- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2006

It’s pretty bad form to disparage the departed in a eulogy, but here it goes:

The inaugural Car-A-Mile Marathon, which was supposed to debut May21 in Somerset County, N.J., was pronounced dead by its organizers last month.

When the race was announced last year, I thought it was a stupid idea. The race advertised that everyone who started the marathon would have a “chance to drive away in one of 26 cars. We will randomly select 26 winners from the starting field. Don’t miss your chance to win!”

But the winners didn’t actually win a car. They won a one-year lease for a car.

A racing bicycle would be a better prize.

Race organizers had grand plans. They were hoping for 20,000 to 25,000 runners in the first year, which is fairly unrealistic for a first-year marathon.

The new marathon was intended to be the savior for the Midland Run, a nearly 30-year-old annual fund-raiser for the Midland School. The school — for children with developmental disabilities — discovered that the Midland Run, which featured 5- and 15-kilometer races and 5,000 runners at its peak, was losing its luster in recent years.

Jump on the marathon bandwagon, they thought, and score big.

“Unfortunately, while the Midland Run still draws over a thousand runners each year, it’s no longer the fund-raiser it once was,” Midland’s Web site says of the race that was conceived in 1978. “As the number of road races in the tri-state area increased over the years, the run was not able to attract the runners it did during its heyday. Being more than a run, the complexity of the event made it an expensive and time-consuming event to stage.

“It is with sadness and regret that we say goodbye to the run. It is time for Midland to move on to more viable forms of fund raising, but we will miss the annual Midland Run and the many people who supported it over the last three decades.”

The site also mentioned that the New York Times once said of the race: “If you can run only one race a year, make it the Midland Run.”

And in 1980, the year of the Olympic boycott, Midland attracted a field of world-class runners Sports Illustrated called “the most impressive field of runners ever assembled for a road race.”

That field put the race on the national map.

With six months to race day, organizers last month realized how far behind they were in registration numbers (aka fund-raising dollars), and by the end of the month, they took their event off life support.

Charity after charity has taken to marathon running as long as the running world properly houses, feeds and clothes them.

But all too often now, as with any marriage, runners can feel pretty used when the running events love them and leave them when they are no longer as attractive as they once were.

Track season is here — Upcoming area track meets:

• At the 2006 Indoor Track Meets at Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington, there are morning all-comer meets today and Feb.5. See www.pvtc.org.

• At the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex near FedEx Field in Landover, you can run at the Sportsplex Track Showcase on Jan.29 and Feb.26, with the Sportsplex Masters Indoor Championship on Feb.19. See www.pvtc.org.

• For a short drive from the Washington area to the Philadelphia region, you can participate in the Philadelphia Masters Track & Field Association’s indoor meet Feb.5 at Albright College and a masters championship Feb.25. Go to www.pmtf.net for details.

Area runners — Heather Hanscom, a former area runner now training with Team Running USA in California, ran a triumphant 1:16:38 at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona Marathon in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe last Sunday.

On the same day, Wilson Komen won the Carlsbad (Calif.) Marathon in 2:25:37, knocking eight minutes off his personal best. Komen, a tall Kenyan who splits his time between the District and Albuquerque, N.M., and is in training for Boston in April, fought a combination of strong head winds and rolling hills.

The Carlsbad Marathon, however, no longer awards prize money to its winners.

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