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A 105mm Howitzer fires to start the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon , Arlington, Va., Oct. 22, 2017.

Photo by Keith Hayes

Marine Corps Marathon goes virtual

24 Jul 2020 | Keith Hayes The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

The novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed another big event for runners.

Marine Corps Marathon officials announced July 20 that the traditional fall race will be canceled for the first time in its 45-year history.

The 2020 in-person Marine Corps Marathon events scheduled to take place in and around Washington, D.C., from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25 will now go entirely virtual. Rick Nealis, the Marine Corps Marathon Organization’s director, said the decision was made after several meetings with local government and public health officials.

“We understand this is disappointing news for many, but we could no longer envision a way to gather together in compliance with safety guidelines,” Nealis said in a statement. “While we are unable to celebrate in person this October, we are excited about the opportunity to bring the 45th anniversary event to the homes of runners around the world through a rewarding and engaging virtual experience.”

The virtual MCM will take place between October 1 and the Marine Corps’ birthday on November 10.

Last year’s MCM drew more than 30,000 participants to the streets of the District of Columbia with the average time for completion between 4 to 5 hours, but elite runners can complete the course in around 2 hours.

Major Terry J. Herzog, S-1 director, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, and the founder of the Barstow Marines Running Club, said he will be participating in the Virtual Marine Corps Marathon.

 “Participants pay their fees, then run at a location of their choice, and send the results to the Marathon committee...Those results are compiled and analyzed, then the winners in the several categories of the virtual event are determined.” Rick Nealis, Marine Corps Marathon Organization Director

According to the web site for the MCM,, whatever day between October 1 and November 10 a participant chooses to run in the Virtual MCM, they must begin and end their run in a continuous time on the day they started, so no breaking up the run on different days.

As with the past in-person MCMs, there are no cash prizes for the winners, just the participant bib and place medal should you win in one of the several categories, and “fun virtual awards,” for everyone who participates.

“The runners run for bragging rights and to establish their own personal best time,” the major said.

The Marine Corps Marathon is not the first major race to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Boston Marathon was canceled in May after the race was first postponed. The Chicago Marathon was canceled this month, and the New York Marathon was scrubbed in June.

The decision to cancel the Marine Corps Marathon was made July 17 by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger, according to The Washington Post, which first reported that the in-person events had been axed.

Nealis announced last month that two other events that take place the same weekend in October -- the Marine Corps Marathon Kids Run and 10-kilometer event -- would be virtual-only.