- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

If John Stanley and his associates at H2O Entertainment in Arlington can successfully pull off tomorrow's Washington DC Marathon, they will silence a line of critics that stretches longer than the 26-mile, 385-yard course.
Some 8,000 runners from all 50 states and the District are registered for the inaugural race, which starts from the Virginia side of Memorial Bridge at 7 a.m. and ends at Freedom Plaza. Stanley is giving the District its own marathon for the first time since the D.C. Marathon in 1985.
Although his company's expertise is in organizing entertainment and special events, Stanley has been on a long learning curve over the past year.
"We looked at other major city marathons," said Stanley, president of H2O. "We looked at the things they did well. There are a lot of logistics with doing it in the District of Columbia."
To Stanley's credit, he was able to gain city support for a Sunday morning race, support that many race directors in town have had difficulties securing for years. It didn't hurt that Washington is vying for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
"Right now, we're trying to be a world-class city, and we're trying to bring in tourists," said Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who added that the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp. estimates that the marathon will generate $7.5million of revenue.
"We want big events in this city, and with big events you're going to have conflict and commotion," said Williams, a major track and field fan. "This is a huge event with 8,000 runners."
Conflict, along with missteps by H2O, have dogged Stanley for six months.
His greatest headache: The race is on Palm Sunday, a day where runners and worshippers are likely to meet on crowded District streets.
"The planning calendar that we used didn't have Palm Sunday on it," Stanley said. "It's very early this year. We didn't know we had scheduled the race on Palm Sunday until October, when we started to advertise."
Stanley said even Terry Lynch, executive director for the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, did not object to the race date last April because he was not aware it was Palm Sunday.
"I've apologized to the churches," Williams said. "We promised no races in the future on Palm Sunday or Easter."
The reason for the date was naivity. Organizers looked to place their race between two major marathons Los Angeles on March 3 and Boston on April 15 so athletes could run all three, an unlikely scenario.
Organizers also made other missteps which have roused critics. They cybersquatted on the Baltimore Marathon Web site, and they claimed to be the first marathon entirely in the District.
They failed to reach out to many of the grassroots organizers or local running clubs, which now have declined to help on race day.
They also have extended registration through Saturday a week after deadline in a "last-minute decision as we have plenty of room," spokesman Brian Hoyt said yesterday. Stanley originally was hoping for 20,000 runners.
"I'm not disappointed at 8,000," Stanley said. "I think it's a testament to people really wanting to run in the District of Columbia. I hear that people are blown away by it."
Another large misstep was in the prize money structure. A purse of $22,800 will be awarded to overall and local finishers. Some $7,000 of the cash nearly 31 percent will be awarded to the six confirmed wheelchair participants, according to Stanley.
Vying for the remainder including $2,000 top prize for first male and female will be 44-year-old Russian Andrey Kuznetsov of Rockville, Martin Owens of West Springfield, Mass., Ethiopian Retta Feyissa of the District, Kristin Pierce Barry of Arlington, Kim McLaughlin of Reston, Meg Letherby of Boulder, Colo., and Ena MacPherson of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"I'm not running for time, but I think I am in 2:20 shape," said Kuznetsov, who ran four marathons in 2000, four in 2001 and two already this year including a runner-up 2:21:22 at the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, Ala., on Feb. 10.
Said Owens, a 32-year-old high school track coach in Westfield, Mass., with a personal best 2:27:32: "I know I'm ready for a 2:25 time. I haven't been to D.C. since I was an eighth-grader on a high school field trip."
McLaughlin, a 36-year-old triathlete, is preparing for another Hawaii Ironman qualifier in St. Croix in May.
"It's been a long time since I've done just a marathon, three or four years," she said. "I want to break three hours."

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