Why You Should Run the Marine Corps Marathon

What to Expect at the MCM

This year marks the 44th Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). It is one of the largest marathons in the world with runners from 50 states and 60 countries participating in the event. The Marathon is organized by the United States Marine Corps and takes place in Arlington, VA, Washington, DC and National Harbor, MD.

There are many reasons people run the MCM, some of them include a tribute to the men and women serving the USA, in memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, in support of a charitable cause or just to tour the capital of the United States.

The MCM is a scenic marathon offering views of the Jefferson Memorial, WWII Memorial, National Museum of Natural History, Air and Space Museum, Arlington National Cemetery before finishing at the Marine Corps War Memorial. Those who complete the event receive the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor medal, the symbol of the United States Marine Corps. Last year, the medal was recognized as the best in the world.

MCM finish line

In addition to national landmarks and cheering Marines, entertainment is present at almost every mile with bands, DJs, and high school pep bands. One thing to be prepared for is the wear blue Mile where loved ones hold up pictures of fallen service members. This mile is to honor the service men and women who have died while protecting the freedom of others, so be prepared to shed some tears.

If you are not sure you want to do a whole marathon but still want to be part of the event, the MCM10K takes place on the same day and finishes at the same place — Marine Corps War Memorial.

How to Train Beforehand

Now that you know a bit about the MCM, it’s time to think about training for the marathon. You will need to start training early because running high mileage too fast and too soon can lead to injury.

Make sure you have a couple pair of running shoes to train in. Rotating the shoes will help them last longer as you work through your training plan. If you want a place to start, check out the Best Brooks Running Shoes. Brooks is a major sponsor of the event and runners can purchase MCM gear and the latest Brooks products at the MCM Health & Fitness Expo on the days prior to the marathon.

running mcm

Plan on 12 to 20 weeks for training, depending on how much you currently run. If you are just starting out and have never run a marathon before, plan on building up to 50 miles per week over four months up until race day. Training plans should guide you to increase mileage slowly and safely so you can finish the MCM.

Long Runs

Long runs will need to be included in your training plan as well. Try working in one long run a week. The long run should increase by one mile every week, and then scale back every three weeks to give your body a break. An example would look like this:

  • Week 7 — Run 10 miles
  • Week 8 — Run 11 miles
  • Week 9 — Run 12 miles
  • Week 10 — Run 10 miles
  • Week 11 — Run 13 miles

Speed Work

Speed Work is another important aspect of training for a marathon. Tempo runs include running anywhere from four to 10 miles at a challenging pace. Interval training can be done as well, which is short distances run at a faster pace with jogs in between these bursts of speed.

Intervals and speed work helps to train your body into running when you are tired — something that is important in a marathon.

Don’t Forget to Get Your Rest

Rest is a crucial part of your training because the muscles need to recover and your body needs to heal properly. If you want to keep training on rest days, try cross-training. This can include anything from yoga, weight lifting, swimming, or cycling, but make sure it is less stress on your body than long runs.

Tips About the Course

mcm start line

The MCM has you covered when it comes to food during the marathon. Of course, you can always bring your own energy gels if you prefer, or need more than what is handed out. The following is what you can expect food-wise during the race:

  • Mile 7 — Oranges

Between Miles 12 and 13 — Honey Stinger energy gels

  • Mile 19 — Sports Beans jelly beans
  • Mile 23 – Honey Stinger energy gels

Water will be handed out at points along the way as well. There are 12 water points on the course, one pre-MCM water station, and one post-MCM station with water and Gatorade.

The finish line is at the end of a hill. If there’s a chance you can train on this hill beforehand, do it.

Here is an overview of the course itself:

  • Mile 1 — Flat
  • Mile 1 to 2.5 — uphill
  • Mile 2.5 to 4 — downhill
  • Mile 4 to 6.5 — flat
  • Mile 6.5 to 8 — uphill
  • Mile 8 to 10 — downhill
  • Mile 10 to 21 — flat
  • Mile 21 to 26.2 — flat to uphill

What to Do During the MCM Weekend

Do you have a kid who wants to run as well? The MCM Kids Run is held during the MCM weekend in the Pentagon North Parking lot. Kids can run one mile and experience entertainment, games, activities, and mascots.

The Health & Fitness Expo is held the same weekend as the MCM as well. Here, you can experience new exercise products, try out new technology, and sample food along the way. There are also giveaways, health screenings, and vendors offering their latest products. MCM apparel is available for purchase as well.

Health expo at mcm

Along with the expo, the MCM Runners Conference presents speakers on both Friday and Saturday. This is a good place to get inspired and meet new people.

If you head to DC ahead of time, there is plenty to see. Check out National Harbor’s entertainment and restaurant district near the Expo site or head into DC to see the National Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery of Art, The U.S. Capital, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. These are the top five rated things to do in DC.

Don’t Forget About the Historic Half

Also organized by the Marine Corps Marathon but held during May, the Historic Half brings together more than 8,000 runners for a half-marathon, five miler and a double, combining both event distances. Located in Fredericksburg, VA, just a short drive outside of the Washington, DC, the start line is adjacent to the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center in the Central Park shopping district.

historic half

While you run the 13.1-mile course, you will experience historical attractions from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars with people dressed in century style clothing. On the course, you will see the University of Mary Washington, Sunken Road, Fredericksburg Confederate Cemetery, Kenmore Plantation and Mary Washington Grave and Monument. It’s another course hosted by the Marines that offers a unique running experience through historic landmarks.

Training for the Historic Half

If you are a current runner, you can train for a half-marathon in about eight weeks. For newer runners, plan on three to four months to safely train. Training is similar to the marathon training, such as working in one long run a week, do speed or interval training, and take rest days.

When starting out, try running for 30 minutes. On the weekend, go for a three-mile run. Gradually increase the distance over the weeks until you can run 10 or 11 miles comfortably during your long runs. Even if you don’t make it to 13.1, you will be okay if you can run 10 miles comfortably. Check out more info on our half-marathon training plans.

Tips About the Course

Water is handed out at seven points along the race course to keep you hydrated. Gatorade is handed out as well, although at six points.

Sport Beans jelly beans are handed out at mile 7.5 to keep you going the final stretch of the race.

At almost every mile there is entertainment. For example, there is the University of Mary Washington Pipe Band, the Baffa Academy of Irish Dance, and Marantha Touring Choir, just to name a few.

Enjoy the Town of Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is a good place to go if you want to visit Civil War battlefields. Chatham Manor is another interesting spot in Fredericksburg. It was a plantation that had been visited by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. During the Civil War, it served as Union headquarters and later as a Union Hospital.

historic half sites

You can always take a walk downtown Fredericksburg to travel through history as well. The downtown area has more than 350 buildings that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Many notable people have come from Fredericksburg such as George Washington and his family, James Monroe, James L. Farmer Jr. (civil rights leader), and Danny McBride (actor).

Final Thoughts

Registration is open now for the Historic Half. The MCM registration is conducted through a lottery that is open from March 20-26. The MCM10K registration begins on April 24. Whether you want to run the MCM to honor a service member or run the Historic Half for the atmosphere, there is a good chance you will want to come back for more and receive the incredible support of the United States Marines. There are many events, sites, and activities for the whole family to experience and enjoy.


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