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DC Half & Half Marathon at Ben’s Chili Bowl

Marathon

DC Half & Half Marathon at Ben’s Chili Bowl. (Heidi Magnuson)

From Kelsey Flora. Email her at kelsey[AT]borderstan.com

Most Washingtonians have probably never eaten at Ben’s Chili Bowl at 9:30 am, and certainly not in the middle of a half marathon. But on Saturday morning, more than 50 runners (including yours truly) lined up in Rock Creek Park in 45-degree weather to do just that in the inaugural DC Half & Half Marathon.

The brainchild of brothers Chris and Peter Magnuson, the race started near Carter Barron Amphitheater and wound its way 6.55 miles through the park to Adams Morgan, past race sponsor Fleet Feet, and through Dupont to U Street. Inside Ben’s, runners were treated to a half-smoke with chili, onions and mustard, and potato chips (there was also a vegetarian option). After cleaning their plates, runners ran back out the door to do the whole route in reverse, much of it uphill. Their goal? Keep that half smoke down.

As long-time area residents, the Magnuson’s are enthusiasts of the Krispy Kreme Challenge, a North Carolina race that dares participants to down a dozen Krispy Kreme glazed donuts during a five-mile race. They wanted to bring something like that to DC. Said Peter, “We thought, ‘What food defines DC?’ Ben’s was the answer.”

They tested out their idea about two years ago, and discovered the running was the hardest part. “If you can run a half marathon, you can eat the half smoke,” said Chris in his pre-race pep talk.

It’s not a competitive race, in the truest sense: there were no official times or winners, (although the first man and woman finishers got a jersey courtesy of DC United). These runners were just here for the fun of it, to be a part of something new and different; a large group actually showed up in “jorts,” embodying the fun atmosphere.

DCists like random athletic events, and the race sold out quickly. Local runner Dara Zeehandelaar heard about the race through friends, and actually scheduled a flight back from Vegas on Friday night so she could be here for the event. “I only got about four hours of sleep,” she said, but she didn’t want to miss the inaugural running.

Like many races these days, the DC Half & Half Marathon is a charity event, a fundraiser for ScholarCHIPS, which provides scholarships to children of incarcerated parents in the DMV. The charity was started by Jasmine Arrington, a former student of Chris Magnuson’s who launched the project when she was still in high school. Ben’s donated all of the food, allowing more of the runners’ registration fees to go to ScholarCHIPS.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without Ben’s,” said Chris. “They were committed before we were.”

The brothers capped registration this year to ease the financial burden on Ben’s, as well as to keep the logistics simple. But next year may be a different story; the run created such a buzz that there are already more than 100 people on the waiting list for 2013.

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Flora is relatively new to the hood, but has been living in DC for seven years. In her 9 to 5 she works her dream job at National Geographic. When she’s not working or blogging about little-known DC places and sites, she can be found running nearby trails, riding her bike with groups of spandex-clad clowns, volunteering or ravaging the beer menu at local establishments. Follow her on Twitter @kelseyflora. Email her at kelsey[AT]borderstan.com.

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