6,100-plus to lace 'em up in October marathon here

5K, team races part of card for city course

Running

September 22, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Road races are among the events that have been affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but preparations continue for the inaugural Baltimore Marathon Festival, which will be held four weeks from today.

More than 6,100 have registered for the Comcast Baltimore Marathon, which will start and finish near PSINet Stadium, with a 26-mile, 385-yard counter-clockwise tour of the city in between.

The first major marathon in the area since the 1980s will be the centerpiece of the festival, which also has 700 entrants for the Fila 5K and 400 four-person teams entered in the Geico Direct Team Relay.

The staff at Corrigan Sports Enterprises, the organizer and promoter of the festival, had hoped to attract 5,000 runners. When it wasn't watching entry forms stream in this summer, it was reacting to local and national events.

Staging a road race is a logistical challenge in the best of times, and the CSE staff held its breath when downtown Baltimore was disrupted by the July 18 wreck in the Howard Street tunnel of a 60-car CSX train carrying hazardous materials. That catastrophe became an afterthought in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The U.A. Air Force Marathon, scheduled to be run today in Dayton, Ohio, has been canceled. The 26th Marine Corps Marathon, which winds past the Pentagon, could see a course change come Oct. 28.

Locally, the ripple effect from Sept. 11 will back up the Maryland Race for the Cure one week, to Oct. 13. The 5K run, part of a national series that benefits the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, was scheduled to be run Oct. 6, which became Cal Ripken's final game at Oriole Park when Major League Baseball backed up its schedule.

Only the date of the Komen race will change; packet pickup and other events will follow their original itinerary.

Various versions of marathons named for Baltimore and Maryland scraped by until the late 1980s.

The first Maryland Marathon, in 1973, cost $2 to enter and was pretty much a volunteer effort. If any runner still wants to get in the Comcast Baltimore Marathon, it will cost $65.

With a budget of more than a half a million dollars, Corrigan Sports Enterprises had the wherewithal to pay for the services that support an event that, in the best of times, already pose a logistical challenge.

Mayor Martin O'Malley participated in the March 29 news conference that announced plans for the Baltimore Marathon Festival, and the course will pass his home on Walther Avenue.

Eugene "Boo" Corrigan, who is a partner in CSE with his cousin, Lee, said race director Dave Cooley adjusted the marathon course 17 times before city officials were satisfied.

"That includes one final tweak two weeks ago," Boo Corrigan said. "When you trim something, you have to add somewhere else. The course is certified by USA Track and Field, and it can be used as a qualifier for Boston."

A 45-year-old man must have a certified time of 3 hours, 25 minutes to enter the 106th Boston Marathon next April. There were years when the Maryland Marathon cut off official timing at four hours, but CSE wants return customers, and the finish line will still be operating six hours after the 8:30 a.m. start of the Comcast Baltimore Marathon.

Some corporate sponsors will provide more than cash.

Fila, the Sparks-based shoe company, funds Discovery USA, a program designed to identify and develop distance talent in the U.S. It's patterned after Fila's Discovery Kenya, which will send at least two talents to Baltimore. Sammy Kosgei has run under 2:16 three times in the last two years, and Luka Cherono, who has a half-marathon best of 1:01.38, will make his marathon debut here.

Another early favorite is Josh Cox, a 26-year-old native of Florida who finished 10th in Chicago last year in 2:13.55. He trains at Discovery USA's high-altitude camp in Mt. Laguna, Calif.

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