- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

Janet Adams Laird had participated in many long-distance races with much better finishing times than the one yesterday in the Wirefly National Marathon.

But she couldn’t be prouder of her performance.

“I just finished up my last cancer radiation treatment [Friday], so I was on a mission,” she said after crossing the finish line. “This wasn’t my fastest marathon, but it was my best.”

The fledgling 26.2-mile marathon, sponsored by Wirefly cell-phone vendors and now its second year, brought out thousands of participants and spectators from across the region and from as far away as South India.

The hodgepodge field of about 4,600 consisted of serious runners, novices and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty — all with equally diverse reasons for running.

Mrs. Laird, 62, of Springfield, ran yesterday to raise money for a Southeast charity.

“It’s D.C.’s marathon,” said Mrs. Laird, who will run a marathon next year to raise money for breast cancer research. “It was great to run through all of Washington, to see Anacostia and parts of the city that many people don’t usually see.”

Josephus Perry, of Hyattsville, a civilian employee with the University of Maryland police department, had a more conventional motivator — whipping himself into shape.

However, Mr. Perry, also a veteran of a number of marathons, found himself a bit rusty after a four-year layoff from long-distance running.

“More age, more weight,” he said after the race. “Eight weeks ago, I thought I’d break five hours. But during the last couple of miles, I realized that was out of the question.

“But I’m 57 years old, I’m overweight, and you burn up a lot of calories running,” he said.

Bill Fairer, a race organizer and volunteer, said the chilly drizzle didn’t significantly hamper the event, which was sponsored by the Greater Washington Sports Alliance.

“This is a runner’s marathon,” he said. “There’s not a lot of novices in this race. We had a really good number of people come in at really decent times — about nine minutes a mile.”

As for the mayor?

“He’s not going to give up being the mayor for long-distance running, but he had a very respectable time,” Mr. Fairer said.

Mr. Fenty’s official time was 4 hours, 8 minutes, 19 seconds.

Cheering onlookers lined the race route, which was entirely within the District. Last year, the course passed through Prince George’s County back to the finish at RFK Stadium, which was also the starting and ending points this year.

Arlington native Michael Wardian won with a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes, 36 seconds. Mr. Wardian, 32, who won the inaugural marathon, shaved more than four minutes from his finishing time a year ago.

Katie Blackett, 29, of Boulder, Colo., won the women’s race with a time of 2 hours, 44 minutes, 59 seconds.

Grace James and June Gangler of Potomac patiently watched near RFK Stadium, braving a chilly breeze to root for Kelly Smith, one of the golf pros at their country club in Bethesda.

“It was exhilarating to see these people even finish,” Miss James said. “It’s such a terrific athletic accomplishment.”

The two middle-age women marveled at the physical shape of the participants as they trekked the last quarter-mile.

“There’s all ages, too,” Miss Gangler said. “There were some very mature senior citizens, which surprised me.”

“We’re going to enter it next year,” Miss James interjected before she and Miss Gangler burst into laughter. “No, I can’t imagine. It would be like purgatory for me.”

John Smith, who coached about 50 runners for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s D.C. chapter, stood along C Street in Southeast, spurring on participants as he waited for his team to finish.

“Good job! Only about .4 from here, home stretch,” he said as he applauded passing runners, who were grateful for the support.

Mr. Smith, who himself has ran numerous marathons, said the encouragement does wonders for boosting morale as cramps take hold and legs get weary.

“Being on the other side, I know that it really helps a lot,” he said.

Johnice Jackson walked from her house to the corner of 13th and D streets and set up camp with a folding chair.

“I heard the cheering this morning before I even came out of the house,” she said. “It’s enjoyable and exciting to give them encouragement. And you can tell they appreciate it. … They say thanks, give thumbs-up. I even got a few high-fives.”

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