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Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon goes virtual

More than 5,900 runners competed in the fifth annual Marine Corps Historic Half marathon in Fredericksburg, Va., today. It was the largest participation ever at the Historic Half, which took runners through 13.1 miles of scenic city roads under clear, blue skies and thousands of cheering fans. Also lining the roads were hundreds of Marines from Marine Corps Base Quantico, who passed out water and motivation to the runners. A Marine also greeted every finisher with their finishers medal as they crossed the line. For more information go to: http://www.marinemarathon.com/Historic_Half.htm

Scott Erdelatz and his wife Omega signed up for the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon last year with every intention of alternatively running and walking the iconic 13.1-mile course.

Those plans were upended, however, when Omega Erdelatz was involved in a car accident just a few days before the race. Her injuries were minor, but the ordeal effectively quashed the Stafford couple’s hopes of crossing the finish line together in 2019.

The Erdelatzes were determined not to endure a second unplanned cancellation, even after COVID-19 concerns halted the live race for the first time in its history. Instead of deferring their entry to next year’s event, the couple has chosen to take advantage of a unique virtual option.

Approximately 5,550 runners, including 479 from the Fredericksburg area, have made the same decision. They’ll have until May 21 to complete their distance (5, 13.1 or 18.1 miles) and upload a screenshot of the run to receive a finisher’s certificate. The deadline for registered runners to opt for the virtual option is May 16.

“We figured we’ve already been training and it would be good to have a focus, especially with all this COVID stuff going on,” Scott Erdelatz said. “Something to keep us on track with training, especially our long runs on the weekends.”

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Instead of taking off down Carl D. Silver Parkway and snaking through downtown’s Thunder Alley before summiting the infamous “Hospital Hill,” participants this year can rack up mileage on a course of their choosing.

From treadmills to back yards, they’ve gotten creative. One Marine currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan, pledged on social media to run his half-marathon along the East China Sea coastline.

And while most will run alone, race organizers are hoping they won’t be lonely. Through a partnership with the health and fitness app Motigo, participants can sign up free to hear motivational messages from Fredericksburg personalities like mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw, congressman Rob Wittman and radio personality Jessica Cash.

Scott Erdelatz said he and his wife plan to run the original Historic Half course, on the original race day of May 16. The distance will pose challenges, he acknowledged, especially without the hydration stations that are typically spread throughout the course.

But the retired Marine Logistics officer has a plan for that. Several plans, actually.

“Do we carry drink and food with us, or do we fall back on our old geocaching days and stash stuff along the route, or do we recruit a support crew?” he asked rhetorically. “We may park one or two of our cars along the route. But we’re going to do it either way.”

Fredericksburg resident Emily Hopely, the top female finisher in last year’s Semper 5ive, has already completed her virtual race, logging five miles around the gravel track at Pratt Park last weekend. Beyond concerns about traffic or pedestrians, Hopely offered sound reasoning for her decision to deviate from the usual Semper Five course.

“I don’t want to voluntarily run ‘Hospital Hill,’ even though it’s kind of close to my house,” she said with a laugh.

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