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Running Races in Washington

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Washington is known for its politics and history. But many people outside of the region don’t know that the nation’s capital hosts some of the most popular running races in the world. (OK, maybe not the world, but definitely in the US.) Here are some of the most popular and how you can get in on the foot action.

The Marine Corps Marathon, known as “The People’s Marathon” has been around since 1976. It’s now ranked as the fourth largest US marathon and the ninth in the world with a limit of 30,000 runners. The race has a history of drawing running celebrities like Drew Carey and Oprah Winfrey. But what many people love about the race is the inspiring military personnel who also run the race and help motivate runners along the way.

WHEN: October (This year’s race is October 28, 2012)

COURSE: The 26.2-mile course changes from time to time but generally it starts and finishes in Arlington, Va., near the Pentagon. The course winds its way through some of the DC landmarks and draws lots of cheering spectators. The race also organizes a 10K on the same day and launched a half marathon five years ago that’s run in May outside of the Washington area in Fredericksburg, Va.

HOW TO REGISTER: Registration for the annual marathon usually starts in March online. But slots go quickly. Last year’s 30,000 spots were sold out in a little more than a day. One way to get a slot is to partner with a charity like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Charity slots are reserved for people raising funds for those organizations. Another option is to register for the 10K that’s also organized by the Marine Corps on the same day.

COST: $92 for the marathon; $78.20 for service members; $46 for the 10K

The Army 10-Miler is also a widely popular annual race in Washington that’s in its 28th year. It’s also one of those races that winds its way through Washington streets and sells out quickly. Like the Marine Corps Marathon, capacity is capped at 30,000 runners. Many people use the Army 10-miler as a training run for the Marine Corps Race. Plus there’s musical entertainment every two miles.

WHEN: October (This year’s race is Oct. 21, 2012)

COURSE: The race also starts and finishes near the Pentagon and winds its way through Washington.

HOW TO REGISTER: Slots for this race also go quickly on a first-come, first-serve basis. Registration usually starts around mid-May and you can sign up for a reminder e-mail beforehand through the race website. Some people have been known to “camp out” online to get one of the coveted slots.

COST: $55 for individuals, plus $35 if running as a team.

Cherry Blossom 10-Miler known as the Runner’s Rite of Spring is also a great Washington institution for the racing community. It’s certainly a great way to take in the beautiful annual Cherry Blossoms. The race also includes a half-mile kids’ run and a 5K race/walk race. The race also brings out some competitive runners, who are fun to watch as they glide through the course.

WHEN: Early April (the most recent race was held April 1, 2012)

COURSE: The 10-mile race starts and ends near the Tidal Basin and winds its way past the Tidal Basin, over the Memorial Bridge, through Rock Creek Parkway, and back.

HOW TO REGISTER: Registration for the Spring race usually opens in late November and is limited to about 15,000 entrants. Slots are given on a lottery basis, so anyone who registers within the time period will be included in the lottery.

COST: TBD

Some other noteworthy races: Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon and the George Washington Parkway Classic

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