As the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) celebrates 45 years of being “The People’s Marathon,” we’re looking back at some of the most memorable moments and achievements throughout the last four-and-a-half decades.
1. 1976: Dr. Susan Mallery was the first female winner of the Marine Corps Reserve Marathon, completing the event with a finishing time of 2:56:33. Mallery successfully defended her title the following year, finishing in first place with an even faster time of 2:54:04.
2. 1978: When responsibility was transferred from the Marine Corps Reserve to the active duty Marines, the event officially became the Marine Corps Marathon.
3. 1978: The introduction of the Challenge Cup. A race-within-a-race, the Challenge cup pits members of the U.S. Marine Corps against the British Royal Navy/Royal Marines and fosters a friendly international rivalry.
4. 1987: Completing his first-ever marathon, Jeff Scuffins set the standing course record with a winning time of 2:14:01.
5. 1987: The MCM was televised live for the first time, both locally and nationally.
6. 1989: The event surpasses 10,000 finishers for the first time.
7. 1989: Bob Wieland, a medically discharged Army medic who lost both of his legs to an 82mm mortar round in Vietnam, started his marathon ahead of the pack on Thursday. He completed the entire 26.2-mile course on his hands in 79 hours and 57 minutes—his last mile saw 100 Marines marching in cadence.
8. 1990: The 100,000th finisher in MCM history crosses the line.
9. 1990: Olga Markova, a sergeant in the Soviet Army from Leningrad, wins the Women’s Open in 2:37:00 setting the female course record that still stands today.
10. 1994: Talk show host Oprah Winfrey ran her first marathon with the Marines to celebrate her 40th birthday. Wearing Bib #40, Winfrey finished the MCM with a now famous time of 4:29:15 placing 8,210 of 12,716 finishers.
11. 1996: Bob and Kirt Elling are married at the start line becoming the first wedding to occur at the MCM.
12. 1997: The MCM entered the technological world by introducing the computerized timing chips.
13. 1997 Vice President Al Gore ran the marathon with his daughters, Kristen and Karenna, finishing with a time of 4:54:25.
14.1998: The Armed Forces Marathon Competition is introduced when military runners from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps flew in from around the world to compete.
15. 1998: The MCM’s 200,000th finisher crosses the line.
16. 2000: Celebrating its silver anniversary, the MCM debuted a new event, the Healthy Kids Fun Run, later renamed the MCM Kids Run, a one-mile fun run to inspire the next generation of young runners.
17. 2000: The MCM Hall of Fame was established. The inaugural event inducted five members including founder of the Marathon Col. Jim Fowler, Steve Bozeman, Ken Carnes, Joanna Martin, Gysgt. Farley Simon, USMC (Ret.) and former Secretary of the Navy William J. Middendorf, III.
18. 2001: Just six weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks, the 26th MCM was dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the tragic events, the survivors and the selfless heroes who worked tirelessly to save lives. Participants showed their patriotism carrying flags throughout a course that ran as close as 50 yards from the damaged Pentagon.
19. 2003: Miles the Bulldog, the MCM mascot is introduced.
20. 2004: The MCM does an about face, changing course direction by running in the opposite direction of the Pentagon at the start.
21. 2004: The 300,000th MCM finisher crosses the line.
22. 2005: In the closest finish ever recorded, Rubén Garcia of Mexico defeated Michigan native Carl Rundell by .08 seconds. The two went head-to-head again the following year with Garcia repeating his victory by 3 minutes and 2 seconds.
23. 2006: The MCM10K is added to the MCM Weekend schedule.
24. 2006: For the first time ever, more than 20,000 participants cross the finish line.
25. 2006: The MCM Forward is created for service members deployed overseas to be able to run the MCM.
26. 2007: The Penguin Award is first presented at the MCM. The award honors Public Affairs Officer and runner, Marine Maj. Megan McClung, who was killed in action in Iraq in December 2006 only months after being selected race director of the MCM Forward in October of that year. McClung presented a stuffed Penguin named ‘Paul’ (a character in one of her favorite books) to the final finisher of MCM Forward. Today, the Penguin Award tradition continues for the final MCM finisher.
27. 2009: The 400,000th finisher crosses the line.
28. 2009: On June 8, the MCM Facebook page was launched.
29. 2010: The MCM paid tribute to its 35th anniversary and the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon by carrying the flame from Marathon, Greece through a tour of US landmarks significant to the Marine Corps in Boston, New York and Philadelphia before bringing the flame home to the MCM.
30. 2011: At 35 degrees, it was the coldest MCM start on record.
31. 2011: Comedian Drew Carey ran his first marathon at the 36th MCM, sharing plenty of great stories about his days as a U.S. Marine. Carey finished with a time of 4:37:11.
32. 2011: The Runner Tracking services were introduced.
33. 2012: Organized by wear blue: run to remember, a tribute Mile is introduced on the MCM course to honor and remember America’s fallen heroes and their families. Each year, Faces of the Fallen tribute posters carefully line the next 1,064 steps along Hains Point.
34. 2013: Entries for the 38th MCM sold out in a record 2 hours and 27 minutes. Registration challenges prompted the Organization to reinstate a Lottery system the following year.
35. 2014: The MCM reached – and surpasses – the half million total finishers mark.
36. 2014: The Marathon was awarded Gold level certification by the Council for Responsible Sport, previously earning Silver level certification in 2009 and again in 2011. The MCM earned gold for the second time in 2019.
37. 2014: Honorary starter actor Sean Astin completed the MCM with a time of 4:29:11
38. 2014: Medal of Honor recipient, retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, skydived into the start before completing his second MCM in 5:07:45.
39. 2016: At 80 degrees, it was the warmest MCM on record.
40. 2018: The MCM earns recognition from AIMS, international running organization, for having the Best Finisher Medal in the World.
41. 2018: Al Richmond, the last “Groundpounder” — someone who has ran every MCM since the beginning — announced his retirement after running 42 MCMs, his last in 2017.
42. 2019: The inaugural MCM50K was the largest ultramarathon in the United States with nearly double the participants of the 2018 record.
43. 2019: Gen. David H. Berger, 38th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, was the first Commandant to run the MCM. After serving as the official starter, Gen. Berger completed the marathon with a time of 5:29:38.
44. 2019: The 44th MCM celebrated two proposals at the finish line…
45.…and helped unite a brother and sister who were separated 42 years ago.
This year brought unexpected challenges with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), but in true Marine Corps spirit, we improvised, adapted and overcame. As the pandemic evolved, MCM organizers shifted the annual event to a virtual-only status allowing runners around the world to participate in the MCM, MCM50K, MCM10K and Semper Fun Mile anytime, anywhere from September 27 to November 10, the Marine Corps birthday. In addition to marking its 45th anniversary, this year’s MCM commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima by featuring actual black sands collected at that site within the event medal. The commemorative medal will also feature the filmstrip images of the flag raising on Iwo Jima along the ribbon.