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COVER PHOTO: AL NAVIDI, veteran of 47 marathons, after an easy Saturday morning run. RUNWASHINGTON PHOTO BY MEAGHAN GAY
LETTERS / CONTRIBUTORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OFF THE BEATEN PATH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MILITARY RUNNING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OUR MARATHONERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . IN IT TO TIE IT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . WINTER BLUNDERLAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . SOMETHING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO BOSTON . UPCOMING RACES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MSTFNSH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . FUNDRACERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . THE DOJO OF PAIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ON PAPER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . WHAT IT TAKES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . RUNSPRINGA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HAVE SHOES WILL TRAVEL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . YOU MUST BE THIS OLD TO RUN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . STRAIGHT OUT OF NOVA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . WE’RE MAKING EXCELLENT TIME . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . TED LAST . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CELEBRATE RUNNING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Publisher Kathy Dalby RunWashington Media LLC Editor in Chief Charlie Ban firstname.lastname@example.org Senior Editor Dickson Mercer email@example.com
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CREATIVE / production AZER CREATIVE www.azercreative.com Sales Director Denise Farley firstname.lastname@example.org 703-855-8145 Customer Service email@example.com branding ORANGEHAT LLC The entire contents of RunWashington are copyright ©2014 by RunWashington Media, LLC. All rights reserved, and may not be reproduced in any manner, in whole or in part, without the written permission of the publisher. Unsolicited manuscripts, photographs, results, or other materials are welcome but are not returnable and are preferred via electronic communication to charlie@ runwashington.com. Please inform yourself of applicable copyright and privacy laws before submitting for publication; if we decide to publish your submitted material we conduct no such checks and you alone will ultimately be responsible for any violations of any laws including infringement and copyright. Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the publisher, advertiser, or sponsors. Back issues are available for $5.00 for each copy to cover postage and handling. RunWashington is published six times yearly by RunWashington Media LLC, 4544 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22304. Complimentary copies are mailed to subscribers, area businesses and events. Be advised that running is a strenuous sport and you should seek the guidance of a medical professional before beginning an exercise regimen.
What is a marathon? Webster’s defines it as “a footrace run on an open course usually of 26 miles 385 yards,” but I’ve found it’s much more. Not least of which is frustrating. Anecdotally, they seem to go wrong more than they go right. Personally, my first three included hallucinating from overheating in Chicago then dropping out of Marine Corps three weeks later with a mile to go (see photo above). Severe apathy seized me and convinced me I’d get a ride back in a golf cart from a medical crew (I didn’t). It wasn’t until my fourth, and impulsive, marathon, dubbed “Operation Wild Pitch” for my grip-it-and-rip-it approach to race planning, that I both ran well and enjoyed the experience. With no pressure and no buildup, there was no difference from a typical long run; it would just last a little longer. In fact, I am not sure when I want to reopen my relationship with the distance, for fear of tarnishing its legacy for me. But taking that chance is what makes success that much sweeter. Ashley Vaughan, who has run marathons with her friend Alana Miller (page 14) appreciates the unknown that comes with pushing your body for so long. “What attracted me to the marathon initially was not knowing if I could do it,” she said. “I don’t think we have many things in life that we start out at the beginning and not know if we can finish.” While researching for this issue, I scoured the 2013 U.S. marathons looking for locals. What a thrill to look at the Rockin’ K Trail Marathon in Kansas and find Jessica Donnelly from Hyattsville in the results. I didn’t even know where Andover, Kansas, was! It was a thrilling search, like a 625-piece puzzle. Some races and timing systems, particularly in the Midwest, didn’t track the residences of their runners. So I know I missed some numbers and potential stories. But, I came out of it with a better understanding of our national marathon anatomy and what is out there. I ruminated on the nature of the event. I thought about the five-day marathon series, which typically have repeated one-to-two–mile loops, a blessing if you’re coming from an indoor marathon on a 200-meter indoor track (which, in fairness to the event, is air conditioned). While most people focus their training for months on one event, I met people aiming to hit 50 states and throw a few curveballs along the way, like Glen Marumoto from Hawaii, who was in the area for the Queen City Marathon on a Saturday and hopped in the Runner’s Marathon of Reston the next day to knock out another state while he was in the neighborhood. We have all kinds of marathoners here: the blazingly fast Olympic Trials qualifiers (page 46) and leaders who break the tape (page 59), runners who close the race down (page 62), some who put themselves through 26.2 miles purely to help others know how fast they should be going to run a certain time (page 60). They come in all ages (page 56) They hit speedbumps on the way to their races (page 22), train while raising money for causes that are important to them (page 35). Then they enjoy themselves when their work is done (page 51). If you have fall marathon plans, I hope they go smoothly. If you don’t care for the marathon, I hope you still find something to appreciate in these stories! See you out there, Charlie
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FEEL WHAT CRAZY IS ALL ABOUT. LETTERS
Falls Road Running Store
Fleet Feet Gaithersburg
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Thank you for the “best of” issue! It is now my goal to run every race highlighted in this issue either this year or next! I have the Marine Corps Marathon in October so that will kick things off! Thanks for the inspiration and motivation!
Hudson Trail Outﬁtters hudsontrail.com
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Christine Cassar Gainesville, Va. You’re welcome! Thanks again to everyone who nominated and voted in the Best of Washington Running 2014. Check out our website www.runwashington.com for the full listing of nominees.
Hi there Charlie, I just picked up your magazine for the first time as I was excited to see the “best of” information. I don’t always read the editor’s note but decided to since I am new to this magazine. I was a bit perplexed by the mistakes and lack of attention to detail in making sure your sentences were all complete. Hopefully the magazine was just having a bad day. :) Anyway, I look forward to checking out the trails and such but wanted to share my observations in case you hadn’t come across them yet. Thanks, Michele Harcarik Vienna, Va. You were perplexed, but I was embarrassed. In the rush to move onto something else before printing, I didn’t catch that we used an old version. You won’t see anything like that again.
Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, so we know how we’re doing!
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Natalie DiBlasio is a breaking news reporter for USA Today. She’s been running since her first track practice in second grade and just completed her second marathon in up in Burlington, Vt., her college town. When she’s not running, she’s blogging at RunnersBreakfast.com David Pittman recently began writing for Politico’s Pro eHealth publication. If you like the photographs in RunWashington, consider hiring one of our photographers. Sara Alepin (MSTFNSH, Something Happened on the Way to Boston, Have Shoes, Will Travel, Ted Last) teaches at the Washington School of Photography, in addition to her work as an audio-visual technician at the Philips Collection and her own photography business, Photos from the Harty. www.photosfromtheharty.com. Vladimir Bukalo (On Paper) specializes in and portraits, editorial, sport, adventure and corporate event photography. www.photobukalo.com. Bruce Buckley (Fundracers, Upcoming Races) shoots portraits and sports photography with Swim Bike Run Photography. www.brucebuckleyphotography.com. Meaghan Gay/Swim Bike Run Photography (Cover) is the studio manager for Swim Bike Run Photography. www.swimbikerunphoto.com. Dustin Whitlow/D. Whit Photography (Dojo of Pain) Specializes in sports, concert and wedding photography. www.dwhitphoto.com. Contributor Marathon Tally Charlie Ban 3, Jamie Corey 8, Natalie DiBlasio 2, Jim Hage 75+, Dickson Mercer 11, Dustin Whitlow 4
CORRECTIONS On page 30, the Best Group Run listed Pacers as the winner, the winner was specifically Pacers Logan Circle. On page 33, Rebecca Fritchman’s name was cut off and appeared as Rebecca Fritchma On page 36, the runners up were not listed. They were “New Year’s Day 5k” and “Love the Run You’re With 5k” On page 48, Makenzie Mazin was incorrectly referred to as Makenzie Martin.
IT’S A CRAZY LOOKING RUNNING SHOE BUT IT’S CRAZY FOR A REASON BECAUSE CRAZY ISN’T CRAZY CRAZY IS SMART CRAZY CAN’T GET ENOUGH CRAZY IS CHANGING THE GAME CRAZY IS CONTAGIOUS CRAZY NEVER QUITS CRAZY LIVES THE DREAM
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6/3/14 7:11 AM
Fort Dupont Park during the D.C. State High School Cross Country Championships. Photo by Roger Colaizzi
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By David Pittman Consider Fort Dupont Park D.C.’s neglected running spot. While dozens, if not hundreds, of runners dart up and down the National Mall, Rock Creek Park or the Capital Crescent Trail every day, Fort Dupont Park is the all-toooften-forgotten-about enclave of nature in Southeast D.C. It is 400 acres of National Park Service land lined with quiet roads, running trails, and, yes, bathrooms and water fountains. Yet on a spring Saturday morning — with nearly perfect running conditions of mid 60-degree weather and little humidity — there was not a running soul seen through the park. That changes in the fall, when it plays host to D.C.’s championship cross country meets. Granted, the neighborhoods surrounding the park don’t have the best reputations in and around the city, but Fort Dupont has plenty to offer runners from across Washington. The park is named after an old Civil War fort that protected the vulnerable watershed of the Anacostia River from Confederate attacks. In fact, former fortifications and earthworks remain today near the picnic area off Alabama Avenue. While barracks and guns eventually gave way to what is today’s park, runaway slaves also found shelter here, too, according to the National Park Service. Visitors can find 10 miles of trails including the seven-mile Hiker/Biker Trail that runs from Fort Mahan just north of East Capitol Street to Fort Stanton off of Branch Avenue. The trail connects six former Civil War fortifications and runners can stop for some of the few
water fountains or restrooms that dot the trail when nature calls. The most runner-friendly aspect of the park might be the tall pine trees and heavy foliage that are ubiquitous and provide constant shade. There’s no need to worry about the sun beating down on you during the dog days of summer. The Hiker/Biker Trail is mostly gravel with solid footing and wide enough for two sideby-side runners. Don’t come looking for a flat terrain. Expect mostly rolling hills with a few steep inclines. The trailhead is accessible from either the Minnesota Avenue or Benning Road Metro stations. There is limited parking within Fort Dupont if driving from Pennsylvania Avenue from the other side of the Anacostia River or I-295 from the south. But like this writer, plenty of major roads nearby are bike-friendly enough to make it on two wheels. It’s open from dawn until dusk. Fort Dupont contains several paved roads that wind their way throughout the park. And like Rock Creek Park and its popular Beach Drive, the National Park Service closes gates from nearby roadways on the weekends and holidays, creating a safe and quiet network of roads and trails for runners. The park offers plenty besides a runner’s haven. Summer concerts are popular in its amphitheater. It has recreational fields, tennis courts, a basketball court and a baseball diamond. But its runner-friendly hiking and running trails and roads make it an ideal location for runners from D.C.’s east side and throughout the city to log their miles. JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 7
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Deployment means dramatic changes, not least of all an interruption of a service member’s running routine. Shadow runs, often held in conjunction with races in the United States, provide some kinship with runners at home. And even though the races are often held in the same place runners normally log their miles, the events give a much-needed morale boost. Camp Phoenix, an Army installation in Kabul, Afghanistan, has held many shadow runs and other races since its first in 2007. Conditions at Camp Phoenix can be challenging for runners, with 6,000-foot elevation, uneven gravel roads, dust and pollution. The Capitol HIll Classic 10k held a shadow run there in May, with a total of 99 runners, 43 walkers and two bomb-sniffing dogs. “One of the benefits of living in an area of less than one square mile is that you know the course really well,” said Air Force Lt. Colonel Jesse Arnstein, a New Jersey National Guardsman stationed at Camp Phoenix, who ran the Capitol Hill Classic shadow run. He serves as the public affairs officer for the 435th Combined Joint Interagency Task Force (detainee operations).Despite going out too hard, in what he described as “just a fair race,” Arnstein finished third. Army Sgt. Wade Coleman is deployed to Camp Phoenix as a paralegal noncommissioned officer. A serious runner back home, he runs to stay connected with fellow runners while also benefiting from the physical and mental boost that running provides. Deployment scuttled his Boston Marathon plans. Instead, he finished first overall in the Capitol Hill Classic run. He plans to try and qualify for Boston again when he gets home. Army Staff Sgt. Julia Mendez was the top female in the Capitol Hill Classic shadow run. Mendez is on her fourth deployment and serves as a movement control noncommissioned officer. She ran a number of races while deployed to Kuwait and Iraq, and plans to compete in a triathlon on Kiawah Island, S.C. once she returns home. Though she is used to the conditions at Camp Phoenix, “Running on the rocks is challenging,” she said. “If you wear lighter shoes, your feet feel like meat after.” Coleman, her training partner, helps motivate her. “He is always pushing me to run faster,
pick up the pace, open my stride,” she said. This type of teamwork exemplifies the military and what helps many service men and women deal with the challenges of deployment. “The soldiers stationed at Camp Phoenix are far from home and family,” said Jason Levine, race director for D.C.’s Capitol Hill Classic. “Our hope is that, just as the classic brings together the entire Hill community for a morning, perhaps a shadow classic at Camp Phoenix can do the same there and let them know that we’re appreciative of the hard work they’re doing.” Two days after the Capitol Hill Classic shadow run, a shadow run for the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon was held at Camp Phoenix in conjunction with the race held that same day in Fredericksburg. Army Capt. Aurlbrio Fennell, of Charlotte, N.C., finished first overall in 1:31:54. A track and cross country runner at East Carolina University, Fennell currently serves as the aide-de-camp to the Commanding General, 435th Combined Joint Interagency Task Force (detainee operations) at Camp Phoenix. Fennell considers himself a “pseudo athlete” when it comes to running. “It’s just something I like to do in my spare time, to ease my mind,” he said. Capt. Fennell plans to run his fifth Army Ten-Miler this year after returning home from deployment. Army Capt. Janaire Brown, who serves in the 48th Brigade Combat Team, finished first in the half (2:09:50) among women. She also finished third female overall in the Capitol Hill Classic shadow run. Brown plans to do another half, mostly likely the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half in Savannah, Ga., when she returns from deployment. “And if I feel bold enough, I’ll step it up to a full marathon,” she said. Brown also runs the Peachtree 10k with her dad and husband every July when she is at home in Georgia. Navy Lt. Cmdr. David Platz, who serves as the executive officer of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion, finished second overall in both shadow races, running the half in 1:32:40. Also running the Marine Corps Historic Half Shadow Run, Army Lt. Aaron Dermon was happy to have finished his first half marathon. “Since this race is twice as long as I’ve ever run, my goal was just to have a heartbeat at the end,” he said. Knowing that his wife was running the same race back home
By Erin Masterson
JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 9
in Fredericksburg was additional incentive to finish. “I definitely couldn’t quit, no question about that,” he said. Running the race was also a way to show solidarity for his wife, who currently works as a civilian staffer for the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment in Quantico. “Obviously, I’m a soldier, and she’s a soldier’s wife working for Marines, so this is a great opportunity for me to kind of represent what she’s doing over there as well,” he said. “To do the same event, on the same day, while being a world apart…In a few more months we’ll be back together, and this will help us get there a bit quicker.” Camp Phoenix has a long history of supporting races on base. In 2007, Army Lt. Col. Shane Elkins, of Alexandria, was deployed to Camp Phoenix. He noticed that a
number of soldiers in his unit were struggling with motivation and low performance on their physical fitness tests. Elkins, a member of the Northern Virginia Running Club (NOVA) in Alexandria, recruited NOVA Coach Jerry Alexander to develop workouts and a training plan for his unit. They decided to train for a full marathon and run the race on base at Camp Phoenix. “At the time I was working with the Camp Phoenix runners, the war in Afghanistan was not getting a lot of attention in the United States,” Alexander said. “It was a major boost for the morale of the runners to know that someone cared about what they were doing.” A total of 10 participants completed that marathon, held on Aug. 31, 2007. Maj. Jim Seeley won the race in 4:01:36. Running at Camp Phoenix is not for
Marine Corps Historic Half Shadow Run Top Male Finishers 1 Captain Aurlbrio Fennell- 1:31:54 2 Lieutenant Commander David Platz - 1:32:40 3 Joel Morton- 1:37:33 Top Female Finishers 1 Captain Janaire Brown- 2:09:50 2 Sarah Haas- 2:23:00 3 Cheyenne Stokes- 2:25:15 Capitol Hill Classic 10K Shadow Run 10K Run Male 1 Sergeant Wade Coleman (United States Army) 2 Lieutenant Commander Dave Platz (United States Navy) 3 Lieutenant Colonel Jesse Arnstein (United States Air Force) 10K Run Female 1 Staff Sergeant Julia Mendez (United States Army) 2 Specialist Alexis Hernandez (United States Army) 3 Captain Janaire Brown (United States Army)
Photo courtesy of Mike Thompson
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the faint of heart. Said Elkins of his time training on base, “The track at Camp Phoenix is about 815 meters long. There’s a mark at approximately 400 meters and the start and finish for one mile and two miles but that’s it.” The team was once forced to skip a training day because insurgents bombed the embassy convoy down the street. Camp Phoenix also held the Some Gave All 5k shadow run May 10. The race is held in honor of Maj. Kevin Michael Jenrette of the Georgia National Guard, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Jenrette died on June 4, 2009 near Kapisa, Afghanistan of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. Jenrette’s wife Shannon started the Some Gave All Committee to honor her husband’s legacy, and has held a 5k race
every year since his death in their town of Lula, Ga. on the second Saturday of May. This date commemorates when Maj. Jenrette graduated from Ranger School in May 1996. Army National Guard Captain Abby Walker, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, used to work with Maj. Jenrette. When Capt. Walker realized that her deployment to Camp Phoenix would prevent her from running the race in Georgia this year, she asked Shannon if they could hold a shadow race. “This is a way for us to keep his memory alive and tell the soldiers here what type of person Major J was, and why he was important to us,” she said. “It’s a way for us to tell his wife that we won’t ever forget him.” Thanks to Army Capt. Mike Thompson and Raul Valmeo at Camp Phoenix for their assistance with this story.
