How the Government Shutdown Affects Fall Marathon Season

Training grounds are closed, races potentially canceled. You may have to put away that race day running outfit...Training grounds are closed, races potentially canceled. You may have to put away that race day running outfit …The federal government shutdown that began on Tuesday is already affecting runners' training, and will affect races if the shutdown lasts long enough.

The main immediate impact stems from the closure of federal lands throughout the United States that are popular training grounds, such as the C&O Canal towpath in Maryland, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada and Arizona.

The impact could broaden to races held on federal lands being canceled if the shutdown continues.

PLUS: This wouldn't be the first unexpected cancellation of a race event. Last year's NYC Marathon was shut down due to Superstorm Sandy. See what last year's participants did instead, and find out how to Run a Plan B Race After a Cancelled Event.

"For those of us who live in D.C., the shutdown has caused all kinds of problems," said Libby Nelson. "My 4- and 5-mile runs usually go through the gates of the National Zoo (now closed for the duration), and my longer runs go up the C&O Canal path and the Capital Crescent Trail (both closed due to the shutdown). Certainly doesn't compare to being furloughed without pay in the scheme of things, but it's a pain!"

"Two friends and I went out to run at the Lake Lowell refuge in Nampa, Idaho," said Linda Weiss. "We were told by a wildlife official that the refuge trails are closed and no one can go out there. Friends of ours were running on the other end of the refuge and were on the way back from their run when a truck came barreling down the road towards them. Again, a wildlife agent told them they had to leave the refuge immediately."

"The shutdown closed one of the favorite weeknight running locations of the Central Illinois Trail Running Alliance, the Army Corps of Engineers' Farmdale Reservoir in East Peoria, Illinois," said Andrew McGlocklen.

With the Marine Corps Marathon scheduled for October 27 (and mostly unaffected by the shutdown--find out information about alternative plans here), many entrants will do their last long run for it this coming weekend. Training groups, such as ones organized by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club in Maryland, tend to run on paths that are now closed. Although one member of the MCRRC group, Deb Levy Griffin, ran on the closed Capital Crescent Trail Tuesday morning without incident, "we have 300 people in our group on Sunday," she said. "I think we might draw a little attention if we're all running on the trails."

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The status of runners who go on closed paths seems a grey area at this point.

"I do not know if common entry points that are accessible by foot have been barricaded," said Mike Nardolilli, president of the C&O Canal Trust, about the canal's 184.5-mile towpath that runs from Cumberland, Maryland to Georgetown in Washington, D.C. "As far as folks found on the towpath by law enforcement personnel, I have been told that they will be asked to leave but I have no knowledge about whether there are any plans to issue any citations."

Park closures also mean that restrooms and water fountains many runners make part of their normal training loops are unavailable during the shutdown.

"A huge benefit to running in D.C. is these wonderfully maintained facilities all around the Mall and what we call the monumental core (easily identified in the Marine Corps Marathon course map)," said Kate Kirpatrick. "It won't stop me from running, but there is an effect."

Races scheduled for the near future on federal lands are monitoring the shutdown, and in some cases have alerted runners of potential cancellation.

The Jersey Shore Half Marathon, scheduled for October 6, has sent an email to registrants that the race, which is staged at Gateway National Park in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, will be canceled if the shutdown continues through the weekend.

The Grindstone 100-miler, scheduled for Friday in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, will also be canceled if the shutdown continues through race day.

If the shutdown continues into the second week of October, races such as the Towpath Marathon, held in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio and scheduled for October 13, would be canceled. The Freedom's Run Marathon, which usually runs through national parks in Maryland and West Virginia and is scheduled for October 12, would use an alternative route that avoids national landmarks such as Harper's Ferry and the Antietam battlefield.

Other races would be more subtly affected by the shutdown, in the form of fewer runners attending them.

PLUS: Need a plan B? Try one of these 10 Fall Races Still Open For Registration

Chris Harris, of Lee's Summit, Missouri, is one of the 800,000 federal employees furloughed because of the shutdown. "I'm signed up for the Chicago and New York City marathons and if I don't get to work and get paid, it will make the travel very difficult to afford," he said.

"I work for the federal government and have been training for my first marathon for almost a year," said Danitza James, of Toana, Virginia. "I'm registered for the Marine Corp Marathon and I may not be able to travel and pay for lodging for this race."

Harris and other furloughed runners are trying to make the best of the situation.

"The only positive I see right now of the shutdown is that I have more time to train," he said.

By Scott Douglas, Runner's World

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