- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2004

For many of the entrants in today’s George Washington’s Birthday Marathon in Greenbelt, the race has been two years in the making.

Last year’s race was canceled after a blizzard dropped nearly 20 inches of snow on the region just days before the 43rd running. Amazingly, that was the first time in the race’s long and illustrious history that the 26.2-mile event sponsored by the DC Road Runners Club was nixed.

This marathon is among the oldest continuous endurance races in the nation, ranking in the top five behind Boston, the Yonkers Marathon in New York City and the Western Hemisphere Marathon in Culver City, Calif.

The first race was staged in 1962, and many of the sport’s biggest names have competed here. Jack Fultz, the 1976 Boston Marathon champ, warmed up here by winning in 1971, also the first year there was a female competitor.

In 1974, Sheldon Karlin won the marathon two years after defeating a top field at New York. Karlin, who died in January 2000, had local D.C. ties. New England hero Bobby Doyle ran away with the 1978 race in a course record 2:22:14, a mark that still stands.

Since many other marathons started developing, however, top runners no longer needed this race on their winter schedule. The proliferation of marathons around the nation also affected the numbers here.

Today the race endures with a hundred or so competitors. Total finishers recently peaked at 174 in 1998, but by 2002 the number dwindled to 122. And strangely, this race has never reflected the growing marathon trend of gender parity, with 103 males and just 19 females finishing in 2002.

It is not an easy course, set on three rolling loops on Department of Agriculture property in Greenbelt. This year the runners should be treated to excellent sunny weather with temperatures in the 40s and 50s, unlike some years of freezing temperatures and wintry precipitation.

The extra bonus: the race is a Boston Marathon qualifier this year.

Another race that got lost in the snow and icy conditions last year was the Annapolis Striders B&A; Trail Marathon and Half Marathon. This year it is set for Sunday, March7, at Severna Park High School.

This marathon has a bailout feature: Runners who signed up for the marathon may opt to finish the half-marathon instead and will be scored for that event. The first three miles of the course are on residential streets, with the remainder of both the marathon and half-marathon on the B&A; Trail.

Race officials said that many 50-staters — those whose goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states — choose the B&A; for their Maryland marathon. Note that there is no race day registration.

10-Mile showdown — Today also is the day to determine the fittest area running club over 10 miles. The area’s top runners representing their clubs will compete in the annual RRCA 10-Mile Club Challenge at Howard County Community College in Columbia, Md.

The running clubs bring their runners for this event, which is actually three races in one: men’s, women’s and coed. The overall winner is the club with the fastest combined finishers among men and women. Individual runners also are welcome to compete.

If you missed this 10-miler, there will be another in Reston on March20.

What a waste — Southern Methodist University reportedly has dropped its men’s track and field and cross country programs, effective at the end of this season. These programs become the latest in a string of Title IX casualties.

SMU won three national championships in track and field, including both the indoor and outdoor titles in 1983. The school also won the 1986 outdoor title. In addition, the program has been a perennial top-10 finisher at the NCAA championships. Who’s next?

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