Marine Corps Marathon mixes patriotism, security

WASHINGTON – The nation’s third-largest marathon began Sunday morning as an estimated 40,000 runners took part in the Marine Corps Marathon and 10K, beginning and ending at Arlington National Cemetery and winding its way through the District over its 26.2-mile course.

The race got off to a striking start when a skydiving team of veterans came down to earth with several large American flags, the biggest measuring 7,800 square feet.

Girma Bedada, of Columbia, Ga., won the race. Kelly Calway, 29, of Manitou Springs, Co., was the first woman to cross the finish line.

David Swope, 47, won the men’s wheelchair race, and 14-year-old Ashley Garvin won in the women’s division.

Alfredo Delossantos, 44, came in first place for the men’s handcrank bike competition, and Kirstie Ennis, 22, won for the women.

“It’s a really, really good reminder of how blessed we are to be in this country,” said one runner, who was there with his Virginia Beach-based running group, “and blessed to be protected by the men and women in the military. It’s hard to find words.”

Arlen Bates, of Michigan, watched the skydivers with tears in his eyes. A retired Marine with 21 years service and the father of a Marine, he carried a Marine flag for the duration of the marathon, also his 21st. “It’s just great to be here for all those who defend our freedom,” he said.

Meanwhile, a team of marathoners escorted a blind runner along the course. “He’s kind of our wingman all the way through the race.”

Runners and spectators brought their belongings in clear plastic bags – one of the more visible signs of increases in security that have cropped up since the bombing at the Boston marathon in the spring. (A few people, who didn’t seem to get the message, brought backpacks.)

Still, people at the scene said that it wasn’t on their minds.

One man at the scene said, “I don’t know what you can do; you’re going to have 100,000 people out there. So we’ll just be Americans – everyone watch out.”

A woman said, “You thought about it for a blip, (but) it’s not even a concern now.”

Girma Bedada, of Columbia, Ga., wins the marathon:

A man finished the 10k with a prosthetic leg

A team of parachutists opens the festivities:

WTOP’s Jamie Forzato and Hank Silverberg contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

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