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BALTIMORE MARATHON BALTIMORE
B&A TRAIL MARATHON SEVERNA PARK
NORTH FACE ENDURANCE CHALLENGE
GEORGE WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY MARATHON POTOMAC RIVER RUN MARATHON-MAY POTOMAC RIVER RUN MARATHON-NOV RUNNER’S MARATHON OF RESTON ABEBE BIKILA DAY INTERNATIONAL PEACE MARATHON C&O CANAL TOWPATH MARATHON WASHINGTON DC MARINE CORPS MARATHON GRANT-PIERCE INDOOR MARATHON ARLINGTON CROSS COUNTY TRAIL MARATHON
In 2013, D.C.-area marathon runners accounted for: More than 15,939 finishes in 300 domestic marathons. More than $1.7 million in race entry fees, by a conservative estimate. D.C. has 3,738 finishes, Maryland had 3,458 and Virginia had 8,743. Outside of D.C., Arlington was the mostrepresented hometown, with 2,182 finishes. Silver Spring led Maryland localities with 579 finishes. 49.6% of domestic marathons featured at least one D.C.-area finisher. The 50 most popular marathons for D.C.-area runners accounted for 92% of finishers. 68 races had just one local finisher. Statistics were compiled primarily based on results available via Marathon Guide, with more detailed information coming from individual race result websites and assistance from the Richmond Sports Backers and the New York Road Runners. Of the 625 domestic marathons listed on Marathon Guide, 160 did not list residency information. Of those, 15 featured at least one D.C.-area runner, possibly more. 12 | RUNWASHINGTON | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | JULY AUGUST 2014
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL USA
BY CHARLIE BAN
Marine Corps Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Baltimore Potomac River Run- May North Face Endurance Challenge Runner’s Marathon of Reston Potomac River Run- November George Washington’s Birthday Lower Potomac River Abebe Bikila International Peace B&A Trail Grant-Pierce Indoor
MORE THAN 50 LOCAL FINISHERS
2-49 LOCAL FINISHERS
ONE LOCAL FINISHER
Richmond Walt Disney World Philadelphia New York City Boston Chicago Shamrock Pittsburgh Steamtown (Pa.) Wineglass (N.Y.) Freedom’s Run (W.V./Md.) Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Gettysburg OBX Twin Cities Air Force (Ohio) Flying Pig (Ohio) Charlottesville Country Music (Tenn.) Miami San Francisco Grandma’s (Minn.)
6,638 1,627 524 138 110 110 101 70 42 40 24 12
23,513 3,552 3,093 312 222 163 210 198 173 86 181 51
828 540 538 515 468 378 302 142 96 92 77 74 72 70 70 69 65 64 63 60 53 51
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Alana Miller and Ashley Vaughan finish the Napa Valley Marathon. Photo by MarathonFoto
by Charlie Ban
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Late into the Napa Valley Marathon, Alana Miller was hurting. She typically starts out strong, but fades after 15 miles. Beside her, Ashley Vaughan delivered a steady stream of consciousness that kept her friend focused on the miles ahead. “She came up with these ridiculous stories to tell me,” Miller said, “as if I don’t know everything about every moment of her life already.” Those coworkers, friends and now marathon partners got to that finish line. “I heard someone say that distance running is a truth serum, I think that’s right,” Vaughan, of Falls Church, said. “Over the course of dozens of miles together, you share things you didn’t think you’d share with anyone.” Putting themselves through a marathon together has worked for more than a handful of runners and added a layer to their friendships and relationships. It has for Carl and Edie Belso. The Centreville residents have paired up to run 26 marathons together, side by side. Usually Edie learns more about Carl, more than she probably wants to know. “I just babble a lot,” he said. “I have a little more lung capacity, so I go until she tells me to stop.” “He doesn’t know when to shut up!” Edie said with a chuckle. “I just usually talk about work — I’m an IT geek — so the conversation is less than entertaining,” he added. That hasn’t stopped them, as they work their way through all 50 states. They’ll run at least one in each state together, though sometimes, usually at Marine Corps, Carl lets loose and runs ahead. It’s a commitment, one that may involve holding back for a partner having a bad race or throwing every conversation topic in the book out there to maintain contact with reality as the race takes its toll. “They’re much more enjoyable when we run them together, at least for me,” Carl said. Edie agreed, though she admitted it wasn’t always fun and smiles. “We barely talked during Rhode Island,” Edie said about the couple’s October 2013 race at the Newport Marathon. That distinction is important, because Newport was their fourth marathon in nine days, following the New Hampshire, Maine and Hartford. “It was a long nine days, and we were so happy to be done. You know that feeling you get when you just want to cry at the end of your first marathon? That’s how we felt finishing number four.” “It was absolute sheer misery and pain,” Carl said. It’s safe to assume they’re Marathon Maniacs, a fraternity of runners who hit multiple marathons in short stretches of time. Years ago they were out of shape, and Edie started running more seriously until Carl
realized, while cheering at one of her races, that he could run, too. It took some work for him to get up to speed. “I used to end every marathon puking and needing an IV,” he said. Edie would comfort him. “I’d sit there and hold his hand,” she said, “while drinking a beer.” But it’s not all about the race, just like how a race doesn’t overshadow the work it took to get there. “It’s just great,” Edie Belso said. “We travel together, spend time with each other. It’s going on an adventure with somebody. Sometimes we discuss problems and stuff, but when you’re running, it’s hard to stay mad and those issues don’t seem so bad.” Carl summed it up, “the running sucks more than the problems do.”
Milestones all Around Last fall, Dan and Mike McDonnell ran the Jackson Hole Marathon with their mother, Pat. Dan, of Oak Hill, had run his first marathon at his mom’s suggestion — Steamtown — back in 1997. In 2013, Reston-resident Pat was closing in on her 50th state in Wyoming and Dan decided to run it with her. Younger brother Mike, who lives in D.C., came along to do his first marathon. “We had a blast,” Dan said. “Mom and I knew it wasn’t going to be like any marathon we had done before.” Mom loved it. “They were doing cartwheels along the course, and just having a great time,” she said. “It was at elevation and we didn’t have time to acclimate, so we just ran together and enjoyed it. They were pricing farms and discussing what they’d trade to get cattle. They just kept encouraging me; they kept me entertained. We didn’t have any bears or moose chasing us, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to them.” Dan: “Spectators were handing out beer, so we were drinking beer along the way. We were taking it all in for mom.” The running bug is hereditary. The trio packed up with Dan’s 12-year-old son, Gavin, to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon in March 2014. Now, Pat is eyeing the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon. “Running has been such a big part of my life,” Pat said. “It was special to have them with me when I finished number 50, just like it was special to be there for Gavin’s first big race.”
Last Chance to Bail Out Marathons have also been testing grounds for developing relationships. Matt McCoy started dating a runner, Maura, and slowly her pastime drew him in as their relationship developed. He found himself JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 15
running halves and aspiring to the marathon. A month before their wedding, they ran the Triple Lakes Trail Marathon in North Carolina, a bold move, considering their lack of trail running experience. Though the humid conditions made them focus more on finishing than running fast, they managed to endure and come out the other side ready to tackle marriage, though his finish was not a prerequisite. “I never doubted that we’d be able to get through it,” Maura said. “I just didn’t know how long it would take. It was muggier than we expected in October.” The couple is in grad school and, with limited time off, they aimed to find a race within driving distance from their home in D.C. “There were different parts when one of us was doing better than the other, so we just had to lend that support and now our turn would come when we needed help,” Matt said. They weren’t as chatty as the Belsos. Matt’s ipod died in the middle of the race in the middle of a Car Talk podcast, but he found himself enjoying the sounds of his fiancee’s footsteps. She stuck to her own ipod.
A Little Help? Lark Dunham, formerly of Bethesda and now of Boulder, ran the St. George Marathon in Utah in hopes of pacing her friend, Anny Rosenthal, then and now a Bethesdan, to a sub-4. Their strategy was non-negotiable — avoid going out too hard at the beginning of a drastically downhill race and keep pushing when the course’s punishment caught up to Anny. “She’s gone out too fast in the beginning, so my main goal was to keep her in check,” Dunham said. Dunham kept a steady stream of encouraging words flowing throughout the race, peppered with reminders of how they would attack the course. “After a while, we talked to cut through the delirium,” Dunham said. “As we got to
the end, I started to make a fool of myself, jumping around and yelling ‘you can do this.’” Though Rosenthal fell short of her goal, she set a seven-minute PR. “I’m proud of her,” Dunham said. “Toward the latter parts of the race, the course flattens out and your quads are beaten up from going downhill, but she never gave up. She pushed the whole way.”
Chatty Pals Since early on in their tenures at the Government Accountability Office, Vaughan and Miller were lunchtime running partners. When Vaughan was in a boot, recovering from a stress fracture in her ankle, she felt the itch to run a marathon. She found her mark, or, rather, partner, in Miller. “She was limping around in a boot, I couldn’t say no,” Miller said. “A marathon was the last thing I wanted to do — I like my knees.” But they found that though running was tough on the body, it was good for the soul, Miller added. They first traveled to the Memphis Marathon in 2011, but Vaughan moved ahead in the second half of the race when Miller’s friends showed up. They tried another trip to Napa in 2013 and planned to stay together the whole time. “We spent the first seven miles talking about what we’re grateful for,” Miller said. “That got us started on a good note.” Vaughan said that discussion was representative of the insight the pair gets from each other on their runs. “We come from very different religious backgrounds, but over the course of our runs we found a lot of common ground in our spirituality,” she said.
A Last Bit of Normalcy Caroline Krewson was listening to a walkman radio while she and her partner, Amy Dunning, ran the Chicago Marathon. It was Oct. 7, 2001, three weeks after 9/11. The news of Operation Enduring Freedom
All I want to know — will you come with me? It sounds simple — run 26 miles together — but it’s not. Some of our runners share their secrets to success running as a team: “Have shared expectations for race day.” - Ashley Vaughan. Know if you are both in it for the long haul, when the wall has been hit, the pace slows and discomfort creeps in. “Know when to stop talking.” – Carl Belso “If you’re helping someone to a goal, know where they’ve had trouble before and help prepare them. Was it hydration, motivation, going out too fast?” –Lark Dunham. If you’re helping a less-experienced runner, bring some expertise, and clarity of thought, to the race for feedback and reinforcement.
