- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 21, 2004

Might the long-running search for a Northern Virginia marathon finally be over?

Marathon enthusiast Jay Wind was granted approval by the National Park Service just days ago to conduct a 26.2-mile race along the Mount Vernon bicycle trail, beginning at Belle Haven Park in Alexandria.

The May2 race is appropriately named the Potomac River Run Marathon & Half Marathon. The field will be limited to 200, as was the proposed field in his failed Arlington Marathon, and should be a Boston Marathon qualifier.

The course resembles that for the Belle Haven Half Marathon in November, meanders down the path to Fort Hunt Park and back. The marathon will consist of two down-and-backs, while the half-marathon will be one trip out and back.

“It’s nothing but a nice race for people to run,” said Bob Weiner, president of the Capitol Hill Runners, a club which has been supporting efforts to create a marathon in Northern Virginia for months.

Coincidentally, the race is scheduled the same day as the Frederick (Md.) Marathon, as well as the Governor’s Bay Bridge Run 10K. If you are interested in running the Bay Bridge Run, registration is two-thirds full, according to race officials, so sign onto annapolisstriders.org to register.

Turning Japanese — You know the expression, “What if you had a party and nobody came?” So what if you had an Olympic marathon and the defending champion was willing but not able to defend?

Defending Olympic gold medalist Naoko Takahashi was the center of controversy last week after the Japan Association of Athletics Federation failed to name her as one of the three women to represent the nation this summer at the Athens Olympics.

The JAAF based its decision on the times registered in last summer’s World Championships in France and the three qualifying marathons held in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya over the past four months. Takahashi ran only at Tokyo, where she blew up in the unseasonable heat in the last 5K.

By the written rules, she must stay home this summer. But local track official Al Morris offers an intelligent solution that would get her back into the race.

Morris suggests giving the defending Olympic marathon champion and the reigning world record-holder guest invitations if they do not make their national teams. Such an athlete would wear a blank uniform instead of his nation’s colors. This way, he would get to run without taking the spot from a deserving qualifier from his nation.

But what happens if the athlete successfully defends? Would Olympic officials play his nation’s anthem or perhaps a favorite song? And does his medal count in his nation’s total?

It’s the pits — If you missed out on the Cherry Blossom lottery or are looking for a challenging, hilly 10-mile course on the same day, check out the 24th annual Cherry Pit 10-Mile Race on April4 in Edgewater, Md. For a maximum entry fee of $5 on race day, you get a very scenic course through the country near Annapolis.

I ran this race last year and enjoyed the solid race organization of the Annapolis Striders and the support before, during and after the race from many of the other entrants. Call 410/268-1165 for more information.

Finish line notes — The Arthritis Foundation, which sponsored the ever-popular Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis 10K/5K downtown for several years, has ended its race. In a recent letter to the event’s organizing committee, officials at the foundation cited diminishing financial returns on their investment of time and resources.

The Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis 8K in Reston was ended for similar reasons last year. Don’t get me started on the issue of using the running community as a cheap fund-raising network until we no longer meet your bottom line. …

Heather Hanscom’s impressive 34:13 winning effort at last Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day 10K in the District was the fastest time in the race’s 16-year history. The previous mark of 35:42 was shared by Casey Smith in 2003 (runner-up this year in 35:31) and Susanne Augustauskas in 1989. …

Michael Wardian placed second at yesterday’s Shamrock Sportsfest Marathon in Virginia Beach. His time was 2:24:32, well off his personal best 2:21:48. But the 29-year-old Arlington ultra-marathoner was using Shamrock as a training run for the American 100K Championships on April4 in Eagle, Wis.

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