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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Leave early if you need to be at Mary Washington Hospital on race day

The 5th Annual Marine Corps Historic Half will affect traffic at Mary Washington Hospital.

The traffic patterns in use Sunday at Mary Washington Hospital for the 5th Annual Marine Corps Historic Half will be the same as in past years.

And what hospital officials are telling patients, visitors and staff is also the same:

“Plan extra time,” said James Swisher, vice president for project management and continuous improvement.

The “leave early” advice is offered because moving about the hospital campus on race day can be difficult. One of the exits will be closed, left turns will be prohibited at some intersections, and thousands of runners will be strung across the property from one end to the other.

“The biggest times of impact are 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.,” Swisher said.

Once again, runners will enter the campus from U.S. 1, just after the 10-mile mark, travel behind the hospital, and exit onto Cowan Boulevard. That means they’ll again have to tackle Hospital Hill, the mile-long climb adjacent to the emergency department.

Two entrances will be open at the hospital, but only one exit will be open.

In its recent newsletter to runners, Marine Corps officials warned them about Hospital Hill, saying, “No two words strike more fear or inspire greater determination in the hearts of Historic Half runners everywhere.”

Runners will be separated from vehicles while on campus. The entrances at Cowan Boulevard and U.S. 1 will be open, but traffic will not be able to exit at Cowan Boulevard.  The traffic pattern is the same one in use for several years.

“We feel like it’s a good plan,” Swisher said. “We’ve gotten to be old hat at it.”

One new wrinkle this year is the new connector road between the hospital and Eagle Village. That road will be open as an entrance and an exit during the race.

“We’ll be monitoring usage on the connector,” Swisher said. “We’re thinking of it as an extra relief valve for traffic.”

The hospital has been a part of the half marathon since its start in 2008. Many staff members run in the 13.1-mile race, and others volunteer at the aid stations.

“It creates some challenges for us, but we’ve figured out how to overcome them,” Swisher said. “We like being a part of it.”

(The website for the Historic Half is here. The course map is here. Road closings throughout the city are here. And an essay on climbing the now famous Hospital Hill is here.)