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in Afghanistan came over the radio into Krewson’s ears. Dunning heard people ahead of her talking about it. “There were people waving American flags the entire 26.2 mile course and I felt like I was running in a parade,” Krewson said. “It was overwhelming patriotism.” As they closed in on the last miles, they knew their lives would be changing. Both were reservists, Krewson with the Marine Corps, Dunning with the Air Force, and they would be deployed soon. Before they crossed an ocean, they had to finish their trip through Chicago. It was Krewson’s first marathon, and Dunning had been her running guru, thanks to her six marathons of experience. Krewson started off biking along while Dunning ran, then started running, working her way up the distances until Chicago. Dunning held back in the race for Krewson, but with less than a quarter-mile to go, she took off sprinting. “Even though I had never run more than 17 miles before Chicago, I felt like the crowd kept propelling me forward. I never stopped running the entire marathon except for one brief restroom visit,” she said. “We ran the whole marathon together except for the final tenth of a mile… It is the only marathon we have run where I finished first. Amy helped me the whole way. She taught me so much for my first marathon that when it came time for the race, it went very smoothly.” The couple now lives in Alexandria, and trains together. “It’s quality time,” Dunning said. “We both have busy professional lives, so being able to spend time together outdoors, which we love, is important.” They do take some time apart for themselves. “We start off running races together, and then I go ahead,” Dunning said. “It works well that way.” Like at last year’s Munich Marthon. Dunning ran ahead after 10 miles, but when Krewson crossed the finish line, her partner was there waiting with a cold bottle of chocolate milk. After all, you don’t have to run the whole race together.
Carl and Edie Belso running the Hartford Marathon. Photo by Capstone Photography
JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 17
BY JAMIE COREY
PHOTOS BY BEN RICHTER
JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 19
Though it’s hard to believe in the dead of summer — with scorching temperatures and an irritable amount of humidity — anyone could have complained about temperatures cooler than these. It happened just a few months ago. The polar vortex and a spate of snowfalls cancelled races, put the fear of wind in many runners and forced many marriages of convenience to treadmills all over. But despite the harsh winter, Washington-area marathoners were resilient. Thousands still lined up for their spring races, like the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon or the Shamrock Marathon, fully prepared — long runs accounted for and muscles prepped. “I didn’t skip anything,” said Centreville’s Gina Hamilton who trained for her first marathon — Shamrock — in Virginia Beach. “I was absolutely driven to get it done.” She didn’t plan on training through the winter until her daughter’s gymnastics schedule forced her to defer her original plans to run Richmond. But when she made her contingency plans, she actually thought a spring marathon would have its benefits. “I thought…the weather will be cooler,” Hamilton said. “But oh my gosh, I had no idea what I was in for. I knew it could be cold here, but this was insane. I found myself coming home from work in the afternoon and driving by all my running routes. I’d think, ‘Is there still snow there? Is there still ice there? Is that going to be gone by the morning? Is it going to rain? Is it going to snow?’ I turned into a psycho person.” Despite suffering with Raynaud’s disease, with symptoms including numb limbs in the cold, Hamilton powered through her entire training plan — brutal windchill and frozen temperatures and all. “The shorter runs, you sort of suck it up and deal with it,” Hamilton said. “But there were a couple of times there was snow or ice that I just stood at the door kind of crying, ‘I can’t believe I have to go out there again.’” Even up until marathon day, the temperatures didn’t let off for Hamilton. “The weather was calling for high winds and rain,” Hamilton said. “I thought, ‘come the heck on!’” “Come the heck on” seemed to be the consensus throughout the greater Washington-area running community this winter. And for good reason. According to ABC7’s meteorologist (and avid runner) Alex Liggitt, D.C. received 32 inches of snow between January and April — the fourth highest snowfall the District has 20 | RUNWASHINGTON | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | JULY AUGUST 2014
received in the past 30 years. “Nine out of the past 10 winters have seen less than 13.6 inches of snow, besides the record 56.1-inch year (in 2009),” Liggitt said. “[We] had about seven bouts of snow. They have been more persistent, along with much colder air.” With record snow and ice covering the running trails, several races were postponed or cancelled, including George Washington’s Birthday Marathon, which was scheduled for Feb. 16. “We were watching the weather daily once Marathon Sunday crept into the ten-day forecast,” race director Ben Richter said. “We knew well in advance that we’d have to make a go/no-go decision. Things were looking pretty bleak late Thursday afternoon, which was pretty much the last chance to notify our suppliers of a cancellation without paying penalties.” Richter was beginning to receive emails from worried out-of-town runners who had to commit to travel plans and reservations. “With snow on the ground and several nights of hard freezes forecast, the responsible course of action was clearly to cancel the race,” he said. And Richter said runners were “unanimously supportive” of the decision. “We had to go up to Greenbelt on Sunday anyway to retrieve signs from the residential areas through which the course runs,” Richter said. “This gave us an opportunity to take pictures of actual course conditions. We posted them on Facebook for all to see.” With snow on the trails, ice on the sidewalks and paths and low windchills, many runners resorted to the treadmill for long runs. “Cold is pretty easy to deal with but once it got icy and snowy, that’s when I had to get my run done indoors,” said Dawn Hong, who was training for the Pittsburgh Marathon. Despite multiple attempts to try to push her long run off during one harsh winter week, Hong had to complete 15 miles on the treadmill. “It was very painful,” Hong said. “But it helped I had an iPad and was able to watch two movies. When I was done with that I watched a few TV episodes. But it was a really long time to be running on a treadmill. When I finally stopped, I was staggering. I could barely walk.” Keith Freeburn of Centreville said he, too, relied quite a bit on the treadmill this winter. “In the summertime and spring, I very rarely ever use it,” Freeburn said. “If I ever did a run on a treadmill, it would only be about five to seven miles. I can’t even count how many 10-mile runs I did on the treadmill just
to keep my mileage up this winter. It really takes it out of you. But it was the only way of getting mileage in. I had one 77-mile week and 60 of the miles were done on a treadmill.” The record snowfalls not only made for a logistical nightmare in terms of where to run, but also when to run. Freeburn said his two kids had more than two weeks off due to snow days. He and his wife, also a runner, had to plan accordingly. Along with the treadmill, many runners found another way to get their mileage: running groups. Hong said training with the Capital Area Runners helped motivate her to get her long runs done. “I knew that if I wasn’t there by 8 a.m., the group was going to leave anyway and I’d have to do a long run all by myself,” she said. “I’d much rather have people to run with. So that was my motivation to get myself out of bed and get out there.” Alexandra Goldstraw of Falls Church also looked to running groups this winter to get her out the door. “I really got through the winter because I had training buddies,” said Goldstraw, who trained for the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon with a local chapter of Moms RUN this Town, said. “I had people to do long runs with me, and people as stupid as me to run in those temperatures.” The winter not only marked Goldstraw’s first time training for a marathon, but also marked her first time training for anything. “I never stepped outside the door to run in my life — ever,” Goldstraw said. The winter didn’t help her get off to a great start with the sport: a heel injury (from walking in the wrong snow boots), an ankle injury (from slipping on ice during a run) and an asthma attack (thanks to the cold). Despite her training roller coaster, she never lost sight of her marathon goal and kept pushing through a frigid winter. “My husband told me I’m completely mad, but I’m determined,” she said. “When I decide to do something, I do it. But I did fight. I remember running 17 miles outside on a day with sleet and freezing rain. I just did it. It was pure determination.” And there’s always a silver lining—even in the worst of situations. “It was actually the freezing cold weather that made me realize how important and essential yoga is,” Goldstraw said. “I picked up yoga in January because I was concerned about the impact of cold weather on my muscles. I don’t think I could [go without it] now. It’s part of my routine.” JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 21
by Jacq u eli ne Klimas
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Phoebe Markle ended up sidelined weeks before the Boston Marathon. RUNWASHINGTON PHOTO BY SARA ALEPIN
Some Boston Marathon hopefuls had to deal with heartbreak long before they reached the eponymous hill in Newton. While Boston always carries a special significance, runners this year were even more determined to prove the running community’s resilience after two bombs went off at the finish line in 2013. Some, however, were sidelined by injury after months of training and anticipation for what they expected to be one of the most emotional and memorable marathons of their lifetime. “It wasn’t until I signed up and was registered that I started to really feel the impact of how special an opportunity it would be to run this year with everything that has happened and just how emotional and special it’d be this year,” said Phoebe Markle, an Alexandrian who was set for her first Boston. “To be a part of that, I don’t take that for granted.” She made it through 13 weeks of training when she ran a 22-mile long run a little too fast and felt some pain in her calf. She tried to push through, not wanting to miss out on training so close to the race. But eventually, she had to confront the reality that she may not be able to run. She went to the doctor and the problem was diagnosed as a strained calf. Whether she would run was up in the air until just a few days before the race, when her physical therapist told her not to run, worried it could be a stress fracture. Discouraged, she felt like all the hours and miles logged were for nothing. “That was my priority, training through the winter. I got in every workout through the polar vortex, in the ice, wind, snow,” she said. She has already qualified for the 2015 Boston Marathon and said she will try again then and “train smarter.” With plans to drive to Massachusetts with her boyfriend and stay with friends, Markle was, financially, just out her entry fee. Others weren’t so lucky and had far less flexible travel plans. When Emory Ford of Kensington got hurt about a month before the marathon, he forfeited his entry fee and the cost of his travel plans and hotel for the weekend. “It was an expensive choice to not run and to cancel my plans,” he said. Ford was skiing with his son in West Virginia when he landed wrong and injured his back. “Something I probably shouldn’t have done — a ski jump,” he said. “I landed on my back. I’ve been having issues with my sciatic nerve, it’s hard to stand up and sit down and it causes my calf muscles to tense on the left side.” He wasn’t able to run at all with the injury and realized he would not be able to do the marathon, though he said he’ll likely try to run it next year. “It’s too bad I couldn’t go this year, though, because I’m sure it’s going to be extra special,” he said. For Mike Gorfinkle, running Boston this year was about finishing what he started in 2013. He ran for a charity in honor of his cousin who died of cancer and was about half a mile from the finish line when the the bombs JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 23
went off. Now an Ellicott City resident, he grew up in Boston watching the race, and was one of 5,000 runners who couldn’t finish last year and was invited back in 2014, but ran into trouble when he strained his Achilles tendon playing with his daughter after a long run. “Any other race, I would just wait for the next one and get better,” he said. “But for this race, I’m not by any means a professional athlete, but it’s like playing in a big game.” His doctor told him that under any other circumstances, he would advise Gorfinkle not to run, but that he understood this was a “once-in-a-lifetime” race. Determined to run the race, Gorfinkle abandoned his subfour hour goal and planned on taking walking breaks every two miles. “I figured I’ll run as far as I can until I can’t anymore, and then I’ll drop off at a medical tent,” he said before the marathon. “Normally when I run races, there’s some competition to it, but for this race, it’s more about being there for the day and celebrating and remembering what happened last year.” Gorfinkle finished the marathon in 5:46. He said it was very difficult to run through his injury and even had to stop at a medical tent along the course to ice his Achilles tendon for about 20 minutes. “But I made it,” he said. Arlington’s Daryle Lademan also managed to cross the finish line in Boston, despite battling injuries for almost three months. In February, she was out of training for about three weeks with shingles, then just a few weeks later, starting having pain in her IT band. Though her coach didn’t approve, she made a last-minute decision to run, “because it was Boston.” While she initially just flew in to pick up her number and maybe run the B.A.A. 5k two days before, she ended up on the bus to the starting line in Hopkinton the morning of the marathon. “I had a $20 bill in my sports bra. I figured, worst case, I pop out at the halfway point and take the T back to Boston,” she said. “I got to the halfway point and (her IT band) was doing alright; it probably was adrenaline. I just sucked it up and went all the way to Boston.” In addition to wanting to participate in this year’s marathon to take back the finish line, Lademan had the added motivation of having to pull out of last year’s marathon two weeks before the race with another injury. “I thought ‘No, damnit, I’m not sitting this one out,’” she said. “I was bound and determined to pull out all the stops to make it happen it year.” She went out without a time goal and ended up finishing in 3:42 – not a personal best time by any means, though it was definitely a personal best race experience. “It was absolutely the hardest race, but also the most life-affirming race I’ve ever run,” she said. “The thought that I might have not run it, or might not have given it a try because I wasn’t well trained, or I wasn’t going to PR, my heart just breaks thinking about that because I would’ve missed out on the best running experience of my life.”
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An Achilles tendon injury put Mike Gorfingle’s Boston plans in doubt, but he forced his way through it. RUNWASHINGTON PHOTO BY BECCA SCHWARTZ
JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 25
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FRIDAY, JULY 11
MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S MILE Rockville, Md.
SATURDAY, JULY 12
LATINAS LEADING TOMORROW 5K Arlington, Va. PET WALK JOG RUN Centreville, Va.
SUNDAY, JULY 13
POTOMAC RIVER RUNNING BIRTHDAY BASH 5K Fairfax, Va. PRINCE GEORGE’S INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL Largo, Md.
MONDAY, JULY 14
BASTILLE DAY FOUR MILER Washington, D.C.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 16 BLUEMONT 5K Arlington, Va. TIDAL BASIN 1500/3K/5K Washington, D.C.
SATURDAY, JULY 19
ROCKVILLE ROTARY TWILIGHT RUNFEST 8K Rockville, Md.
SUNDAY, JULY 20
SWEATFEST “MELT UNDER THE SUN” 5 MILE Lorton, Va.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 23
D.C. ROAD RUNNERS TRACK CHAMPIONSHIP Arlington, Va.
SATURDAY, JULY 26
CRYSTAL CITY TWILIGHTER 5K Arlington, Va. MONROE FAMILY 5K Triangle, Va.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 02 CRIME SOLVERS 5K Fairfax, Va. FRIENDS OF THE W&OD 10K Vienna, Va.
