How the Marine Corps Marathon Works

Marine Corps Marathon Route

A participant in the Marine Corps Marathon passes the U.S. capitol on Oct. 28, 2001.
A participant in the Marine Corps Marathon passes the U.S. capitol on Oct. 28, 2001.
Manny Ceneta/Getty Images

Runners like to say that no race is ever the same. That's especially true of the MCM, where the route changes frequently, although the finish line is always set up at the Marine Corps Memorial in Virginia. The 2010 race route starts in Arlington, Va., and passes through Washington D.C.

Along the route, runners pass into Georgetown and then past the Kennedy Center. Then runners pass the Jefferson Memorial and then enter the National Mall. They'll run by the Korean and Vietnam War memorials, as well as the Lincoln and FDR memorials.

Runners pass the Gauntlet at the Washington Monument and then run past the U.S. Capitol. Then runners take Jefferson Drive to 14th Street and, at mile 20, arrive at the bridge that takes them back to Virginia. This stretch is called "Beat the Bridge," because runners must maintain at least a 14-minute per mile pace in order to reach this bridge before it's reopened to vehicular traffic. Runners who don't beat the reopening cannot receive an official finish time.

The course has minor elevation changes near the first third of the race, but for the most part the route is completely flat. After racers finish mile 8, the course flattens out with no noticeable hills for the remainder of the race.

If you're curious about the route and how to best train for the MCM, it's best to visit the race Web site. There, you can find an elevation map that shows exactly where you'll hit those intermittent early hills.

You can also view a map of the course layout and download a printer-friendly version so you and your family will have hard copy for race-day reference. If that's not enough, you can also print turn-by-turn directions that describe each portion of the race. More important is the list of street closings applicable the day of the race. This document advises marathon attendees and non-attendees alike as to areas they'll want to avoid and how best to manage transportation during this massive, traffic-snarling event.

Perhaps the most helpful feature on the marathon Web site is the bird's-eye 3-D video clip that shows you exactly where you'll run. You can follow the animated graphics and see mileage indicators overlaid on a satellite map, and you can pinpoint water and aid stations that will appear along the route, too.