- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

In the record field of 30,000 runners, there are just as many stories in today’s 30th running of the Marine Corps Marathon.

Take, for instance, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who will be one of the estimated 10,112 men running his first Marine Corps Marathon. Huckabee’s first marathon ever was in March in his hometown endurance event, the Little Rock Marathon.

Huckabee, who planned to run today with his daughter Sarah until she withdrew because of injury, was grossly overweight when he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2003. But he lost more than 100 pounds when he started running for the first time in his life.

Then there’s Will Brown, Roger Burkhart, Al Richmond, Matthew Jaffe and Mel Williams. Collectively, they are called the Groundpounders, the only five people who have completed all 29 Marine Corps marathons. They were recently highlighted in Geezerjock magazine, a sports publication for athletes 40 and older.

And some soldiers who lost limbs in Iraq, including members of the Missing Parts in Action Team and the Achilles Track Club, will be attempting to go the distance here today.

The race, which begins at Arlington Memorial Bridge near the Iwo Jima Memorial and snakes 26.2 miles around Northern Virginia and the mon uments of Washington before returning to Iwo Jima, will fill the streets starting at 8:15a.m. Based on last year’s finishing numbers of 16,424, Marine Corps ranks 11th in the world and seventh in the nation but should move up this year.

While the Marines have bucked the trend of the world’s other largest marathons by not awarding prize money to the top finishers, the race still attracts a few elite athletes each year.

Back from last year for another try is Carl Rundell, a 37-year-old Birmingham, Mich., resident who is part of the Hanson/Brooks Distance Project. His best is a 2:19:58 at the 2003 USA Men’s Marathon Championships in Birmingham, Ala., which qualified him for the 2004 U.S. Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials in the same city.

There, Rundell ran 2:21:07 for 25th place. Eight months later, he was in the lead pack at Marine Corps through 21 miles before the heat took its toll, and he finished fifth in 2:26:48. His only marathon this year was in Boston in April on another warm day. He was 23rd in 2:24:59.

Many local speedsters are in this year’s race, including 2004 Olympic trials qualifiers Michael Wardian, Aaron Church and Chris Banks, who is coming off a disappointing marathon just four weeks ago. Two-time Marine Corps champ (1995, 1997) and five-time Olympic trial qualifier Darrell General returns again. His time of 2:16:34 in 1995 ranks as the fourth fastest here.

Susannah Kvasnicka of Great Falls also ran a marathon just four weeks ago, but she could be the top female at the finish. Challenging her could be Cathy Pugsley of Potomac Falls, Va., 2004 Olympic trials qualifier Meghan McLaughlin Ridgley of Reston and Patty Fulton of Silver Spring. Alisa Harvey of Manassas, a 2000 Olympic trials qualifier, returns to Marine Corps as a masters runner at 40.

Four male and one female entrants — 82-year-old Margaret Hagerty — are 80 years old and older. Some 81 males and 13 females are 70 years and older, mimicking a trend of active senior athletes in America.

Nearly a third of the field is attempting to complete a first marathon.

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