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SUNDAY, AUGUST 03
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MARYLAND TRAIL RUNNING FESTIVAL Germantown, Md. LEESBURG 20K AND 5K Leesburg, Va.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 19 PAUL THURSTON 4.5 MILER Fairfax Station, Va.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20 TIDAL BASIN 1500/3K/5K Washington, D.C.
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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17 THURSDAY, AUGUST 28 ROOSEVELT RUN 5K Arlington, Va.
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FAIRLAND FALL 5K/10K/10 MILE TRAIL RACE Burtonsville, Md.
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NAVY-AIR FORCE HALF MARATHON/ 5 MILER Washington, D.C. PARKS HALF MARATHON Rockville, Md.
JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 29
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6/18/14 10:30 AM
By Dustin Renwick
For most people, running remains a hobby at the end of the practice, the end of the race, the end of the day. Not for David Finland. “Running was a key thing for me,” he said. “I didn’t have anything to do. [Life] was kind of boring.” He’s now completed five marathons, including the ING New York City Marathon and the vaunted Marine Corps Marathon. Finland, of McLean, was four or five when his autism was diagnosed. The family’s doctor prescribed medications, but the drugs caused bouts of Tourette syndrome. “They seemed to undermine his natural body rhythms,” said Glen Finland, David’s mother. The family had also begun reading about research that detailed the positive effects of exercise for autistic children. Glen enrolled her son in soccer because his two older brothers played. The game didn’t stick. “But boy could he run,” Glen said. “A beautiful runner. It surprised us all. We decided to drop the meds he was on.” They called the new regimen “David Unplugged.” At McLean High School, Finland served as a
David Finland, near the Tidal Basin. RunWashington photo by Sara Alepin
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water boy for the football team. The track coach noticed Finland sprinting on and off the field. “The speed he had,” Glen said, “it was a natural grace.” The best medicine At its core, autism is a disease of brain development that also affects motor skills. The American Psychiatric Association released a new edition of its diagnostic manual in 2013 and officially changed the definition and criteria for the condition. Autism disorder spectrum, now referenced as autism spectrum disorder, better encompasses the range of symptoms and severity individuals express. “Autism is not static,” Glen said. “It changes all the time. There’s always some new battle to fight.” Running allowed Finland to become part of the mainstream society at the high school, an immense step for anyone who seeks a niche within the social groups of that formative time period. He competed for the varsity cross country team and ran several distance events for the track team. “It was huge,” Glen said. “This was his first taste of being a regular guy and all the personal freedom that went along with running.” Running didn’t cure everything, though. Kids still noticed some of his muscle ticks. Teammates started calling him Crazy Dave. “That made me sick at heart,” Glen said. “He said the nickname made him cool.” Despite any negative encounters related to the sport, Finland continued to run. He moved on to marathons in the years after his high school running debut. His first event was Marine Corps. “I was really nervous and really not sure if I actually wanted to be there that day,” he said. “It was overwhelming. Mile number eight I started to feel more comfortable, and toward the end I realized, ‘Hey, I really like doing this.’” When he trained for marathons, Finland ran eight to 10 miles in the evenings. “My favorite run is along the Potomac River and running along the National Mall,” he said. He’s planning on running New York this fall, but also wants to continue racing 5ks and 10ks, with a potential half marathon in the mix. He’s cut his training to five- and six-mile runs, plus stair workouts. This type of routine seems commonplace for most active runners in the area, but the sport has created exceptional benefits for Finland. Running is the medication that keeps him at his best. “My whole mind is clear,” he said. “It feels like a brand new start for me. After I’m done, I’m not thinking at all. My head is empty.” That vacancy disappears on days when he can’t work out. “It doesn’t feel good at all,” he said. “I’m a little bit angry. I’m a little bit confused. I’m a little stressed. There’s too much going on in my mind. I can’t concentrate.” And if running were taken from him completely, “that would ruin my life right 32 | RUNWASHINGTON | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | JULY AUGUST 2014
there. I wouldn’t be the same again.” The need to run Physical activity for anyone with a disability can become a challenge, one that negatively affects overall well-being. A February 2014 study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal looked at weight issues and learning disabilities. The study evaluated data from 9,600 people ages 12 to 17, with and without disabilities, from 2008 to 2010. Researchers found that nearly one-third of adolescents with autism qualified as obese. And the problem could escalate. Researchers have not yet been able to explain the rising numbers of autism diagnoses in this country. For instance, the current estimate of autism’s prevalence in the U.S. population is based on 2010 census data for 8-year-old children. Those children are identified under the pre-2013 definition of the disease, when a diagnosis referred to separate conditions such as Asperger syndrome. Although improved detection could contribute to the recent surge, that explanation does not rule out an actual increase in cases. Academic research has shown that kids with ASD typically have fewer options for recreational physical activity, but the
disease doesn’t preclude children from exercise. Underdeveloped social skills can limit participation more than physical impairments. For example, schools often host team-based athletics that rely on social cues and constructs. “That’s the beauty of running,” Susan Pereles said. “You can do it as a solo activity. You can do it as a group.” Pereles is the field development director in the National Capital Area office for Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization that funds research and awareness activities. Researchers have also identified positive attributes of an activity like running, including the fact that the rhythms match repetitive motions sometimes associated with autistic individuals and that the sport remains available to people throughout their lifetimes. Even if an autistic person doesn’t always run with a group, he or she can take part in warm-ups, cool-downs and stretching. “Running with a lot of people doing the same thing I’m doing is kind of a thrill for me,” Finland said. He’s tried a few running groups, but he still prefers to train alone. “I find it easier to run when you’re alone,” he said. “You’re not distracted by who’s
running with you.” Still, he hasn’t abandoned the prospect of having someone to match him stride for stride. “Hopefully one day I‘ll have a running partner,” he said. Until then, what Finland has acquired through running is a concrete sense of selfsufficiency. “You’re the only person you are in charge of. You don’t have anybody to tell you what to do or where to go. You’re running at your own convenience.” That autonomy was something his mother both wanted and feared. “It’s helped me learn to let him go,” Glen said, “to trust him more on his own.” She wrote about that process — including her son’s first solo Metro rides and his pursuit of a driver’s license — in a memoir called Next Stop. “On one hand,” she said, “I’m pushing him to do it. On the other hand, I’m crouching behind saying careful, careful. Parents of special needs kids find it a little more difficult because the stressors, the challenges are different.” Many people contend that the car represents the quintessential American freedoms of movement and expansion. Runners might match their sport with the car. Finland accomplishes a bit of both. His license plate reads MST FNSH.
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Sunday, September 21, 2014
training program: information at fleetfeetgaithersburg.com
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Robert McManmon runs the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon with his wife, Mary. RunWashington photo by Bruce Buckley
By Maggie Lloyd Boston, New York, Marine Corps, Chicago. Getting into one of these marathons is half the battle. Year after year, missed qualifying times and bad luck with lotteries are the source of much heartache for runners. To some, racing on behalf of a charity offers a back door to the starting line when all else fails. But these charity runners will tell you it’s not about the race bib. Melissa Wilf, then of New York and now living in D.C., was willing to limp her way through the 2007 Rock n’ Roll Phoenix Marathon as a member of Team In Training (TNT), raising $6000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She was hoping to qualify for Boston — and her training suggested she would be able to — but a mysterious injury sent a shooting pain through her knee only two miles into the race. “I can’t come home without finishing this race,” she remembered thinking. She was determined to honor her friend with blood cancer and her TNT family. And even though it was a rare 30-degree day in Phoenix and the bands and crowds had left the course in the later stages of the race, Wilf finished with her teammates walking by her side. For Adam Gutbezahl it all began with a finish. After crossing the line at the 2012 Marine Corps 10k, the D.C. resident was about to collapse. But take a look behind him in JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 35
his race photos and you see a racer with a prosthetic leg. “He looks completely fine,” Gutbezahl said. While he didn’t know if his anonymous idol was a veteran, it inspired him. “These people have served our country and have gone through so much and still keep pushing.” His involvement in the Wounded Warrior Project is his way of showing appreciation for service members, and in 2013 he decided to become a 50-state marathoner and raise $50,000 for the charity, which supports injured service members and their families. It’s a long-term goal — he plans on running two to three marathons a year — but one that he said will hold himself accountable for his fundraising efforts. Last April, he knocked one of his first states off his list with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and a new PR of 3:43:43. Severely dehydrated in the final miles, he stopped at a water station, where a volunteer took notice of his Wounded Warrior top. “He told me, ‘Come on, Adam, you’re doing this for an awesome cause. I’m proud of you. Thank you for doing this.’ It was just the thing I needed at the moment,” Gutbezahl said. He raised $1500 for his Oklahoma race, more than his $1000 goal. The support largely came from emails and social media posts that connected him with contacts from college, law school and work. Eyes eastward, Elliot Norman tried to stay injury-free as he prepared for the London Marathon. The former Londoner, now living in Vienna (Virginia, not Austria) was running on behalf of the UK’s World Jewish Relief, which raises funds to reduce worldwide poverty, an opportunity revealed in a chance conversation his mother had. Although thousands of miles separated Norman from his team, he kept in touch through video conferences. He remembers the look the eight novice runners gave him when he listed his five marathon finishes since 2009. With a 3:42 marathon PR, his teammates across the pond sent him emails in the months before the race to ask him questions about training and race-day logistics, which Norman said motivated his training even on the worst days of winter. Though an injury kept him from running to his potential, he raised about $4,600, exceeding his goal by about $1,200. And it gave him a sense of unfinished business that he will take care of next year in England. A little over half of his funds came from UK sponsors. A donation of more than $800 from a whiskey club across the globe fired Norman up enough to head out for a run in below-freezing temperatures. “I need to run because these people clearly
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have some faith in me,” he remembered thinking. “That was a ‘screw the weather’ type day.” On days he didn’t run, Norman shoveled snow. That alone raised a couple hundred dollars. The London marathon claims to be the largest annual fundraising event in the world, with one-third of this year’s 36,000 participants running for a charity. Historically, about one-fifth of Boston marathon participants are charity runners. Meaghan, who asked that her last name not be used, first noticed a lump on her throat in August 2012, which turned out to be stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic and immune systems. She underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy, which meant biweekly IV drips to kill the cancer. She was mentally ready for the fight, but worries lingered. “I could wrap myself around the chemo, but I had a really hard time worrying that I wasn’t going to recognize myself,” she said, adding “I was nervous because I had no idea what my new normal was going to be. “I didn’t want to be ‘Meaghan with cancer,’ I just wanted to be Meaghan!” By 2013, she was a quarter of the way through her chemotherapy and relied on short-term disability leave from work. Her hair began to thin, and it took longer and longer to recover after each treatment. In April, an unexpected package arrived. A young woman named Kristina, who had heard of Meaghan’s battle with cancer through family friends, wrote that Meaghan was her inspiration for running the inaugural Nike Women’s Half Marathon with TNT. Inside the package was a silver necklace in a Tiffany’s box, which Kristina had earned as a finisher. “I wore that necklace every day,” Meaghan said. She also joined TNT and registered for Nike’s 2014 half marathon. “I chose to run because someone somewhere selflessly chose to run for me. The odds of me being here wouldn’t be what they were without people like Kristina whose run for complete strangers to make cures and breakthroughs.” #TeamWorkBitch was born. Meaghan and her friends Kendall Semidey, Cassie Whiteside, Martina Payne, and Jenn Young raised nearly $11,000 for LLS. They relied on emails and social media to spread their message, asked for corporate donations, held happy hours, sold team shirts and used March Madness brackets to raise money. TNT became another family for Meaghan: “They accepted me for who I was,” she said. On the Friday before the race, Meaghan spoke at the VIP fundraising dinner for TNT. She said it was one of the best nights of her life. Though she used to have trouble talking
about her experience with cancer, she then felt entirely comfortable sharing her story with this group of strangers once TNT helped her find her voice. “I’ve always wanted to talk, but I just had to wait until I was ready.” #TeamWorkBitch finished the race together. “Crossing the finish line with my teammates was the best feeling and natural high of my life. I was so proud of myself, not just for completing the race, but for what it symbolized. It was the ending I needed in this chapter of my life.” She calls it her “take that, cancer” moment. Doctors have confirmed that Meaghan is in remission. Body scans since last July repeatedly reassured her that things were okay. Over 100 organizations offer a guaranteed entry into the New York marathon, about 70 for Marine Corps, 30 for Boston and 10 for Chicago. But the world of running isn’t strictly divided into those who run for charity and those who don’t. “Experiencing Boston as a charity runner motivated me to set a goal of qualifying in the next few years,” said Alexandrian Robert McManmon, adding that he’d like to fundraise again, too. He grew up in Newton, Mass., not from the race course. Every third Monday in April, the McManmons would watch runners tackle Heartbreak Hill, and McManmon said he always wanted to run the iconic marathon. In 2012 he did just that while raising about $5,000 for the American Liver Foundation’s Run for Research team, which supports research efforts for the prevention, treatment, and cure of liver disease. He was part of a team of about 150 runners, mostly based in the Boston area, who collectively raised more than a million dollars. Temperatures in Boston that day reached the 90’s, which means charity runners starting at 11 a.m. battled the heat from start to finish. While McManmon said it was a very challenging course, the support from Boston crowds helped him get to the finish. “So many people were out along the course the entire 26 miles and they just wouldn’t let you stop. As you’d start walking they really encouraged you to get going,” he said. About half of his donations came from fundraising events. Wherever he went, McManmon asked businesses if they would support his cause. That scored him a number of prizes, including a luxury wine tasting in Virginia, to raffle off at a happy hour. “I was surprised by the generosity,” he said. Friends of friends arrived at a pub crawl he hosted in Old Town, which turned out to be his most successful event. He said he wanted these get-togethers to be an opportunity to support the American Liver Foundation— the second largest charitable organization
at Boston—and to bring people together to learn more about the organization. As part of the marathon training, one weekend, McManmon went up to Boston to join his team for its first 20-miler along the course. “It was really inspirational to go up there and listen to some people who offered some stories about dealing with and living with liver diseases,” he said. “I also got to meet and run on behalf of a brave child that received a liver transplant at a young age. It really made it a more meaningful experience.” For Max Lubarsky of Arlington, the courage of a young girl has inspired his training since 2011. His sister Nicolet first ran the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon in 2010 because their grandmother was a regular supporter of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which funds the research and treatment of cancer and other life-threatening diseases. When his sister posted a message about her fundraising efforts on social media, she received a message from Leticia Ramirez, whose daughter Arianna was a St. Jude patient in Memphis. The two families became quick friends, forming Team Rae of Hope in honor of Arianna’s middle name, Rae. After Arianna’s brain cancer diagnosis at three, doctors told her family that the prognosis was grim. “Princess Arianna,” as she became known in the halls of her hospital, recovered and relapsed, but kept a positive attitude through it all. “It was really a roller-coaster,” Lubarsky said. Last fall tumors appeared in her scans again, and the disease developed too quickly for her treatments to save her. She passed away before her eighth birthday in March. “One of the things we did on her eighth birthday that I think we’ll continue doing is doing eight random acts of kindness,” Lubarsky said. Whether they left flowers for co-workers or picked up the tab for a stranger’s coffee, Arianna’s friends and family passed on cards with her story as a way to live out her legacy of kindness. They chronicled the project on Twitter with the handle #RaeofHope. A few days later, a barista paid for Arianna’s father’s coffee, not realizing that she was bringing the movement full circle until he explained how much it meant to him. Last year, Team Rae of Sunshine raised close to $20,000 for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This year, Team Rae of Sunshine upped the ante to run the full marathon in Memphis and doubled their fundraising goals, which they hope to meet by selling team shirts, offering tickets to Nationals games, and hosting happy hours. “Really, their family has become our family,” Lubarsky said.
