- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 28, 2009

The National Marathon could soon name a race director tasked with taking the young event to the national level.

Robert Sweeney, president of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, which organizes the March endurance race, said he is in final discussions with a prominent former elite marathoner to take the reins with a focus on marketing and promotion.

“We want to take the race to the next level, from a regional race to a national race,” Sweeney said. “We really are taking a look at this race and how it fits into the marathon community. The next five years will be about building the quality, to be perceived as good as Boston.”

Sweeney spoke at length about his marathon Friday as he prepared to kick off registration for the fifth running of the District’s only marathon.

“Registration kicks off starting July 4 — the minute July 4 hits in the early morning,” Sweeney said. “We are pricing it really good and aggressive to get as many entrants as we can in the first week.”

Entry fees will be a below-market $65 for the marathon and $55 for the half-marathon, and the sale will be extended until July 11. The races are scheduled for March 20.

Sweeney has raised the entry limit to 12,000 runners in both races combined after attracting 8,300 this past year and 3,000 in its first year.

“If we hit 12,000, we will be with the bigger races,” Sweeney said.

He plans to market his event as an international destination race, much like the New York City Marathon that attracted tens of thousands of overseas participants.

“We want to make this an international race,” Sweeney said. “We are working with Destination DC, the tourism and marketing arm of D.C. We will be working through all of their trade shows, not just marketing to the running community.”

The marathon finally appears to be on solid financial footing, too, Sweeney said. He said that after losing money on the event the first three years, the event made money in 2009.

The course also appears on solid footing after being overhauled year after year.

“It’s the exact same course right now, not changed an inch,” Sweeney said. “Of course there are always tweaks with construction. The police loved it; we finally got there after four years where everyone was happy.”

Mayor Adrian Fenty has been honorary race starter and marathoner finisher. Next year, according to Sweeney, Fenty’s goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon at the National Marathon.

Million Mile Mike - Michael Wardian of Arlington led the U.S. men’s team at the IAU 100-kilometer World Cup in Belgium, finishing sixth in 6:53:17 last weekend.

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