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The start of the Marine Corps Marathon, Washington DC. Credit: dbking.

By Jason Toth

The 35 annual Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) will be held on October 31, 2010, in Washington, DC.  Although not nearly as famous as the races in Boston and New York City, the MCM still checks in as the 8th largest marathon in the World with nearly 20,000 participants expected.  The MCM also has the distinction of being the largest marathon not to offer any prize money to its winner. Aptly nicknamed “The Marathon of Moments,” the MCM offers a racing course with many landmark sights to behold.

The MCM is true to its name as spectators and participants are treated to entire military units running in formation and flying their colors for the entire 26.2-mile course.  Named only in honor of the Marine Corps, this marathon is open to any and all particpants ready to take on the 26.2 mile race. The event also serves as a qualification opportunity for the restrictive Boston Marathon, .  Spectators will be able pick out a slew of politicians and other celebrities this year, with former runners including Oprah Winfrey, Ted Koppel, Justice Clarence Thomas as well as the Teddy Roosevelt mascot.  The mascot, a fixture at Washington Nationals baseball games, took just under 6.5 hours to complete the course.

Kick off your running shoes and fall into luxury at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City.

Those running the Marine Corps Marathon will get to experience the best of both Arlington, Virgina, and our nation’s capital. The race starts in Arlington and winds its way through the George Washington Parkway and Spout Run, across the Key Bridge and popular M Street in Georgetown and to the Hains Point halfway mark. From there, runners will passPotomac Park and a smattering of landmark memorials like the Jefferson, FDR and Vietnam Veteran’s memorials, and the U.S. Capital.  In the last stretch, participants  cross 14th Street to “Beat the Bridge” at Mile 2o, pass the Crystal City and the Pentagon, and finally finish in front of one of DC’s most iconic monuments, the Marine Corps Memorial.

Given the diverse course, spectators and runners have many different options for accommodations.  Savvy runners will book hotels in the Crystal City area or Pentagon City near Reagan airport as the race both starts and finishes on the Virginia side of the Potomac.  These hotels generally offer a great value as compared to downtown properties.  The Hyatt Regency Crystal City and Radisson Hotel Reagan National Airport are all great choices in Crystal City.  The marathoner looking for true luxury can book the Ritz Carlton Pentagon City.  This hotel is connected to the trendy shops at the Fashion Center and offers a full slate of spa services.  Guests in this area also have easy access to downtown DC via the metro or hotel transportation.  Key sites not to miss downtown include the Smithsonian Institutions on the National Mall, Presidential Monuments and the buildings comprising the U.S. capitol.

Insider tip: For another great hotel option in Crystal City plus a sweet deal, check out the Crystal Gateway Marriott. You’ll score free breakfast when you book your trip by October 11 and stay a Friday or Saturday over the MCM weekend (or anytime between Oct. 14-Jan. 2). Bring the kids along and you can also Nickelodeon Your Stay for a special kid-friendly treat. Kids under 12 get free breakfast plus two activity packs, two pillowcases and two bedtime books, all decked out in the best Nickelodeon characters like Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob Squarepants.

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Jason Toth is the Washington, DC market manager for Orbitz Worldwide and travels extensively with his Rhodesian Ridgeback, Gracie.

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Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Nina Kokotas Hahn

Nina Kokotas Hahn

Nina Kokotas Hahn is a travel writer and Chicago journalist whose work appears in Chicago magazine, HuffPost Travel and Condé Nast’s HotelChatter. Globetrotting since infancy, she’s the daughter of a travel agent and considers thrill seeking part of the DNA. Find her on Twitter at @ninakhahn.

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