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BY DICKSON MERCER
RUNWASHINGTON PHOTO BY DUSTIN WHITLOW
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Cue an early scene from “Karate Kid.” The kid himself walks into Cobra Kai dojo and discovers that his nemesis is the top student. If that wasn’t intimidating enough, the kid also encounters a meathead instructor, or sensei, as he’s laying out some raw facts. “Pain does not exist in this dojo,” the sensei yells out, “does it!” “No sensei!” And so on. “I thought that was kind of the greatest scene when I was grow up,” said Dan Yi — the same Dan Yi who, at 16, snuck out of his house in Fairfax County one morning to run the Marine Corps Marathon. Yi ran in high school and college, and said he at one point held the Virginia state marathon record for juniors. “I always sort of felt like the two-mile and three-mile were not very well suited to me,” he said. As a law student, Yi worked as a summer associate in Washington, D.C. This firm had a good deal, too. If an attorney took a summer associate to lunch, the firm would pick up the tab. So Yi started doing a lot of lunchtime runs with an attorney named Alan Pemberton, and afterward they would eat a lot of free sandwiches. After law school, Yi moved back to the D.C. area (he now works at the Department of Justice and lives in Alexandria) and resumed training runs with Pemberton. They started running in the early morning, though, to beat the heat, and because it was more convenient. “With jobs as lawyers,” Pemberton, of Silver Spring, said, “it’s so hard to keep up a regular schedule running at lunchtime, because you never know who is going to need you for a meeting or a call. But if you do it in the morning before the business day starts, it’s a lot easier to keep to a good schedule.” “That was the only way I could run,” Yi added. Soon they were joined by other lawyersslash-athletes interested in competitive distance running. Most live in the District. Yi chose a club name: The Dojo of Pain. And as far as the dojo (a Japanese term for martial arts studios that literally means “place of the way”), the runners - mostly lawyers working in D.C. - found Hains Point. Or, as Pemberton referred to it, several miles of “uninterrupted, no cross traffic, good asphalt,” which was good for long tempo runs and interval workouts … and marathon training. “There’s a lot pain in our dojo,” Pemberton said.
Lactate Stackers They met on a Tuesday morning at the entrance to Hains Point, by the holly tree across from the Tidal Basin. It was little more than two weeks after the Boston Marathon, and eight dojo members who ran it were in attendance. So was D.C.’s Rachel Clattenburg, two weeks after running 2:57:58, a 13-minute personal best, to win the New Jersey Marathon. JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 39
Pemberton’s workout - a rust-buster was what he called “lactate stackers”: one minute fast, two minutes of jogging, repeat. Thursday is typically a workout day as well. “[Pemberton]” - who designs the training calendar for each season - “is essentially the coach of our group,” said Yi, who is 34 and was the top American at the 2013 Comrades Marathon, an ultra-marathon in South Africa. But Yi, who trained with Kenyans while on a Fulbright scholarship, “has always had sort of a scientific attitude towards running,” said Pemberton, who started running in his 30s and last year won his 60-64 age group at both Marine Corps and Boston. Combine the training philosophies of Pemberton and Yi, throw in the Hansons Marathon Method used by a professional team, and you start to get a sense of what the Dojo of Pain is up to. “We have a very linear training schedule,” Pemberton said. “If you know what Tuesday is one week, you know what Tuesday is the next week. It is a little bit more, a little bit longer. You either are doing the same speed or we shift from interval speed to threshold speed. But that interval is going to get a little longer each week if you are doing marathon training, and you are going to be adding miles. It’s predictable, but I think people like that sense of progress.” “The core philosophy always remains the same,” Yi added. “Speed work early, strength work later.” Joining the dojo is easy. “It is basically just, ‘email me and we’ll add you to the listserv,’” Yi said. “You come out and you decide for yourself if it works for you.” The runners for whom it works are a mixed bag of ages and speeds and running backgrounds. What binds them is a shared appreciation for testing themselves, for seeing how fast they can run while still being good lawyers and parents. And the dojo’s numbers are growing. In its early years, only a handful of people attended workouts. Members cycled in and out. Lately, though, members only seem to cycle in, and the group has developed a women’s team. Yi chronicles the club’s performances on a blog, and members now sport singlets featuring the three stars and two bars of the D.C. flag. And a fist. Rounding the tip of Hains Point, Jim Moore, a father of three and new to Washington, D.C., shared his running story: It was six years earlier, he said. His son, Henry, then less than a year old, would only stop crying if he was pushed in a stroller, so Moore spent “countless” hours pushing a stroller through the neighborhood. Then he bought a jogging stroller. And in 2013, at 41, Moore ran 2:58:39 in the Boston
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Marathon. Other members at the workout included Ryan Johnson, coming off a 10k personal best of 34:01 at Pikes Peek. He was on the track team in college, except he was thrower. There was Jeff Redfern, who led many of the intervals and is focused on the 5k. And there was journeyman and Aspen Hill, Md. resident Yukun “Frank” Fung, coming off a 3:07:08 in Boston. For the women, Megan Haberle was 9th at last year’s Woodrow Wilson Half Marathon. Stephanie Selmer, Jenny Paul, Laura Jennings, and Marissa Piropato all ran Boston, led by Paul’s 3:15:47 finish. Jennings ran a personal best of 3:24:40. As for Boston, the general consensus was that the experience inspired while the race humbled. Moore, Pemberton, and Brian Savitch, a 2:41 marathoner, all had rough days. But that was already a distant memory, it seemed. A new Pemberton training calendar had arrived. Fresh runners’ highs were taking hold; new goals, new dreams, were forming. “It’s been so valuable to have a group of people to train with, to push me in workouts,” Clattenburg said. “Trying to keep up with my teammates has made me run harder than ever … And Alan and Dan are great team leaders who have provided me with valuable training and racing guidance.” Then there is Chris Pruitt of Sandy Spring, Md., a standout college runner at Penn State. But he struggled a bit transitioning from shorter races to the marathon. Upon joining the dojo, Pruitt took on a new style of marathon-specific training. In preparation for last year’s Marine Corps Marathon, Pruitt did 12-mile tempo runs and workouts, like four times one and a half miles and nine times a mile at half marathon pace. Prone to injury, he capped his peak mileage at 70 to 75 miles per week with one day off, which is less volume than most marathoners his speed. “But the consistent Tuesday-Thursday workouts and quality long runs got me in good aerobic shape,” he said. His plan was to go out slowly and focus on hydration and taking his gels, which he had practiced in training. Then came the race. Pruitt was in 15th place … then 12th … then 10th. He finished 8th in 2:29:42, a new personal best. “It was incredible to watch,” Yi said. “You see this singlet that you designed way back in the day, and this guy is wearing it. And it’s kind of like the culmination of all the dreams we had for where this thing would go.” Does pain exist in this dojo? Yes, sensei. But the system - as Pruitt and others are proving - works.
RunWashington Photo by Dustin Whitlow
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The End of the Marathon. This was the title of a blog post Chris Sloane wrote in October 2010 to describe “another disastrous marathon.” He had dedicated himself to his training, had run a 1:16 half marathon during the buildup, had run 20 miles in less than two hours: “2:36 pace!” he recorded in his log. But on the big day, 16 miles in, Sloane got a side stitch painful enough to make him scream. The last 10k took him more than an hour. He jogged through the finish line in 3:04. The marathon is always a question mark. “The difference between the mile and the marathon,” the runner-writer Hal Higdon wrote, “is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals.” And when the going gets bad in the marathon, it only gets worse, and worse, and worse. You cross the line, soul crushed, thoroughly eviscerated, broken. The bright side is, even when the marathon is beating you, all that training — all that pushing yourself right up the edge of injury — is making you stronger. You are becoming a better runner, even if the capstone result suggests otherwise. This is especially true if you are someone like Sloane, the type of runner who never ever - gives up. See for yourself. Stand behind a finish line and watch Sloane come through. It is as if he has measured out what he can give to the point where he couldn’t go a single step beyond the finish line. He is in agony. He has left it all out on the course. He has nothing left to give. “I see myself sticking at this for a while,” he said. “I am inspired by guys like Meb.” Meb, as in Meb Keflezighi, who this year became the first American male to win the Boston Marathon since Greg Meyer in 1983. His time was a new personal best, and he did it two weeks shy of his 39th birthday. Sloane is 30, and he believes his best days as a runner are ahead of him. “Overall, I know, and I believe that my potential is in the marathon - certainly half marathon - distance,” he said. “I know I am not a 5k guy, a 10k guy.” It was not all, as it turns out, the end of the marathon.
Going all in Sloane worked at a desk. It wasn’t glamorous, but architecture was what he went to school for. On one hand, he was thankful to be working at a time — this was 2009 — when many people had been let go or were struggling to find a job. On the other, he wasn’t happy and couldn’t shake the feeling. Distracted, he’d stare off into space, wondering if he had picked the right career. One day Sloane was summoned into his boss’ office, flanked by two other members of upper management. Perhaps the boyishlooking 26-year-old was getting a raise? 42 | RUNWASHINGTON | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | JULY AUGUST 2014
By Jake Klim and Dickson Mercer
Chris Sloane, minutes before the 2014 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, where he set a personal record in 50:57. RunWashington photo by Vladimir Bukalo
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Training with Chris Sloane Monday: am - pool running, pm - 10 miles easy Tuesday: am - 11-13 miles easy, pm - strength training Wednesday: am - track/interval workout, pm – run easy (10-15 miles total) Thursday: am – run easy, pm – run easy (11-13 miles total) Friday: 10 miles easy Saturday: 17-20 miles or a second track/interval workout Sunday: Easy double or single run (15 miles total) On importance of rest: “Sleep gets the body to repair itself, which helps with recovery from a hard workout,” Sloane said. “Many don’t get enough of it, particularly during an injury.” On strength work: Sloane typically devotes two days a week to the gym. “Late in a race,” he said, “when the body is fatiguing, I feel the strength work kick in. My arms are able to carry my body forward when my legs tire and my strong core prevents my form from deteriorating and slowing down.”
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Perhaps not. The manager’s message was simple. He was being let go. Sloane didn’t care. “I really wasn’t upset about it,” he said. “My boss told me that he had never seen someone so calm about losing their job.” He was spending too much time at work doing something his heart wasn’t in, rather than doing things he truly cared about: running and getting better at it. Being let go was a good excuse to hit the reset button and find his calling. Smiling, Sloane looked out his office window one last time. It was autumn, 2009, a great time to train in Washington.
Drafting the foundation Born and raised in Darnestown, Md., Sloane ran for Quince Orchard High School, running personal bests of 4:34 for 1600m, 9:55 for 3200m and 16:40 for a cross-country 5k before heading to Virginia Tech. He ran competitively during his freshman and sophomore years at Tech and made modest improvements. But by the time he graduated in 2007, after suffering from an eating disorder and having not raced competitively in two years, he was still a 16-minute 5k runner. Over the next two years, he slowly regained his interest in running and started focusing on improving his performances. After being laid off, his success accelerated. He worked as a salesman at Potomac River Running in Rockville. Even though he spent a great deal of time on his feet, Sloane enjoyed the new lifestyle and found comfort in the fact that he was surrounded by runners on a daily basis. Though he technically runs for =PR=’s racing team, Sloane does most of his training alone. “It would be nice to have some company,” he said, “but I don’t like driving far to work out and most groups that work out together on a track are quite a distance from where I live and work. It’s my schedule; I will push myself even without others around me. I’ll make it happen.” Sloane’s training volume shot up after he left the architecture firm. But he has since learned that high mileage and smart mileage are not always the same. Consistency is more important. These days he is averaging anywhere between 80 and 100 miles a week with
demanding workouts. “I view the progression of my running as a balance of handling the right combination of intensity and mileage, and that keeps changing as I improve,” he said. By 2011, his uptick in mileage began to pay dividends. “I made some big jumps that year to where I had previously been,” he said. “I progressed to 31:26 for the 10k and 15:13 for the 5k.” Perhaps his biggest accomplishment for him was breaking 70 minutes for the half marathon. Fast forward three years, and nearly ten thousand miles. Sloane now boasts personal bests of 14:53 for 5,000m, 30:43 for 10k and 1:07:29 for the half marathon. But success in the marathon has yet to come.
