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How the Marine Corps Marathon Works

Marine Corps Marathon Results
Runners in this marathon receive a disposable chip that automatically records their course progress and finishing time.
Runners in this marathon receive a disposable chip that automatically records their course progress and finishing time.

Winning times vary wildly at the MCM. Because the race doesn't really attract elite runners, amateurs generally win with times that don't quite approximate world-class speed.

Each runner receives a chip that tracks his or her progress around the course and provides an official finish time, too. This goes for all participants, whether they enter as a runner, hand cyclist or wheelchair racer. In 2009, the overall winner of the race was John Mentzer, who finished in 2:21:47 [source: Hage]. The women's winner was Muliye Gurmu, with a time of 2:49:48. The wheelchair winner was David Swope, who completed the race in 1:53:03.

Neither of the winners approached the race record. The men's record of 2:14:01 was set by Jeff Scuffins in 1987. The women's record is held by Olga Markova, who in 1990 finished the race in 2:37:00 [source: Marine Corps Marathon].

The MCM becomes even more legendary every year, in part due to some of its first participants. Four men have completed the MCM for every year the race has been held. They have a nickname -- the Ground Pounders. The youngest of the Ground Pounders is Will Brown, 63. The oldest is Mel Williams, 71 [source: Marine Corps Marathon]. None of the four wants to be the first to miss an MCM, so they all make a point of being in shape for the race each year.

The MCM is a famous race and attracts famous people. Notable finishers include Al Gore, John Edwards, Ted Koppel, Oprah Winfrey and Clarence Thomas, among many other familiar faces [source: Sirdofsky].

Even if you don't see any celebrities during the race, you'll have plenty of company at the finish line. Race organizers say it's not uncommon for more than 100 racers to finish every 60 seconds. A member of the Marine Corps presents a medal to everyone who completes the race.

Finishers then participate in the MCM Finish Festival in Rosslyn, Va. They can use the Family Link Up area, where runners and family members can find each other by gathering near towers bearing the first letter of each runner's last name.

Whether you run the MCM this year or look forward to participating in a future event, you can be sure that you'll witness some of the best sportsmanship ever displayed at a marathon of this magnitude.

For more on this and other running events, dash over to the next page.