Runners take to DC, Va. streets for Marine Corps Marathon

WASHINGTON — The 43rd annual Marine Corps Marathon set off through the streets of Arlington, Virginia, on Sunday morning, with thousands — from active duty Marines and veterans, to cancer survivors and amputees — embarking on the 26.2 mile course through the heart of the nation’s capital.

The men’s winner was Jeffrey Stein of the District. While he finished in first place this year, with a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, 49 seconds, he struggled in 2017 after taking a wrong turn early in the race. He told NBC4 he “had a little chip on his shoulder” since then.

The winner of the women’s race was Jenny Mendez, of Costa Rica, who covered the course in 2:40:19.

While the race attracted runners from all levels of skill, many shared a common motivation: running for a cause or for someone special.

Leann Cocca was one such runner. Cocca drove to Arlington from Pennsylvania to run her first Marine Corps Marathon in honor of her father, marine Vietnam veteran who died 11 years ago from lung cancer from Agent Orange exposure.

View live results on the Marine Corps Marathon’s official website.

“[It was] probably one of the most emotional races that I’ve done,” Cocca said. “But it was just so neat to have all of the law enforcement and the marines along the way.”

Cocca, an avid runner, beat her personal best in the race. She says she wants to come back next year if she has enough time to train.

The race also brought together families, like Mary and Marie Fredlake, a mother-daughter team from Arizona who ran the marathon together.

“She was ahead of me,” Mary Fredlake said. “we weren’t technically together.”

Mary’s daughter, Marie, quickly added: “only be a few hairs.”

One family even decided to search for a distant cousin they’d never met, but knew was running in the race.

The Neufeld and Fallone family of Long Island, New York, and Reston, Virginia, were at the race to support two family members when they learned their distant cousin Jimmy was also running. That’s when the search began: the family followed Jimmy’s number on the marathon’s app, asking passers-by: “Anyone named Jimmy?”

November 29, 2021 | Family searches for distant cousin running the Marine Corps Marathon (Kristi King)

Even though the Neufelds and Fallones had no idea what Jimmy looked like, they did eventually found each other.

And the runners weren’t the only ones with strategies in the race: some people in the cheering section figured out creative ways to be seen on the sidelines.

Libby Wile of Asheville, North Carolina, wore an inflated T-Rex costume so her friends running in the marathon would know where to find her.

“I’m the only T-Rex, so they will know,” Wile said.

For the Ashburn Area Running Club, the louder and zanier the costume — the better. Club member Felix Tanh wore a chicken on his head and a cowbell. But, as he says, “I’m here to cheer.”

Runners that went for the full circuit passed through Georgetown and by the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial before looping around the Tidal Basin, across the Potomac and back into Virginia for a finish near Arlington Cemetery this afternoon.

November 29, 2021 | Runners talk support and encouragement all along the Marine Corps Marathon (Melissa Howell)

Around 30,000 people participate every year in the country’s fourth-largest marathon, which was established in 1973.

Honored as this years’ starter was Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the sole surviving World War 2 Marine Medal of Honor recipient. Around 8 a.m., he fired the starting pistol to start the hand cycle and wheelchair division.

Route map:

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Read WTOP’s featured coverage of this year’s marathon:

Widespread road closures were in effect for parts of D.C. and Virginia. As of 10:28 a.m., roads had begun to reopen in Georgetown and Rosslyn, Virginia near the starting line.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital reporter and editor in June 2018. He is a writer and photojournalist focusing on politics, political activism and national affairs, with recent multimedia contributions to Reuters, MSNBC and PBS.

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