Persistence Day after day, week after week, Sloane does his best to keep his training steadfast. He hardly stays out late and you’ll rarely, if ever, see him with a beer in his hand. Before a race, he’s even more obsessive. “I really pay particular attention to sleep in the days leading up to a big race and am running so that I don’t get stale but resting to store every ounce of energy I will need on race day.” And, while it’s clear he’s a rising star in the local running scene, Sloane wonders whether, at the end of the day, putting his career on hold is the right move. Sloane has since become the assistant manager at his store and is also the head coach for multiple distance training programs that the store organizes. Although he’d like to focus more on coaching, he’s not ready to fully commit to that just yet. “I only work 35 hours per week at the running store,” Sloane said. “I certainly don’t work nearly as much as most people in this area, but I devote a lot more time to becoming a better runner than I was yesterday.” Sloane also had the chance to become the store manager — twice — but turned it down to focus more of his attention on his training. “Every day, I have the mindset that I will do my best to become a better athlete than the day before,” he said. “My mentality is such that training is a priority, and therefore I have stayed consistent.”
Another local runner said Sloane might be making a mistake by not focusing more attention on career development: “Prioritizing running to the extent that it delays things like advancing your career doesn’t really make sense to [me], because I think that, at our level, the two are not mutually exclusive. Let’s face it, running isn’t going to be a career for any of us.” The runner sought anonymity to speak candidly about the situation. “That said, I think it takes some amount of courage to commit yourself like he has, and he’s involved himself in coaching and has created some good roots in the local running circles, so even though it might not fit into what I’d think of as career advancement, he might have a different plan for himself.” Those considerations are not lost on Sloane. “You know, sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it,” he said, “but I really want to see how good I can get. I know I can get much faster; I just don’t know how much faster that is.” In 2011, he lowered his marathon personal best to 2:37 at the Marathon Corps Marathon. He had higher hopes, but at least it was improvement. The next year, at the Philadelphia Marathon, on a faster course, Sloane had a similar experience: fading in the back half of the race. Again, a slight improvement: 2:35:09. That was his last marathon. Meanwhile, the half marathon personal best he set in January, on paper, indicates roughly 2:22-flat. But, with the marathon, the paper doesn’t seem to mean all that much. Sloane, then, has some decisions to make. To qualify for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, Sloane will have to run below 2:18 in the marathon or 1:05 in the half marathon at least 30 days before the event is held in February 2016. His attitude, though, is hardly qualify-orbust. For one, he hopes to still be in contention to qualify for a trials - and improving as a runner - in 2020 and beyond. “Overall, I just want to achieve my potential,” he said. He takes the long view with the marathon, as well. He is not sure, in other words, when success will come, only that it will. “I think it is good,” he said, “that I was running the marathon and really failing at it.”
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BY JIM HAGE
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Running a marathon isn’t that hard, is it? You dedicate yourself to training for a few months, build up mileage and aim for a good effort on race day. I mean, some half a million Americans crossed a marathon finish line last year, right? Finishing, however, is one thing, and running well is another. How do you know if you’re ready to do more than simply endure? How do you know if you’re prepared to give it your best effort and run the marathon of your life? Answers from some of this area’s best marathoners range from serendipity to grindingly hard work. The common thread is a confidence born of having done the workouts and logged the miles.
Better to Be Lucky ...
Chris Raabe breaking away from the pack at the 2009 Grandma’s Marathon. Photo by Jeff Frey & Associates; courtesy OF Grandma’s Marathon
While the science of training, diet, psychology and physiology — not to mention digital watches — have advanced over the decades, the surest way to run a good race remains to have good luck. Phil Stewart, now the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile race director and Bethesda resident, is a case in point. Stewart ran his personal best 2:19:58 at the 1975 Boston Marathon, knocking more than six minutes off his best. “That was a tailwind year,” Stewart says matter-of-factly. “I felt good throughout the race and at the finish thought I might have run 2:22 or 2:23, but I had no idea. In those days, splits were given in the middle of the various towns, like 6.7, 9.8 or 14.3. They didn’t even have a clock at the finish line.” So Stewart finished what felt like a solid effort and relaxed in the depths of the Prudential Center parking garage, where race officials posted results as they became available. “I absolutely shrieked when I saw that I had broken 2:20,” Stewart says. “Years later I ran three hours exactly but never complained that I hadn’t gotten under — I had my two seconds when I needed them. I picked a good day to run well. People remember the time but they don’t remember the tailwind.” Still, Stewart is too modest: he was 22nd that year and 15th at Boston in 1977, a hot year when he ran 2:22. “My [performance] curve was improving,” he admits. “I had been training well and was ready to run fast.” Confidence is a given but hardly a guarantee for running well. The opposite, however — a lack of confidence — almost always ensures disaster. “Most times going in you feel confident,” says Chris Raabe, who bettered his marathon best by almost two minutes when he ran 2:15:13 to win the 2009 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. “But it took me a long time to figure out that what you think you can run only happens when everything is absolutely perfect. And that actually never happens.” Call it Raabe’s Rule: “Now I say if everything goes bad I should still be able to do this well.” And that philosophy worked for him at Grandma’s, where he won by more than JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 47
three minutes. “It was not ideal,” he says of the conditions that day. “Seventy-five degrees and a headwind [on a point-to-point course]. But I was in good shape, knew what I could do and was able to hold it together at the end.” It’s not as if Raabe came out of nowhere to win at Grandma’s. He competed at North Dakota State and in 2002 moved to D.C., where he often dominated local events, and finished 16th at the 2009 U.S. Olympic trials marathon. He has a reputation as a monomaniacal trainer, regularly logging weeks of up to 150 miles. Raabe, now 35, qualified for the trials again in 2012 but injuries and a car accident kept him from competing.
Pick Your Spots Karl Dusen, who lives in Ashburn, profiles as more of an optimist. As a husband and the father of two toddler girls who is trying to compete at a high level, a sunny disposition is probably required. But the story of Dusen’s breakthrough marathon isn’t complete without the background of his first, which was an unmitigated disaster. Dusen had just graduated from Columbia University, where he had run 29 minutes flat for 10,000 meters, and felt ready to up the ante and the distance in his first marathon that fall. That it was his hometown race amid the hoopla and bedlam of New York City seemed like a good idea at the time. “Everything went wrong,” Dusen says. “A bunch of friends were out watching, some were running, along with alumni, and we’d all been talking trash for weeks about who was going to do the best.” Warm weather compounded the problem. Spurred on by Big Apple hype, Dusen went through halfway on his goal pace at 71 minutes. But he crashed in the second half and slogged home in 2:38. “Despite a week of limping around [after the race], it didn’t take long to diagnose the problem,” Dusen says. “I wanted to get back at it and do it right.” While working in New York’s financial district, Dusen ran mornings and evenings with the Manhattan Track Club in Central Park. About eight weeks prior to the Chicago Marathon, he completed a 23-mile training run, his longest ever, with the middle 11 miles at 5:15 per mile — just better than race pace. “That run felt smooth and I knew in my heart that I was ready to go for it, despite what had happened before,” he says. His goal was to meet the 2008 Olympic trials (held in 2007) qualifying standard of 2:22. This time, Dusen escaped the fishbowl of New York for the relative anonymity and pancake-flat course of Chicago, where a group of some 20 men, all running to qualify, worked through 5:20 splits for the middle 15 miles of the race. “That group pulled me through the hard part. But at the end, I was tired and slowing. I kept doing the math in my head, calculating what I needed to run [each of the final miles]
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to still qualify,” he says. Dusen needn’t have worried: he finished in 2:20:35, with splits of 70:17 and 70:18. The trials race itself — back in Dusen’s familiar Central Park stomping grounds — was mostly forgettable but for the accomplishment of participation.
Talent Never Hurts Another area runner balancing competitive running with family life is former Georgetown University all-American Kristen Gordon Henehan, who lives in Kensington with her husband Michael and two young sons. While Henehan won the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon in her first attempt at the distance, she could hardly be counted as a surprise. Her many accomplishments and drive throughout her collegiate career boded well for further success on the roads. “Basically, I just brought up my mileage for the marathon,” says Henehan, who averaged 75 miles per week throughout much of college. “It was the marathon distance that I was unsure about.” Her Marine Corps debut went smoothly enough — 2:51:14 — and she decided almost immediately to pursue a follow-up and attempt to meet the Olympic trials qualifying time of 2:48. So for 10 weeks after Marine Corps, she recovered, upped her mileage even further and increased her hard training efforts for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona in. “Marine Corps was such a positive experience, I was ready for more,” she says. “I thought with good conditions and the right effort, I could go faster.” Unburdened by having answered the question as to distance, Henehan worked on speed throughout her tempo runs. Even after the marathon, her six-mile tempo runs felt easier and passed faster. “Quality in everything, including my long runs, went way up,” she says. “I was pretty sure I would have a good race in Phoenix.” And she did, popping a 2:45:12 and qualifying easily for the Olympic trials three months later in Boston. There, however, the rigors of progressing from a novice to an elite marathoner and her third marathon — all in the course of six months — caught up and Henehan finished 96th in 2:49:42. “That race, I did have expectations,” she says. “I had run a 1:16 half one month earlier” — a time that translated to a very quick marathon — “and I started out too fast, finished too slow. The marathon isn’t like the track. It’s a whole different game.”
And the Answer Is... This writer has run a number of marathons and if I had the answer as to how to run your best, I’d gladly share it. I’d also be a very rich man. Mostly, what I heard from the runners quoted above resonate with my marathon reality: train hard, be smart and get lucky. More specifically, I ran Grandma’s on a tailwind day — unlike Raabe and embracing
Kristin Henehan during the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials. Photo by Tony Yang
the luck of Phil Stewart — and rode that wave to an at-the-time personal best of 2:16. It should be noted that of the dozens of marathons I’ve run, that was the only one in which I ran negative splits. I was also fortunate — or well prepared, take your pick — when I ran 2:16 and finished eighth at the 1992 Olympic trials marathon. That dispassionate and clinical description belies the fact that it was the race of my life. I had determined early on to do everything within my control to make those trials my best marathon. Most importantly, and inexplicably to many of my friends and family, I quit my job to make training my sole focus. For several months, I ran twice a day and averaged more than 125 miles per week, which was manageable with a limited racing schedule, plenty of rest and the help of training partners and a great coach. One month prior to trials, half a dozen of the best distance runners in Maryland gathered at a track in Rockville to knock out five repeat miles. A different runner led every interval but each mile was consistent at 4:45; I remember
a group of high school kids apparently annoyed we were hogging their track but too intimidated by our effort to say anything. Any lingering doubts regarding my fitness after that workout were dispelled when I finally raced 10k and easily beat a good field. I ran 30:16, 18 seconds off my PR. But I was confident enough to pick myself to finish eighth in my best friend’s trials pool (yes, marathon geeks do that). On race day, I started conservatively while many others gambled that their best race would come off a fast pace on a warm morning. Anyway, I’ll always be proud of maximizing my marathon talent on the day and in the race when it mattered most. So is there a secret to the marathon? Sure, lots of them. Always start with the Holy Trinity of miles, speedwork and long runs. Repeat for 10 weeks. Then add the equanimity and work ethic of Chris Raabe, the moxie and drive of Kristen Henehan, the talent and thoughtfulness of Karl Dusen, and most importantly two parts of Phil Stewart’s luck. With all that, you’re guaranteed to have a great race.
