.
“I just said, ‘Take it a mile at a time,’ and that put me through,” she said.
Participants include four runners who have competed in all 39 Marine Corps Marathons, and official starter Sean Astin, an actor known most famously for playing Sam in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Maxwell said the challenges in the Marine Corps Marathon were symbolic of the challenges Marines face. More than 190,000 Marines were deployed around the world as of June, according to the Statistical Information Analysis Division.
“It takes courage to sign up in the first place, facing the physical and mental challenges that you will endure,” he said. “As marines we know full well what it means to face a challenge and overcome it.”
Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, who shielded a fellow Marine from a grenade in Afghanistan, skydived into a landing near the starting line. He ran with a time of 5:12.
“At the end of the run, when I’m hurting and I’m happy that it’s over, I’m really just going to be thankful that I have the ability for my legs to hurt and my legs to be sore,” Carpenter said.
Richard Powell, 1st Bn. 23rd Marines, was the first marine to finish at a time of 2:33. First Lt. Angelica Valdez, air intelligence officer in Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, was the first female Marine to finish at a time of 3:05. Powell said the Marine Corps Marathon is the only race he runs year after year.
“You push yourself to a higher cause,” Powell said.
Astin said compared with many other runners who ran in honor of cause or family member, his running was “selfish.”
“It’s amazing to see marines looking back the other way and support you. It’s kind of surreal and sort of strange,” Astin said at the press conference. “To be the official starter seems… inappropriate somehow.”
His first reason is for himself, his second for his family, and he searched for a third reason. He began the hashtag #Run3rd — he printed out and kept 500 of those responses in his pocket as he ran.
The 7,320th finisher became the half-millionth participant who crossed the line in the marathon’s history. Last year the marathon’s weekend brought $100 million into the metropolitan DC area from tourism.
Samuel Kosgei, active duty U.S. Army specialist in the 1st Squadron 4th Cavalry Regiment, finished first at a time of 2:22.
“I’m glad I won,” said Kosgei, who was born in Uganda but is now stationed in Fort Valley. “This is a big deal for me.”