- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 22, 2006

The first of the mega-marathons of the fall takes place today. The Chicago Marathon — America’s second largest and the world’s third largest with 32,951 official finishers last year — cut off registration this year at 40,000.

Meanwhile, next Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon (fourth largest in the nation and eighth in the world last year with 18,841 finishers) took entries from a record 34,000. The mother of all marathons, New York City — with a world-leading 36,856 successes last year — accepted 37,000 for this year’s Nov. 5 event.

The last of this year’s mega-marathons occurs in Honolulu on Dec. 10. With 24,261 competitors, it ranks third in the nation and sixth in the world. On the same day, America’s eight-largest marathon, New Las Vegas, takes place.

Most runners preparing for their 26.2-mile moments of truth are likely getting more advice than Ann Landers could dish out in a lifetime.

As their marathons near, runners should be as nervous as Willie Nelson near IRS headquarters, be as unreasonably demanding as Paul McCartney’s wife, and be as obnoxious as a politician before an election.

My advice?

Don’t read the race instructions and don’t plan on getting to the starting line early because of course the crowds will part and let you through. Don’t worry about hydrating either. There will be more than enough water on the course to accommodate your thirst and more than enough race volunteers handing out cups of water. Same advice for the runner gels.

Complain incessantly about the weather; it definitely will change things.

If you leave your chip at home, no problem. The race has thousands of extras and would be more than happy to give you as many as you need. Be sure to bring your dog if you own one, as you won’t want to leave your best friend out of that moment of sheer joy as you cross the finish line.

Headphones are a must. They drown out the sound of the crowd, which is overrated anyway. They also drown out the needless insults from your fellow marathoners when you cut them off and cause them to slow down.

Other than that, I have no other useful advice except to try to have some fun, too.

Hitting the Motor City — Two weeks ago, Michael Wardian of Arlington, who was second at the Steamtown Marathon, missed the Olympic marathon trials qualifying time of 2:22 by 29 seconds.

Wardian said he will try again in Detroit on Oct. 29 — the same venue where he eked out his 2004 Olympic trials qualifier in 2003 by a mere 12 seconds in 2:21:48.

Detroit is just 86 miles down Interstate 96 from East Lansing, where Wardian played lacrosse for Michigan State. Maybe if the stars align, Wardian can nail a qualifier and find his way into Game 7 of the World Series the evening after his race.

RRCA launches new site — Check out the Road Runners Club of America’s Web site. Launched on Oct. 9, the newly re-designed Web site at www.RRCA.org is a great resource for runners of all types.

One particularly helpful link is the new free service provided by RRCA where individuals can log on and track their mileage. To motivate and reward runners, the RRCA has re-launched the Personal Fitness Program at www.rrca.org/programs/personal/.

RRCA executive director Jean Knaack has been busy with the redesign, but also with fostering new relationships for RRCA, an association of more than 700 running clubs and more than 180,000 members. She recently announced that RRCA has named the Active Network its official Technology Partner, adopting online registration and custom Web site tools provided by the Active Network to reach its members.

Still, she has found time to train for her first marathon, Marine Corps next weekend.

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