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MARIAN ZOBLER celebrates the end of her Boston Marathon training. PHOTO BY KEN TROMBATORE
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The mylar blanket, the medal, even the shoes, they all come off. The painful shower, alerting you to chafing that went unnoticed in the heat of the race, washes away the last of the sweat that went into this whole enterprise. It’s time for a break, either by choice — and in the name of good sense — or by necessity, because the thought of running again right now seems almost barbaric. If you don’t think so, just try walking down a flight of stairs. Maybe it was a PR, a BQ or a OTQ. Maybe it was a disaster. Either way, it’s over and life is back to normal. What will that life be? The Amish have a tradition — Rumspringa — in which their teenagers live in the secular world to decide what life they want to lead, if they want to come back. Marathon runners do the same thing. They toss their training logs aside, stay out late, eschew the (sometimes) monastic life they’d built for themselves. And they figure out if it is really for them. It’s Runspringa. D.C.’s Nick Geboy tries to take time off, but his Catholic guilt keeps pulling him back in. “I feel lazy and gross when I don’t run,” he said. “I come back easy, but I go through the same routine as usual.” It’s back to the track on Wednesdays, but he limits his volume to about a mile and a half of hard running. He’ll take the opportunity to do more runs with his coworkers around the U.S. Geological Survey office in Reston. “I’ll eat more meat than usual,” he allows. “I typically avoid it when I’m training, it makes me feel slow.” Alissa McKaig is in the same boat. “I’ll eat things I normally wouldn’t, like cupcakes or a big sandwich,” she said. She looks past her mild gluten allergy to enjoy herself. McKaig, recent transplant to Washington, D.C., has gotten the hang of the distance in her four tries, including an eighth place finish at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012. But she has also mastered the aftermath. “You worked really hard for one day, for the most part you kind of go under a rock for a while,” she said. “But you have to celebrate. Even if it didn’t go well, you’re happy to be done.” Trips to see family in Indiana, or vacations in Florida, have taken McKaig away from the familiar settings, where training predominates. And immediately after the race, she makes it a point to go out and be social, which surprises friends who haven’t run a marathon. “They ask how I’m not exhausted, but you find energy, just like you do during a race,” she said. “I’ll be back in by 11:30, which MIKE MONTGOMERY drowns his sorrows after tearing his meniscus during the 2014 Boston Marathon, while Ken Trombatore celebrates a successful race. photo COURTESY OF KEN TROMBATORE
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is when most people are usually leaving to go out, but before a race I don’t usually feel like talking, so after it’s over I can relax and be more social with people.” Germantown resident Erica Greene feels her on that. “When I register for a marathon, my friends know I’m not going to see them too much,” she said. “I don’t go out late on Friday and Saturday nights when I’m training, and I limit my alcohol intake, so after the race is over, I’m pretty eager to catch up with everyone and have a good time, get back to normal.” Normal, the common refrain. As nebulous as that could be, normal typically means some flexibility that returns when at least an hour that was otherwise spent running, stretching or taking an extra shower comes back into the day. It could mean the chance to sleep in, which Greene relishes, or time after work to do with as you please. Almost a month after her spring 2014 marathon, a D.C. resident who didn’t want to be identified for fear of reprisal because she criticized her job’s workload, didn’t feel like she had enjoyed a Runspringa. “Not really, because I’ve been working until at least 7:30 every night and happy hour is over,” she said. “You have to go to a few happy hours and do the hard drinking before you go back to the hard training.” But just like the Amish, who may lose up to 20 percent of their communities after Rumspringa, some marathoners don’t come back. Chevy Chase’s Jeff Mehr just finished Boston a few weeks ago, and he doesn’t see himself running a marathon anytime soon. It’s worth noting that Boston was his 25th, well beyond the one he wanted to finish years ago. And that means it’s different for him because this is breaking a cycle that has continued for a while. “Most people I know are signing up for another one within three days of finishing,” he said. “They’re living off that high, whether it comes from a fast time, or a fun weekend with friends. Some people don’t know what to do if they’re not training for a marathon.” He’s seen other runners start to consider time off, and said even before he decided on his hiatus, doing what his body told him was trending in that direction. “I feel like every spring, the two or three weeks I have planned to take up gets longer and longer,” he said. “Sometimes it gets up to four weeks, five weeks, and I groan, thinking about getting back to the track to do speed work or getting up for a 20 miler. If there’s no offseason, then there’s no ‘onseason.’” Even for professionals like McKaig, or even more so, because their livelihood
depends on it, taking time off is crucial. “There’s a lot of temptation to get back to running too soon,” she said. “You can be pumped up by a great time and want to keep things going, or you want to redeem yourself, but you definitely need time off. After the trials I wanted to keep going and roll into a good track season, but that wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t take care of myself. A marathon takes a lot out of you, and not taking that time off can put you in a hole that could cost you that track season, or even the next marathon.” You can also take it too easy, as Justin Schappe found out. He made a quick approach to the marathon, roughly 18 months after starting running. His run up to the Chicago Marathon in 2011 was guided by a strict regimen. In addition to his running and cross training, he was pitching in more around the house to help his pregnant wife, and he planned the family’s move to Rockville from St. Louis. “It was a pretty strict life,” he said. “I was looking forward to the race, but also to getting back to everything else.” The race itself melted in the back half of a sunny day. Afterward he sought out Giordino’s pizza and a lot of beer, and took a few weeks off of running, and cross training. A few months later, his brother recruited him for the St. Louis Marathon, and during a training run, Schappe felt his knee give way. He spent more than a year recovering from runner’s knee, which he attributed to a lax cross-training schedule. He’s back in action and his eyes are on this fall’s Marine Corps Marathon. And he has two definite plans for Runspringa. “I’m going to have some great pizza afterward and I am not going to stop cross training,” he said. Many runners shared the advice that a marathoner needs someone to keep them accountable, not for their training, but for their recovery. “Even if you’re not a professional, you need someone to advise you on when it’s okay to come back,” McKaig said. “It’s easy to think you’re fine and can start running but it will set you back if you do it wrong.” At least one, certainly more, Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon runners did it right. The race is typically the Saturday of St. Patrick’s Day weekend. “I pretty much started drinking right after the race and didn’t stop,” one runner said about celebrating her first marathon. After that, what choice is there but to take time off?
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RunWashington photo by Sara Alepin
by Katie Bolton
In 2013, runners from the D.C. region traveled more than 37,000 miles to finish marathons as near as Baltimore and as far as Honolulu, and that’s before we count trips to marathons on other continents. This region may play host to the venerable Marine Corps Marathon and the fresh-faced Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon among more than a dozen others, but it’s safe to say that runners here have shoes, will travel. What’s not to love about a destination race? You can choose a course that plays to your strengths, take a 26.2-mile tour of another city, or visit friends and family. Sure, you might struggle with jet lag, toss and turn all night in an unfamiliar bed, or realize that you left one of your shoes back in Bethesda. But you’re also about to share an experience with hundreds or thousands of fellow marathoners who know all the highs and lows of a training cycle and who want you to succeed only slightly less than they want to beat you across the finish line. Ask any habitual destination racer and
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they’ll inevitably speak of “catching the bug,” a shorthand for wanderlust mixed with marathon obsessiveness that drives (or flies or buses) marathoners to yet another race in yet another city. Runderlust? The bug is part justification, an external force compelling them. Washingtonian Andy Austin said being able “to go explore after having [run a marathon], having that sense of accomplishment, and feeling like ‘Yeah, I earned this trip,’” as some of the most satisfying parts of traveling to the 10 marathons he has completed. The bug is also a manifestation of who we are as runners. Of course we could take these same trips without injecting 26.2 miles of crowds, hills, cobblestones, dehydration, cramping, or exhaustion. But would you ask an art enthusiast to skip the museums? “Part of keeping my momentum and keeping me running is seeing new sights,” said Mabinty Koroma of Hyattsville. Koroma has completed four marathons and aspires
to run a marathon each year for the rest of her life. She doesn’t plan to run one in D.C. soon. Of travel races, she says, “I can look at ... the sunset here in San Francisco, or look at the neighborhoods in Chicago, whereas in D.C., that’s my training ground. I’m a native Washingtonian. I love the city, I love running there, but a part of my excitement of running a full marathon is doing it elsewhere.” Her most recent finish was April’s Dusseldorf Marathon, an entry she won in a drawing at last year’s San Francisco Marathon expo. “Is there any better way to see a city than to run through it?” Scott Brawley said. The Washingtonian and former rugby and soccer player plunged right into marathons three years ago, running Marine Corps two years in a row with a charity training group before completing the Paris Marathon in 2013. That race was “the best of Paris in a sightseeing tour, with thousands cheering you on,” he said. This year, he will run the Marseille Marathon, and he hopes to complete marathons in French wine country and Sydney, Australia. For some runners, major urban marathons don’t have the same draw. Arlington’s Liam Quinn has run marathons in Philadelphia, Quebec City, and D.C., but he praises the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington as a favorite, and he won the inaugural Hambletonian Marathon on the country roads of Goshen, N.Y. in 2013. In a smaller or more rural race, he said, “there’s less pressure about it in every way, shape, and form, from the hustle and bustle to the approach towards the race itself.” Quinn praised the Hambletonian and Vermont City marathons for exemplary organization and scenic courses that let him escape from his usual urban training environment. The biggest downside to winning a race as new and small as the Hambletonian, he said, is that, “I did feel like the invader there, trying to steal the thunder of the locals. Sort of the Ivan Drago to their Rocky.” He is curious to see the race grow, but uncertain about returning. “I’m afraid that as it gets bigger, it’ll just attract faster runners, then I’ll have to be concerned about that,” he said, laughing. Quinn races about two marathons each season and has raced 20 marathons. Understandably, “cost is definitely a concern,” he said. “It’s great to have the marathon as an excuse to go somewhere new,” but with the frequency of his races, he tends to stay close to home and combine his trips with visits to friends and family. As he said that, he was staying with a friend before running the Delaware marathon, and when he won the Hambletonian, he spent the weekend at his parents’ house. For a man who once flew from Seoul, South Korea, to run the Boston marathon, the minimalist travel approach seems to be working.
Mastering imperfection Traveling to a race means sacrificing some level of control in exchange for a sense of accomplishment and a few days of travel. The lack of comforts can throw runners for a loop no matter how much they prepare and yet they continue to book the flights, study the languages, go farther, go faster. Austin has felt this a little too keenly in his marathons. His third, the 2001 Dublin Marathon, was something of a comedy of errors. He remembered the blood sausages in the hotel’s continental breakfast and his snoring roommate who checked out without paying for his room service. Yet he continued to log marathons, once training in the D.C. winter for the Miami Marathon. He even stayed on East Coast time to better make the 5 a.m. start at the Honolulu marathon. After that race, he went skydiving with members of his training group. “You don’t have all the comforts that you would normally do,” he said. “But the tradeoff is much better.” Brawley seconds this, recalling that he couldn’t find bagels or oatmeal in Paris and that the Metro stairs were less than friendly to an achy marathoner. “I also felt compelled to use my post-race days sightseeing, which was entertaining as I hobbled around Paris. In hindsight I should have rested,” he said. So why would he put himself through the physical agony of a marathon, plus the added discomfort of tourism on tired legs? In short, “it’s Paris.” Koroma even found that no amount of intensive research, training, planning, not even three hours of rain in Dusseldorf, could ruin a destination marathon. For her efforts, she gets to know more about the people of each city she visits. “Each city kind of has a different vibe and energy. Like about San Francisco, people were more laid back. They didn’t have the energy of people of Chicago. The people of Chicago have so much energy. They were so amped. I think that really got me going and got me moving faster,” she said. And the Germans, she recalled, would run alongside her if they thought she was slowing down. If the marathon is a test of human endurance, a destination race is a further test of each runner’s adaptability. Success or failure depend on how well you can go with the flow and enjoy the race, the trip, or both. In fact, no one wanted to impugn a race where they had a less-than-perfect experience. “The race is an important part of the weekend, but it’s not the only thing about the weekend,” Quinn said. “Because you’re traveling, you actually make a trip of it.” JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 55
BY NATALIE DIBLASIO
Devin Nihill was half-joking when she tossed out the idea of running a marathon at the family Thanksgiving dinner table. But as usual, Devin’s sister, Alex, hopped right on board with the idea. Their goal was set: the two Vienna sisters would run the inaugural Runners Marathon of Reston. With a target of simply finishing her first marathon, Devin, then 17, never expected to win the women’s race with a 3:09. “I always think of these absurd ideas and my sister and I always ends up doing it,” Devin said. “The marathon was one of those ideas. I trained a lot for it but I definitely did not expect to win.” Although they don’t all come in first, Devin is just one of a number of younger runners with their eyes on Washington, D.C.’s long distance races. Authorities in athletic training and medical fields urge caution when youngsters want to tackle marathons. “The age at which runners are best suited to training for a marathon is likely mid-20’s and older,” said Jason Fitzgerald, 56 | RUNWASHINGTON | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | JULY AUGUST 2014
a 2:39 marathoner and local coach. “Before the age of 18, girl’s bodies are undergoing changes during puberty, widening of the hips in particular, and boys aren’t as strong.” “While they may have the aerobic metabolism to run for several hours and finish a marathon, they often lack the strength requirements to do so safely,” he said. But, Fitzgerald notes, “there are always exceptions.” For Nihill, then a high school student at Bishop O’Connell, marathon training fit between school, homework, swim team and lacrosse practice. “In retrospect, it probably wasn’t a great idea. I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy,” she said. “It was hard and I was exhausted all of the time.” Nihill now plays lacrosse at Drexel University and looks forward to running again soon. “I can’t run outside of lacrosse practice; it just wouldn’t be a good idea. I am counting down the days until I can start running again.” Running USA’s 2013 Annual Marathon Report dubs anyone under the age of 20 a “junior.” Since 2006, the percentage of
KEVIN KEEGAN runs the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon. PHOTO BY MARATHONFOTO
juniors has stayed steady at 2 percent of the country’s marathoners. Half of that is made up of 6- to 17-year-olds. “Marathon running should be reserved for individuals who have reached their 18th birthday,” said Lewis Maharam, chairman of the board of governors of the International Marathon Medical Directors Association, which standardizes marathon guidelines. “It is not safe.” “The issue of doing the marathon is the long-term impact of the training: growth plate closure and psychological issues,” he said. “Until you reach puberty, the bones in your body have a soft and open growth plate. Eventually, when you reach your normal height it all becomes solid. If you are doing a lot of mileage, it squishes on this growth plate and you won’t get as tall as you are supposed to. Could be a two-inch difference.” Races like the Honolulu and Los Angeles marathons don’t have age minimums, which is one reason why they have the highest number of junior finishers nation-wide. “Our age limit for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons is 18 and for half marathons it’s 12,”
said Tracy Sundlun, co-founder of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series and former coach. “Physiologically, can kids run these races and can they run them relatively quickly? Yes. Is it in the best interest physically? No?” “Athletically, what kids at a younger age should be doing is focusing on speed,” Sundlun added. “All that pounding and slow running can’t be good for your growth plates and everything else that’s going on.” The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series, which held its D.C. race in March, allows some race waivers to younger runners, which parents sign, authorizing that their child is physically fit to run in the event. The kids aren’t allowed to compete competitively to win an award and they cannot gain publicity for the race. “We want to be as inclusive as possible without doing anyone long-term physical harm,” Sundlun said. “I want people in our sport but we want to be safe … For these young runners, we want to know what their rationale is for doing it. It’s almost an interview process because this is serious business.” Most marathons have age requirements of 16 years. For the Boston and New York JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 57
Marathons, runners have to be 18. The Houston Marathon allows runners as young as 12 to race. In 2012, eight 14-year-olds finished the Marine Corps Marathon, plus a number of 15and 16-year-olds. In 2013, interest increased among younger runners. Fifteen 14-year-olds finished the 2013 marathon and one 12-yearold: Caleb Wilson. When he first applied, the marathon organizers rejected Caleb’s entry. No one younger than 14 is allowed run in the Marine Corps Marathon. But Caleb was determined. He wrote to the race director about his goal to become a Marine Officer through the Naval Academy in Annapolis. “Hello Mr. Race Director of the Marine Corps Marathon,” Caleb wrote. “I plan to train hard over the summer so I will finish. I have been to the Naval Academy and I have noticed one thing, they run a lot, they run everywhere. I figure if I can run a marathon now and keep up my habit of running I will have no problems running everywhere when I get there.” Organizer Allan Aquino replied with “Congratulations!” and welcomed Caleb into the marathon. It wasn’t his first distance race. Caleb’s family owns RacENC, which puts on ultra events. Before running the Marine Corps Marathon, Caleb took part in a race just short of 28 miles. Caleb’s father and coach Brandon Wilson said he was initially worried about letting Caleb run a marathon. When Caleb first asked, at 11, Wilson told him no. “I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t too much too soon,” Wilson said. “I am not someone who believes that running makes your knees go bad, but I’ve run enough marathons to know what kind of commitment it is. We wanted to make sure he could adequately train.” In preparation for last year’s marathon, Caleb ran about 20 miles a week. His longest training run was 4 miles. “We weren’t particularly thrilled with that and it probably has to do with some of the suffering he felt during the race,” Wilson said. “This time around I’d like to see him getting up to at least 30-35 miles a week with some runs in the 12-mile range.” Once Caleb committed to the marathon, Wilson said people outside of the ultrarunning community were very critical. “Someone running in an ultra race near us said to Caleb, ‘if your dad is making you do this, tell me and I will report him to child protective services,’” Wilson said. “Caleb laughed and said ‘I’ve been begging him to let me do this for two years.’” Maharam said he sees many families that force their children into marathon training. “The parents who push their children to run in these marathons — they always end up
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being the pushy theatrical families, the stage mothers of running,” Maharam said. “When it gets down to the kids, they say, ‘You know, I really don’t want to run that much. I really love running but I do not want to be training five times a week.’” “These younger kids should be running half marathons,” Maharam said. “They will have plenty of time in their lives to run marathons.” As a seventh grader, Kevin Keegan, of Annapolis raced 10 milers. Next, he worked his way up to a half marathon. Then, he said, “I figured, what’s next? Next was a marathon.” Kevin was 16 when he ran Marine Corps. He trained alone, running around 45 to 50 miles every week. “I was fitting it in between school, high school swim team, club swim team, the STEM program at the high school. Sometimes I’d even run home from swim practice,” he said. “My mom, of course, was very concerned and wanted to make sure I was taking care of my body,” Kevin said. “But I know there are lots of teens who have run marathons so I wasn’t worried.” Dr. William Roberts, a professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Minnesota and medical director for the Twin Cities Marathon has seen kids as young as seven complete the marathon. “It surprised me to see them that young, but they aren’t setting world record times,” Roberts said. “I don’t think it’s the big problem that people make it out to be. I haven’t seen that it’s caused a lot of problems for kids.” In one of Roberts’ studies he found that 310 runners ages 7 to 17 completed Twin Cities Marathon from 1982 through 2007. Only four of the runners in those 26 years visited the medical tent – half the rate of the adult runners. Roberts is in the process of trying to find some of those 310 runners and see what longer-term impacts they’ve experienced. “It’s not much more time training than those kids who play hockey or do gymnastics,” Roberts said. “Some young gymnasts spend six hours a day in a gym.” Meanwhile, Caleb and his father are preparing to train for this year’s Marine Corps Marathon in October. But, Wilson said, it’s only because Caleb wants to. “As parents we don’t push our kids to do things like run marathons,” Wilson said. “We spend more time saying ‘no.’ But if the kid has that much drive and that much ambition and they really truly want to do something like that, supervise them closely, let them give it a shot and you might be surprised with what they can accomplish.” Caleb has some tips for young wannabemarathoners, too: “Make sure you really, really want to do it. Make sure you train enough and make sure you drink water.”
