In the above map, the old course and mile markers are denoted in red. The new Marine Corps Marathon route is denoted in blue.
WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - The popular Marine Corps Marathon is tweaking its route this year to give participants a flatter course and a new, longer approach to the U.S. Capitol.
The new route announced Tuesday takes runners on a right turn right coming off the Key Bridge from Virginia into the heart of Georgetown. Before, runners turned left off the Key Bridge into Georgetown, up Canal Road and around the Georgetown Reservoir.
Turning right instead of left eliminates a 150-foot grade between miles six and nine and alleviates a potential source of congestion.
Race officials say the deleted three-mile stretch was tough.
"It did cause for a very tight 180-degree turn from Canal Road onto Reservoir Road and it also incorporated a hill that, as a runner, some of us don't care for hills, especially steep, nasty hills," says Bret Schmidt, the Marine Corps Marathon operations manager.
That hairpin turn also created safety issues as thousands on foot as well as hand racers in wheelchairs crammed together.
ABC7 Meteorologist Alex Liggitt remembers that turn well.
"It's about a 130-degree turn," Liggitt says. "I mean, you're basically going a U-turn and going straight up a hill, so you have to slow down to go into the turn."
This year, runners will immediately turn right onto M Street and run miles 6-9 up and down Rock Creek Parkway before hitting the National Mall.
A major incline at the start of the race and a lesser one toward the finish remain in place.
And in light of May's Boston Marathon bombings, security will be tighter, but officials say most runners probably won't notice.
The marathon has been held annually since 1976 and takes place this year on Oct. 27. It is now the third largest in the country, with 30,000 participants from dozens of countries.