- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 2, 2006

While marathons have dominated the psyche of American runners for years, half marathons are gaining on them in popularity.

Half marathons grew more than other races from 2003 to 2004, according to the most recent data from RunningUSA. That was the continuation of a steady trend and is expected to continue.

In 2004, the five largest half-marathon events attracted a total of 67,575 finishers, compared with 55,770 completions from the five largest in 2003, 51,440 in 2002, 49,124 in 2001 and 42,333 in 2000.

Washington added a half marathon to the 2006 data with the National Half Marathon last weekend.

Montgomery County also has added a half to the racing schedule this year, a 13.1-mile trek from Rockville to Bethesda scheduled for September. The course will follow some of the same real estate as the now-defunct Marathon in the Parks, which canceled its race in 2005 in part because of lack of sponsorship.

“We’re doing one Sept. 24,” outgoing Montgomery County Road Runners Club president Jean Arthur said. “It’s going to start in the city of Rockville and end in the general place as we did before [with the marathon] in Bethesda. There will be a small amount of prize money. Our goal for this year is $1,000.”

Arthur, who served three one-year terms as president before being set free due to term limits, has been instrumental in securing a relationship between MCRRC and the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, which produced the National Marathon and Half Marathon.

“[GWSA] is sponsoring us for [our September race],” said Arthur, a self-described commander, tireless volunteer and veteran runner. “In return, we are giving them every bit of support they ask for. We gave them cones, timing clocks and volunteers for their marathon last weekend. They have a lot of grand plans and I think many of them will work.”

If fact, MCRRC had its collective hands full last weekend as the National Marathon was run on the same day as the club’s anniversary, which is occasion for the Piece of Cake 10K race in Gaithersburg as well as the club’s general elections.

“We told our members that if you’re not running, you need to help out [at the Piece of Cake race or the National Marathon],” said Arthur, who last week handed the reins of the club over to new president Craig Roodenburg.

MCRRC is one of the nation’s largest running clubs with more than 3,000 members from more than 2,000 households.

Arthur estimates that of all the members, some 700 to 800 people volunteer each year for at least one club event. Many of those volunteers could be recognized at the start/finish line and around the course of the National Marathon.

GWSA has been supportive of the area’s running crowd for the past two years, giving its support to the Lower Potomac River Marathon in Piney Point, Md., in March and the Potomac River Run Marathon and Half Marathon in Alexandria in May.

“[The Potomac River Run Marathon] shows why the Washington, D.C., region is so great for sports,” GWSA executive director Robert Sweeney said in a 2005 press release from the Potomac River Run. “A group of runners had a vision, and we supported it to demonstrate how inspirational sports can be for our community.”

From World XC — Congratulations to Adam Goucher for his sixth-place finish at the IAAF World Cross Country 4K Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, yesterday. It was the highest finish by a U.S. man on the short course, just eight seconds off the win.

Some observations — Daylight savings does affect my running somewhat in the spring. While I don’t like getting up early in the morning to run, which means 6 a.m., the saving grace is that until today, it was already light out by that time. Now, for the next month or so, it will be pitch black again. However, I do enjoy the extra light in the evening, which tends to be my favorite time to run.

Another observation, albeit a painful one, is that all glucosamine sulfate tablets are not created equal. For six years, I have faithfully ingested GS from the same pharmaceutical company and have had no knee pain. Last month, I started using a different brand and my knees ached almost immediately.

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