The government shutdown on Tuesday brought more panic to a world already feeling insecure due to disasters – the world of distance running.
At about 5 p.m. ET Tuesday, the organizers of the Marine Corps Marathon issued a note on the Facebook page of the race saying that the Oct. 27 event was in danger of being cancelled without a government shutdown resolution this week. Even earlier Tuesday, the running community on social media circulated an article that said the race of 30,000 runners was in danger.
"While still considering and exploring all possible options, the MCM has targeted this Saturday, October 19 as the date to officially notify runners of the status of the event," the Facebook note read. "It is sincerely the hope of everyone associated with the organization of this event that MCM participants can run as planned."
Marathon organizers did not respond to a telephone message or email request for comment.
While the Marine Corps Marathon, which begins in Virginia and winds past many national monuments and government and tourist sites, is not one of the five World Marathon Majors, it is a major goal race for many runners — on the order of the Chicago Marathon — and fills up within a few hours of being opened up to the public. It is a signature part of the busy fall marathon season.
The news comes almost one year after the ING New York City Marathon was cancelled last November in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and six months after bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon left three dead and more than 140 injured.
Frustration and panic among runners was evident Tuesday on social media, as runners commiserated with one another. A Facebook page surfaced titled "Marine Corps Marathon (with or without gov't approval)" as some runners vowed to run the course regardless of whether the marathon was cancelled.
Beatrice Whitaker, a runner from Brooklyn, N.Y., is hoping to run the Marine Corps Marathon as her first marathon and has been on pins and needles since the shutdown began Oct. 1.
"I've been kind of concerned for awhile, since the beginning of last week, because I know that a lot of the course goes over national park territory," said Whitaker, 35, an ophthalmologist who is a member of the group Black Girls RUN!
Whitaker said she is frustrated because she has put in many hours of training, peaking at 40 miles a week, and was looking forward to the weekend in Washington, where she's run two other races.
"It's something that you spend months working towards," she said. "To hear that it may not happen is frustrating."
Galen Garrison, a runner from Salt Lake City, is hoping to make this year's Marine Corps Marathon his fourth go at the race. The 26.2-mile event holds special significance for him because he is a former Naval officer candidate and his father was in the military. This year, he and several other friends who are members of Marathon Maniacs – people who run marathons close together in time — plan to run with a photo pinned to their shirts of a runner's son, a Marine who died in combat.
"When you do that race, you're running alongside people wearing prosthetics, many of them young enough to be my children, boys and girls, and I'm thinking, 'I just do this for fun. This sport is just a hobby. They lived, some of their friends did not and they sacrificed all,' " says Garrison, 48, an IT project manager who has run almost 150 marathons.
"Sometimes, they're running with rucksacks, full boots or camouflage. It's an emotionally moving race. I don't think there's anything else like it."
Garrison says he is a Libertarian and that he is frustrated with the inability of both major political parties to come together on this.
"I know it's not simple, but I do feel that when one party says, 'If you send me a clean resolution, then I'll approve it,' that's not negotiation," he says. "On the other hand, the Republicans seem like they've got an ax to grind so they're trying to win political points and that's hurting everybody."
Garrison, like many others, says if the race is cancelled, he will simply show up in Washington and run the course. That was what runners did last year in New York's Central Park after the marathon there was cancelled.
But Garrison also was hoping to run New York, which is scheduled for Nov. 3, and though that race is a few days more in the distance than the Marine race, he is concerned about that too. Several days ago, New York Road Runners issued a statement saying it was doing everything it can to insure the shutdown does not affect the race, which takes off from Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, a site maintained by the National Park Service.