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Marine Corps Marathon’s Rick Nealis talks changes for 2015, plus how to get a bib for 2014

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Runners start the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)

Runners start the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)

The Marine Corps Marathon will be bigger in 2015, according to race director Rick Nealis, but what “bigger” means is still being decided.

“Bigger could be more entertainment, special people coming in as guest speakers, more bang for your buck for what you get back,” Nealis says in a phone interview. ”Can we be a little bit bigger? Yes. What does that mean? Does it mean 32,000 [finishers] and we only grow a couple thousand? Am I hoping to get 40,000? I need a couple more months of planning to work those details.”

What he’s working on now are changes to the race’s new lottery system.

Marine Corps Marathon Race DIrector Nick Nealis. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Marine Corps Marathon Race Director Rick Nealis. (Mike Morones/Staff)

“You’re going to see a lot of things different,” he says. “You’ve got to remember the lottery decision wasn’t made until November.”

For 2014, more than 20,000 people registered for the general lottery during a 25-day window, Nealis says, filling 15,000 race slots. An additional 2,000 slots were held for active-duty and reserve runners, filled on a first-come, first-served basis. The remaining bibs went to charity runners, corporate sponsors, 17.75K finishers and other groups.

For 2015, runners can expect to see similar caps on registration for special groups such as the MCM Runners Club and the active-duty and reserve program.

Nealis does say he plans to expand the military program, which offers reserved spots at a discounted price from sponsor GEICO.

“I’ve got a conceptualized plan of the changes that are going to happen,” he says. “It’s safe to say that it’ll be more than 2,000. Whether that is 2,500 or 3,500, I can’t give you the number at the moment, but it’s more than 2,000.”

Adding more military runners would mean allowing fewer runners from other groups.

“It’s the fine line of us going with the ‘people’s marathon’ [concept] — we don’t do the prize money, and we treat everybody equal,” Nealis says. “So a lot of times when a certain group gets maybe something special, I walk that fine line to make sure it’s tied to something. In this case, it’s tied to sponsorship.”

More sponsorship money would not necessarily mean more active-duty and reserve bibs, Nealis says, adding, “I think the mix that we have right now is a good mix.”

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Washington, D.C., marathon, and Nealis is already looking ahead 18 months at how to celebrate.

One big change will be the location of the party. Nealis says for 2015 the race expo will move from the Washington, D.C., National Guard Armory back to the Washington Convention Center.

“Because it’s the 40th anniversary, they’re going to put us in the convention center and give us the 110 to 120 thousand square feet that we need,” he says.

What runners will continue not to see in 2015 are service fees and registration prices that rival other big-city marathons. Chicago charges $185 for U.S. residents and $210 for non-residents. New York’s entry fee now tops $200 for all runners, starting at $216 for NYRR members, $255 for non-member U.S. residents and $347 for non-residents. In 2014, the Marine Corps Marathon registration was $110.

“I could easily make an argument that I should be at $200. Then I could turn around and say military gets in for $20 or something,” Nealis says, adding, “It’s a juggling act. I probably don’t make all the best decisions, but I can tell you, I definitely weigh them all and try to find that balance.”

17.75K

The Marine Corps Marathon’s 17.75K race offers finishers a guaranteed entry to the marathon, making it a popular way for runners to bypass the lottery. This year’s event sold out in nine minutes, begging the question of whether Nealis will make adjustments to that race’s registration system.

He says he’s looking at issues such as available parking and trail constraints to see whether he could expand the race field slightly.

“If all those things point positive, then next year’s 17.7K will be bigger, then that’ll give us a little bit more breathing room on the nine minutes. It’ll probably make it 10 minutes — I’ll get one extra minute of breathing.”

Didn’t get in through the lottery … now what?

Don’t fret, Marine Corps Marathon hopeful.

Whether you were a lottery loser or just forgot to sign up, there are still two more chances to get into this year’s sold-out marathon.

Runners can join one of 86 charities — currently registering runners — participating in the MCM Charity Partner program. Get more information here.

Runners also can get a bib through the race’s transfer program, which opens June 11.

“When transferring an entry, runners do not receive a refund on registration fees from the MCM,” officials say on the website. “Any such monetary transactions must be handled directly between the transferring runners. Further, entries may not be transferred more than once.”

Get more information on the transfer program here.

Sara Davidson

Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and contributor to PT365. She's run 7 marathons and 32 ultramarathons -- including her first 100-miler. This fall she is training for the Marine Corps Marathon using our PT365 Run Plan. Reach her at sdavidson@gannett.com .