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SIS’s Running Man

(Photos courtesy of Marine Corps Marathon)

Time to push the pace.

More speed; that’s what was racing through Andrew Dumm’s mind halfway through the 33rd annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. As the 23-year-old ran through a lonely, spectatorless stretch near Hains Point, he made a conscious decision to accelerate.

“I wanted to thin the group out and bring one or two guys along with me, but they didn’t respond like I thought they would,” he said two days after the first marathon of his life. “I found myself in the lead, and once the race was mine, it was mine to lose.”

Two hours and twenty-two minutes after Dumm, an American University graduate student, started the Oct. 28 race, he still hadn’t lost it. Dumm crossed the finish line before any of the other 18,000-plus participants, becoming the first male Marine Corps champ since 1987 to triumph in his inaugural marathon.

“The finish was really special,” Dumm said. “The crowd at the marathon was my favorite part of the day. The people were so enthusiastic. I could definitely hear the crowd, that was really nice. The people that come out to support the runners, it’s just amazing. Yes it helps to be in first, but I think if you were any of the people who were running, that crowd helped you somewhere along the way.”

Among those trailing Dumm were his older brother, Brian, who finished fifth, and his father, Ken, who in his seventh Marine Corps turned in a personal best time.

“It was really awesome for both of them,” Ken said of his sons. “I thought [Andrew] had the potential to do well, but I was surprised he won only because it was his first marathon, and he had not had the experience of knowing strategy.”

Not that Ken didn’t know his son possessed some serious speed. All three of his sons ran track in high school in Fairfax, Va., and Andrew was the 2006 Atlantic Coast Conference 5,000-meter champion while an undergraduate at the University of Virginia. In Charlottesville he also found time to hit the books, earning a Fulbright Scholarship that took him to Jordan last year.

While studying Arabic and digital media in the Middle East, Dumm continued to run, though not at a competitive level. When he returned to the United States in the summer, he decided to give the Marine Corps Marathon a shot even though he would have far fewer than the standard five months to prepare. Still, he began training daily, racking up 50 miles a week at first then working his way up to a peak of 107.

“I had a lot of family motivation to run,” he said. “My brother Brian, who is a first lieutenant in the Air Force, was going to run for the military team. Our father, Kenneth, was in the Air Force. The Marine Corps as a race is a pretty fun marathon. It’s nice to see the U.S. Capitol and the Tidal Basin, and the city and the people.”

Not that Dumm took much notice once the starting gun sounded.

“I was pretty focused,” he said. “Your peripheral vision is very narrow. It’s kind of like a horse with blinders on. You see mile marks and water stations and the road ahead of you.”

Dumm’s plan was to run with Brian and not concern himself with winning. That blueprint fell apart after he separated from his brother about six miles in.

At Hains Point, 13 miles from both the start and finish, things got much more serious.

“It was kind of a bold move,” he said. “Since it was my first marathon, I was okay if I was going to hit the wall later. I had reconciled that possibility. Between the move and the end of the race I was going to race as hard as I could, and whatever happened, happened.”

What Dumm didn’t know didn’t hurt him. His inexperience paid off.

“If you talk to the other runners, anybody who goes out on his own early on is running a lonely race,” said Rick Nealis, the race director. “I’m sure the pack was saying rookie mistake, he’s gonna tire, he’s gonna fade and we’re gonna catch him.”

No one ever did. He crossed the finish line in Virginia near the Iwo Jima memorial one minute and ten seconds ahead of his closest competitor.

Dumm, a first-year graduate student in the School of International Service, has his sights set on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

“Usually your second marathon is a pretty good improvement on your first, so I wanted to sort of throw one out there knowing I could build on it later,” he said. “It ended up being a great start, obviously.”

After taking Monday off, he was back pounding the pavement on Tuesday, thoughts of an unbelievable weekend racing through his head as he set out from AU’s campus.

“My brother and my dad are role models to me. Not only did they get me on the course, but they’ve been an inspiration to me my whole life,” he said. “Lining up and going through the check-in process before the race, I could see people that were running for fallen soldiers, or three generations of the same family running, or people in wheelchairs. Unlike maybe some other marathons, the Marine Corps really has a community feeling. Being in the nation’s capital it was great to be able to come out on top and have my family share that moment with me.”