Event Weekend Recap

Event Weekend Recap: Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon and Semper Fred 5K

Those who have never run a race can’t begin to understand the duel feelings of excitement and anxiety as event weekend arrives. The prospect of fulfilling a new personal record or scratching an item off a bucket list is thrilling, but running is a sport that relies on your body to perform and your mind to believe. Questions abound. Did I train hard enough? Will I finish? Will I meet my goal?The combination of nerves and exhilaration hangs in the air at start lines, pervading the scene with a frenetic buzz that can only be relieved by the sound of the starting pistol.

On Sunday, May 20 nearly 6,000 Marine Corps Historic Half marathon runners and just over 900Semper Fred 5K participants felt this rush before taking off for their 13.1-mile and 3.1-mile treks,respectively. But well before race start, each runner began their experience by driving through the start/finish arch on their way to packet pick up at the Healthy Lifestyle Expo held on Friday, May18 and Saturday, May 19. At this moment, Iron Mile Company members- individuals who have participated in every Historic Half to date- and novice runners alike took notice of the exact location where their running adventure would begin.

2012 Half opening ceremonyThe Healthy Lifestyle Expo opening ceremonies kicked off at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, treating thefirst guests in line to appearances by MCM Race Director Rick Nealis, Fredericksburg Mayor Tom Tomzak, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Carrie Cantrell, Biggest Loser contestants Lauren and Gail Lee and Quantico Marine Corps Base Commander Colonel James Brennan. Highlights of the Historic Half fifth anniversary ceremony included the presentation of the Oscar Mike award to Mark Bledsoe, Deputy Fire Chief of Fredericksburg (ret.), the introduction of new Historic Half mascot Captain McHalf, games and giveaways.

From wine sampling to Historic Half clothing, the Healthy Lifestyle Expo provided a multitude of distractions to keep race nerves at bay. Over 70 vendor booths including Chevrolet, Humana, Geico,Mary Washington Hospital, and the Historic Half store provided interactive displays and shopping opportunities for runners and their families. Runners picked up their bibs and T-shirts and asked last-minute race morning questions ranging from recommended parking locations to race start times. When the Healthy Lifestyle Expo concluded at 7 p.m. on Saturday, only one more night’s sleep remained until race morning.

And oh, what a beautiful morning it was. The sunrise just before 5 a.m. heralded blue skies and mild temperatures in the 60’s by the race start. The steady stream of runners arriving prior to opening ceremonies were greeted by Marines in operations mode, ready to provide crowd control, water, food and motivation to the masses. Energetic music pumped through speakers as starting line corrals began to fill. Curb space became limited as spectators jostled for a place to cheer on their loved ones. At 6:45a.m., opening ceremonies began. At that time, any remaining questions in runners’ minds would only be answered on the Historic Half or Semper Fred course.

2012 Half flyoverWith a helicopter buzzing overhead to catch the action, the pageantry of race morning was displayed in full force with the Invocation and March on Colors by the U.S. Marine Corps. A historic Town Crier welcomed the crowd prior to the playing of the National Anthem, which concluded with a flyover of vintage biplanes from the Flying Circus fleet out of Bealeton, VA. Wheelchair and hand cycle participants began their race upon the firing of a musket. Shortly after, honored starter and participant Alison Sweeney, host of the Biggest Loser on NBC, led the countdown and with a blast from the Howitzer, the Historic Half race field took off. Fifteen minutes later, Semper Fred participants got their turn when Kevin Van Renan, Senior Vice President and Administrator at Mary Washington Hospital, started the race.

Chevy Volt pace cars ushered Historic Half and Semper Fred runners through courses full of enthusiastic spectators, motivating Marines and volunteers and exciting performers. In what seemed like a very short time, lead runners for the Semper Fred returned. Reuben Mwei, 26, a native of Kenya,broke the Semper Fred course record of 15:59 by finishing with an impressive time of 15:27. Molly Roohi, 31, of King George, VA led the women’s field finishing in 19:03, breaking the previously-set women’s record of 19:37. 

Bert Jacoby Finishing Half

Taking an early lead, Bert Jacoby, 29, of Fredericksburg, VA was the decisive overall winner of the Historic Half, clocking in at 1:11:33. Wyatt Boyd, 27, of Washington, D.C. was the second overall male finisher with a time of 1:14:27. Rounding out the top males was Brandon Dick, 25, of Fredericksburg, VA finishing in 1:15:26.


Courtney Chapman, 28, of Norfolk, VA placed first among the women, finishing the Historic Half with a time of 1:21:56. Katherine Marden, 31, of Arlington, VA, finished in second place with a time of 1:26:44, while Marine Capt. Erin Demchko, 27, finished third in 1:29:02.

For the next three hours, Semper Fred and Historic Half participants continued to stream across the finish line. Alison Sweeney clocked in with a Historic Half time of 2:04:36. Lauren Lee finished the Historic Half in 2:12:42, while her mother, Gail, completed walking the Semper Fred course in 1:01:00. Carrie Cantrell finished the Historic Half in 1:51:03. From these notable participants to the back of the pack, active duty military to civilian runners, local running stars to international participants, first to last, every finisher managed to quell nerves and channel excitement into a solid race performance. In return, runners were celebrated by medal-wielding Marines, greeted with finish line entertainment that included a performance by Mike Corrado and treated to a frosty Michelob Ultra at the beer tent. But perhaps the best reward of all for a job well done was the knowledge that goals were accomplished, obstacles were overcome and challenges were met.

Half Patriotic RunnersOver the course of its five year history, the Historic Half has seen a steady increase in participation and presence in Fredericksburg, and has evolved into a premier running event in Virginia. The success of the 2012 Historic Half Event Weekend ensures a lasting partnership between the host community,Historic Half organizers, the Marine Corps and participants. To date, over 25,000 runners have met the challenges set forth by the Marine Corps, conquered fears, achieved dreams, and earned the right to call themselves a Historic Half or Semper Fred finisher. Congratulations to all 2012 Semper Fred 5Kand Marine Corps Historic Half marathon runners who can count themselves among these ranks.

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