Marine Corps Marathon magnet for first-timers

Mon Oct 24, 2011 6:28am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When Jennifer Plasse got back in good enough shape to enter her first marathon, she chose to run it with the U.S. Marines and she wasn't alone.

Also known as the People's Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) has its 36th run on October 30.

It is the largest marathon not to offer prize money and has become a magnet for first-timers, novices and all those who run for fitness.

Of the 30,000 starters expected on Sunday, some 11,000 will be first timers, according to officials.

"It's word of mouth. Runners tell people, almost preach the message, that if you're going to run your first marathon you ought to run it with the U.S. Marines," said Rick Nealis, director of the race that begins in Arlington, Virginia and ends at the Iwo Jima monument in Washington, D.C.

"We run it like a military operation. There's a command center. If we say we will have water, food or aid, you don't have to worry about running out. We guarantee it," said Nealis, himself a retired marine.

Just the sight of so many fatigue-clad marines lining the race route was reassuring said Plasse, who tackled her first MCM in 2009 and shed 50 pounds (22.7 kgs) while training to do it.

"I needed to make gaining back my fitness a priority and I used the marine marathon to do that," she explained. "They pride themselves on having the most first-timers, so that was an inspiration."   Continued...

<p>Competitors run near the U.S. Capitol Building during the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) through Washington in this October 25, 2009 handout photo courtesy of the United States Marine Corps. REUTERS/USMC/Cpl. Bryan G. Lett/Handout</p>