- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

During the past 10 years, the MADD Red Ribbon Run 5K was synonymous with the First Night Alexandria celebration in Old Town on New Year’s Eve.

That partnership has ended, as Alexandria city officials could no longer accommodate the popular last race of the year, which was forced to relocate to a two-loop course on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax about 16 miles away.

“There is no longer a connection with First Night. This is more of a [Mothers Against Drunk Driving] race,” said Bob Platt, who provides the race with finish line recording and includes the race as the last of 12 in his RacePacket Grand Prix Series.

“We are very enthusiastic about having the Red Ribbon Run at George Mason University. The executives on campus are very supportive of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Dealing with campus police and campus snow-shoveling squad, I have more under my control [than with dealing with a city government].”

The marriage of First Night and the MADD race always seemed ironic to me, that the holiday that most promotes the state of inebriation would be celebrated just hours after a footrace dedicated to the cause of terminating drunken driving.

Platt explained how the decade-long partnership began.

“You remember it used to be that a lot of races were in Old Town,” he said. “Then they passed a moratorium on holding races in Old Town. That was pushed by the Old Town Civic Association 11 years ago. I went to the city and we got the staff to recommend that some of the races get grandfathered.

“It was an unfortunate meeting before city council because it was at the same time they were voting on the creation of First Night Alexandria. The people were out in force. I had to sit through an entire day of First Night discussion. So while I was waiting, I began discussing with the First Night people about a road race on New Year’s Eve and that’s how we ended up with the idea of the race.”

Using Old Town was out of the question, so Platt and other race officials chose Eisenhower Avenue.

But over the years, Platt said, the Eisenhower Corridor has changed.

First they put in the Eisenhower Connector [exit off I-95], bringing more and more traffic and development of town homes and office space, then [Zacarias] Moussaoui re-located to his new digs at the Alexandria Jail and was on trial at the federal courthouse nearby. The race course each year got more and more squeezed off the streets and onto bicycle paths.

“The final rationale is that they are doing construction in the area in 2006,” said Platt, who added that runners can still sign up at Pacers in Old Town on Friday evening from 4:30 to 7 or at GMU’s Concert Hall on Dec.31 before the 4 p.m. race. Either way, the entry fee is $25.

When half is better than whole — Only when you are discussing a marathon with me.

And starting today, the National Marathon will be offering a half-off sale on its Web site. Now don’t get thinking that means the entry fee for the marathon on March25 in downtown Washington has been cut in half.

Nope. The officials of the marathon have created a half-marathon.

“We are opening registration for a half-marathon,” said Michelle Mobley, manager of marketing and communications for the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, the marathon’s organizer. “I think it will be really positive. People going up to Boston [Marathon on April[ThSp]17] can actually use our half, being three weeks before.”

“The half-marathon always has been in the back of our head. We just needed approval from the city.”

Mobley said both the marathon and half-marathon entrants will start at the same time and place, then the half-marathoners will cut off the marathon course after 12 miles at Fort Dupont and will return to RFK Stadium via East Capitol Street and over the Anacostia River.

She added that entries are on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the same qualification as the marathon. Once a total of 5,000 runners have entered either the half-marathon or the marathon, entries will close, she said.

Thus far, 500 applications have been received for the marathon. The $50 entry fee for the half-marathon will increase $5 after Dec.31 and another $5 after Feb.1.

Sorry, no prize money for the half-marathon.

Also of note, the event’s race management company has been chosen, a partnership of Chris Farley of Pacers running stores in Alexandria and Arlington and Dave Cooley of Charm City Run Event Management in the Baltimore suburbs.

Too close for comfort — The women’s results of the inaugural New Las Vegas Marathon on Dec.4: 1. Adriana Fernandez, Mexico, 2:31:54; 2. Galina Bogomolova, Russia, 2:31:54; 3. Dorota Gruca, Poland, 2:31:55; 4. Nuta Olaru, Romania, 2:31:57.

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