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DC Rail System Maintenance to Affect Marine Corps Marathon Runners

  • VOA News

FILE - Runners head west on Independence Avenue in Washington as they near the 19-mile mark of the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2014. The Washington Monument can be seen in the distance.

FILE - Runners head west on Independence Avenue in Washington as they near the 19-mile mark of the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2014. The Washington Monument can be seen in the distance.

The nearly 30,000 runners participating in the Marine Corps Marathon and 10K race this year in Washington will face some transit issues on the way to the starting line: D.C. Metro officials have refused to disrupt their repair schedule for the event.

The annual Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in the nation's capital, one of the premier road-racing events in the U.S., generally attracts runners from more than 25 countries. The 26.2-mile (42-kilometer) course gives runners a look at many well-known monuments and attractions.

This week's decision by WMATA, the Washington-area mass transit agency, means marathon organizers have had to adjust the race course and extend the start time for the event on October 30.

The Metro rail system began SafeTrack, an aggressive maintenance schedule, in June, and the work will continue work for at least a year. Some of the rail network's lines will have only a single track available for days or weeks at a time, instead of the normal dual-track system used to keep trains moving freely in both directions.

Some stations will close for equipment upgrades and other work needed to improve safety for passengers throughout the transit system.

Metro has reduced its operating hours to accommodate the maintenance program, particularly on Saturdays and Sundays, and the system's administrators have refused to adjust train schedules for special events, as was customary in the past for the marathon and other special events.

FILE - Teens wearing cow-horn hats and ringing cow bells cheer on runners in the Marine Corps Marathon along Independence Avenue in Washington in October 2014.

FILE - Teens wearing cow-horn hats and ringing cow bells cheer on runners in the Marine Corps Marathon along Independence Avenue in Washington in October 2014.

Main transit mode

The rail system has been the primary way for runners and spectators to get to the race, with about 24,000 racers and spectators using the service starting at 5 a.m.

But as a result of SafeTrack, Metro will not begin service until 7 a.m. on October 30.

The MCM is keeping its 7:55 a.m. EDT start time in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the U.S. Capitol and the White House. But to allow runners more leeway in arrival, the MCM start line will remain open for a full hour, until 8:55 a.m. EDT, for runners' delayed arrivals.

The MCM 10K, which in previous years started on the National Mall and raced through Washington, will now begin in a parking lot north of the Pentagon, and runners will stay in Arlington County for the entire race.

There are only slight changes to the marathon race course. However, marathoners will still have to meet the MCM’s 14-minute-mile standard in order to finish the race on time, Washington's WTOP reported.

"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," MCM Director Rick Nealis said in a statement.

To minimize dependency on Metro, the MCM will provide shuttle service from multiple parking locations, race organizers said.

The changes came after Marine Brigadier General Thomas Weidley and marathon officials were unable to persuade Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld to open two hours early for the race, as it has in years past, The Washington Post reported.

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