- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 28, 2006

Just 55 days out, the race director of the National Marathon is not concerned about the lack of entries for the inaugural March25 marathon and half marathon.

Entries for the marathon opened Oct.31 and the half marathon was added to the schedule Dec.17. According to Keith Dowling, the race director and former elite marathoner: “We are up to roughly 700 for the marathon and 600 for the half marathon.”

The total is a far from the 5,000 runners that organizers had hoped to attract this year.

“We’ll have a lot more people on the starting line,” Dowling said.

When asked if he was concerned by the numbers, Dowling replied: “No. I think marathonguide.com showed all the inaugural marathons last year. There were 20 of them and only one I believe cracked 1,000. I think it was Vegas and they had 8,200. But that truly wasn’t an inaugural marathon because they already had a marathon out there. It was a different group organizing it.”

The financial viability of the event was bolstered last week by the addition of PricewaterhouseCoopers as a major sponsor, according to Robert Sweeney of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, the event’s organizer.

Sweeney said he still is in negotiations with several companies to secure a title sponsor, but he said time is running out for this year’s race. With the addition of PWC, Sweeney said, the event shouldn’t end up in the red.

Sweeney said the new infusion of cash also allowed him to reach out to the thousands of entrants of the 2003 Washington D.C. Marathon who did not receive refunds when organizers canceled just days before the event.

“Now we can offer all old D.C. Marathoners free registration,” said Sweeney, who added that he believes many people are reticent to pay for an entry into his race after they were burned three years ago. “We are doing a direct mail piece. We will refund their entry fees if they already signed up for our race.”

To promote more applications, new entry standards were added. Previously, all entrants had to post certain times for a marathon, half marathon or 10-mile distance, depending on their age. Now, runners can use 5K and 10K results for the half marathon and 10K times for the marathon.

“I have been talking to a lot of people who did not have a 10-mile or half-marathon standard,” said Dowling, a 2:13 marathoner in his heyday. “We don’t want to exclude anybody. We thought it was just a nice benefit for the runners.”

The 5K time limit is sub-28 minutes for runners who are 18 to 49 and sub-32 minutes for those 50 years and older. The 10K limits are sub-57 minutes and sub-1:04 for the same age groups.

To help runners secure these entry standards, the organizers teamed with their race management company to offer opportunities to qualify via treadmill running. Yesterday, Pacers in Arlington played host to a number of qualifiers as did Charm City Run at the Maryland Athletic Club in Timonium, Md.

She’s back — Most world-class sprinters and hurdlers are well into retirement by their late 30s, but not Gail Devers. She said Friday she will run in the Millrose Games in Manhattan.

The 39-year-old Devers has not raced since failing to advance from the first round of the 100-meter hurdles in the 2004 Olympics.

There was speculation she had retired, but obviously she hasn’t.

The three-time world champion in the 100-meter hurdles and the reigning World Indoor champion in the 60 meters will have her hands full with American Joanna Hayes, who won Olympic gold in Athens while setting an Olympic record of 12.37 in the process.

It was just two years ago that Devers became the first athlete in history to win U.S. indoor titles in both the 60-meter dash and 60-meter hurdles while qualifying for both the 100 meters and 100-meter hurdles for the Olympic Games later that year.

So don’t count her out yet.

TV alert — Try to catch local star Chris Lukezic in the mile at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games this afternoon from 3 to 4:30 p.m. — broadcast a day after the meet on ESPN2.

Warm runnings — Go to the Sportsplex Track Showcase today at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex near FedEx Field in Landover for an all-comers track and field meet.

The first event, the 800-meter racewalk, toes the line at 8:30 a.m., followed by the 3,000-meter racewalk, 55 hurdles, 55 dash, 1,600 meters, 400, 800-meter relay, 800, 200, 1,600-meter relay and the 3,200. Field events include pole vault, shot put, triple jump, high jump and long jump.

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