The forecast includes a chance of rain, but that won’t deter the 30,000 runners who will line up on Constitution Avenue and run across the National Mall and through D.C. neighborhoods along the way to finishing 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles.
Washington’s National Marathon is back, rebranded as a Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon and scheduled for Saturday. It touts itself as the only marathon run exclusively in Washington, D.C. (Purists will note that the Marine Corps Marathon starts and finishes in Virginia.)
In general, marathon running is a trend on the upswing, growing alongside urban road racing across the country, and the District’s racing scene is no exception.
This year, runners can expect some course modifications, a steep new hill to climb and some quiet time by the Anacostia River during the second half.
In 2013, runners will experience a brand new start line and a more scenic course. “We believe the new start line’s close proximity to center city hotels and more than five Metro stops within one mile will ensure the best possible experience for both the city and our race participants,” said Adam Zocks, vice president at Competitor Group Inc. and the director of this year’s race.
According to information provided by CGI, the half- and full marathons start simultaneously on Constitution Avenue at 14th Street. The new route heads westbound on Constitution Avenue with views of the White House on the right and the Washington Monument on the left. The route makes a left on Virginia Avenue near George Washington University, looping back toward the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial. The course then crosses the Arlington Memorial Bridge and immediately loops back to head back to the Rock Creek and Potomac parkways.
Both full- and half-marathon runners share the same course for the first 12.2 miles before the half-marathoners split and head to the finish line at RFK Stadium. The full marathoners turn toward the Capitol for the second half, which includes a run around Fort McNair to Nationals Park and more than 3 miles along the Anacostia River. As in previous years, RFK Stadium will host the finish line festival and post-race concert.
Runners who initially thought the new course had fewer hills are in for a surprise. The new route eliminates the Connecticut Avenue climb between Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan, but it adds the “Calvert Hill,” the steep slope that connects Rock Creek Park to the Woodley Park neighborhood. The Calvert Hill is a 71-foot elevation gain, according to estimates on Strava, a running website, and a 9.6 percent grade. By contrast, the infamous “Heartbreak Hill” at the Boston Marathon’s mile 20 measures a 4.3 percent grade (though Heartbreak Hill is an 80-foot elevation gain over .4 mile, as compared with the Calvert Hill’s .1 mile).
“It’s really not that horrible,” said Brian Danza, president of DC Road Runners, an organization that has helped train runners for the event. “I would much rather run up that hill than slog my way up 18th, Connecticut and Columbia.”
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