ANNA CORRIGAN (left) and BONNIE AXMAN (center) during the Rock n’ Roll San Diego Marathon PHOTO BY MARATHONFOTO
They started out six years and a few miles apart in Burke. In June 2014, they wound up almost 2,300 miles away, neck and neck at the Rock n’ Roll San Diego Marathon. When Anna Corrigan and Bonnie Axman were cruising through the first miles, they had no idea that they were re-enacting battles between their rival high schools’ cross country teams — the Lake Braddock Bruins and Robinson Rams, respectively. They weren’t trying to break each other, though Corrigan had the lungs and Axman had the muscles to do so. Back then, to think she’d be running a marathon was a stretch. In middle school, she wanted to be a sprinter, before her attempts in her track club demonstrated that her fast twitch muscles were too fast for her to catch. She tended to the longer races and made her name as a 10k runner at the University of Virginia and later, the University of California at Berkeley. “Enjoyed it the most and it helped that I was the most competitive at that distance,” she said. “But I really did enjoy running it.” Axman, 29, who couldn’t be reached for this story, was an All-American in cross country at Division III Frostburg State University and had run 2:45:56 in May 2014, capping off, for now, dramatic improvement in the marathon. “I made friends with her pretty early in the race,” Corrigan, 23, said. “I had no idea we had grown up so close to each other until afterward. She was a few years ahead, so I never ran against her.” During her junior year, assistant coach Mary Jane Reeves helped Corrigan put everything together and keep her in a sport that her father had initially encouraged her to pursue. After graduate school, she settled into a job as a systems analyst for an Arizona environmental engineering company and headed straight to the marathon. “I wanted to do one without any expectations,” she said. “My only objective was to have fun.”
One way to do that is to skip the distances between, like the half marathon, a distance she eclipsed in her college long runs. She stuck to a routine of a long run every weekend, with speed work when she was able to make it to Phoenix Pheet track workouts. “I was doing it all on feel,” she said, which all changed when the race began. An early downhill mile gave her a 5:37 split, shocking her. About half way, at a water stop, Corrigan lost Axman and another woman. She spent the next few miles wading through the men falling back on the course. Within a few seconds of finding someone she thought would be a good pacing partner, he stepped off the course. At mile 18, she really felt alone. “Those last six miles were harder than the first 18,” she said. “By then, I just really wanted to see my family and boyfriend. They were all over the course but kept missing me.” A mile-long hill at 21 forged her into the runner who owned the last four miles, despite not having run more than 18 in training. “It was a long highway stretch with nothing to look at,” she said. “After that, anything was better.” She saw her sister and boyfriend at mile 24 and her parents at mile 25. A mile later, she broke the tape in her debut marathon at 2:44:27, less than 90 seconds off the Olympic Trials “B” standard. Axman was less than three minutes behind in 2:47:37. The Northern Virginia pair had swept a marathon across the country. “I didn’t even know how close I was to the standard,” Corrigan said. “I just wanted to run a marathon.” She wants to give it another shot, though her career may get in the way. She’s trying to find a way to manage her schedule to keep her working out regularly and out of the heat. “It was 100 degrees in April,” she said. “Nothing like D.C. — 95 in Burke is more like 115 in Phoenix because it’s not humid, but it’s still pretty hot. It’s motivation to get up and run early.”
BY CHARLIE BAN
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By Charlie B an
Erica Ferrell with some of her pacing group. Photo by MarathonFoto
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The number — 4:40 — looked like it belonged with a Bible verse. It bounced above Erica Ferrell, attached to a long stick. As she toted that sign through Columbia Heights, NoMa, Capitol Hill and Anacostia, her disciples followed. In the end, her message was indeed the truth. She crossed the line at the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon in 4:40:06, right on schedule. “I lost the last few people around mile 23,” she said. “They stopped to get water. I slowed down, but they started walking.” Least she seem uncompassionate, it wasn’t Farrell’s job to hold her runners’ hands for 26.2 miles. She worked in some flexibility in her pacing for water stops, but she was to be the metronome her runners needed. “When I was on my own, there were times that I thought about running ahead to finish it up,” she said. “But that wasn’t why I was here. I stuck to the plan.” Pacing groups are marathon mainstays, and crucial for many novice marathoners to complete the race. Among the string of solitary runners, they pack up and their dozens of footsteps announce their presence. Spectators use them as reference points when trying to locate friends and family members in the middle of the race. “People really look for them, either to hang on as long as they can or to gauge their pace,” Ferrell said. “I’ve run with plenty of pacing groups in my own racing and they’re good at helping you chill out and not rush. When you’re in the early miles of a marathon, you get eager and you want to see what you can do, but signing up for that group means a reminder that you need to run a pace you can maintain the whole way.” Ferrell, a Thurmont, Md. resident, came to the job at the behest of Nate Nudelman, coach of the Navy Academy Marathon Team. He has a core group of pacers that have worked the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon and Half Marathon and its previous incarnation as the National Marathon, a crew he supplements with Midshipmen who cut their spring breaks short to come and pace. For Ferrell, a 12-time marathoner with a 3:40 best, it was a chance to give back. “I’ve run a lot of my PRs thanks to pacing
groups,” she said. That included hitting a Boston qualifier at the California International Marathon. “It’s a great opportunity to help someone else out.” A four-hour marathon is pretty comfortable for her, so Nudelman’s initial assignment, for her to lead the 4:25 group, seemed like no sweat. When he moved her back to 4:40, she was a little concerned. “They were looking for someone who can run four hours pretty comfortably, without any trouble,” she said. “But 4:40 was a little harder to maintain. I’m not used to that pace.” Sure enough, she started out a little fast, just a few seconds per mile, but a few of her runners let her hear about it. “They definitely know what the pace feels like, or is supposed to feel like,” she said. “They’ve been training at that pace for a while. I just told them to trust me. I made the adjustments after a few miles, shortened my stride, and [got back] on track.” That banked time came in handy when the group hit mile seven’s uphill on Shorham Drive, climbing out of Rock Creek Park into Woodley Park. Running the hill can throw runners’ confidence askew, but Ferrell’s instructions aimed at defraying the curveball the incline threw at any attempts at an even pace. “We tried to maintain that 10:40 pace, but I was more willing to slow down to keep the group together,” she said. “We had a long way to make up that time, and there wasn’t going to be anything to gain from dropping anyone that early in pursuit of the goal time. I just told them: Head up! Shoulders back! Relax! Keep your arms moving! I reminded people of their mechanics, because when you’re focusing on that, you’re not thinking about the dreaded hill.” It turns out the time the group had sped up early on was closely offset by the climb. When they hit the top, they had broken even. Not bad for someone who had never run the course before. “I can usually tell where I am with a pace,” she said. “If I’m going a little faster or slower, I can feel it.” She ran with a Garmin watch to aid her pacing, but rarely consulted it. The Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon sets
the pacing group target times based on the historical demand for pacers throughout the entire Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series. This year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll USA paces included 3:10, 3:30, 3:40, 3:55, 4:00, 4:10, 4:25, 4:40 and 5:00. The accompanying half marathon has 1:45, 2:00, 2:15, 2:30, 2:45 and 3:00 pace groups. When the course flattened out in the second half, Ferrell saw her runners lock into a consistent pace, but she lost her pacing partner to injury. At the same time, some of her runners were also starting to tire and she saw herself as much a cheerleader as a pacer. “Later on in that race, you just have to keep people going,” she said. “It gets a little lonely in Anacostia and you have long stretches where you can see how far you have to go.” Her secret weapon at that point was distraction. “When they start to get negative, you just have to tell them, ‘you just have a little bit to go,’” she said. “Take it one mile at a time. I tell them the same things I tell myself when it gets rough, that I’m getting closer every step.” She is considering running other races as a special needs guide, such as with the visually-impaired runners at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. Ferrell made her own marathon debut in Portland, Ore. while her now-husband was deployed and she was a military police officer in the U.S. Army, was looking for something to do. “I didn’t know anything about marathons,” she said with a laugh. “I definitely didn’t know about pace groups. I sure would have learned a lot faster if I had one.” With that in mind, along with her pacing, she hoped to leave her runners with some lessons she could impart about running technique and motivation during the marathon. And, the basics of how to run the time they want, especially if it means running her pace. That means speeding up a little before the water stops or toilets and getting back in the pack “Just tell them to try to get ahead, because we’re going to keep going,” she said. “That’s the best you can do in those situations.” Because the train doesn’t wait. JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 61
RunWashington photo by Sara Alepin
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By Elton HayEs and Charlie Ban The bananas and bagels are almost gone and the band, if there is one, is wrapping things up. The finish line is about to come down, but here comes Ted Hobart. The native Arlingtonian’s size would throw off most people if they guessed his sport — he was a football player at Washington-Lee High School — but with more finishes than most in the running-crazed D.C. area, Hobart is undoubtedly a marathoner. He hit number 66 in early June at the Deadwood Michelson Trail Marathon in South Dakota. He typically runs under the name George. Often, he’s the race’s encore, finishing last in 11 of his marathons. At the Clarence DeMarr Marathon in New Hampshire, he was awarded with a turtle trophy, painted on a rock by seventime Boston Marathon champion DeMarr’s daughter. It was the first time he had won an award for a DFL. “D” stands for “dead,” “L” stands for “last.” Use your imagination on “F.” “They played the Olympic theme as I crossed the finish, with all the volunteers cheering me on,” he said. “Usually everyone is gone when I get to the finish, but this race was something pretty special.” But he embraces it. His modesty won’t allow him to admit it, but it’s hard to believe that he doesn’t take some delight in knowing that he proves people wrong. “It’s never been easy for me,” Hobart said with a laugh. “When I go to marathons, people will look me up and down and ask if I’m running the 5k. Then when I tell them that I’m here to run a marathon, they assume it’s my first one.” He looks like a bearded Andy Richter, with hair that, at 47, has migrated from the top of his head down into a long ponytail. “You might wonder how I can continue to run in the back of the pack and still have a smile on my face,” he said. “It’s because I have so many things to be thankful about, like having the ability to go the distance and my determination is never an issue it’s my passion to keep going and I hope to continue running for many more years.” Sometimes he turns some noteworthy performances with those DFLs. The 2011 Mad marathon in Vermont gave him bib number one, the opposite of his finish position. Six days later, and at the Grant-Pierce Indoor Marathon in Arlington, he managed last place and a top-10 finish. In 2013 alone, he finished 16, in 16 states, on his way to finishing a 50-state marathon quest he’s been running in memory of his friends Julie Williams and Lollie Winans, who were murdered while hiking the Appalachian Trail in 1996. The brutal crime remains unsolved. Hobart and Winans met as students at Vermont’s Sterling College in the ‘90s, and a strong friendship quickly ensued. When Winans and Williams began to date, Hobart wasted no time befriending Williams. He even asked the two to come visit him in North
Carolina at some point during their hike, but they didn’t make it that far. Their lasting memories give Hobart the steam that keeps him going. He dedicates a marathon each year in their honor, which, for him, is far more meaningful than any finish time or medal he wins. “I think of Lollie and Julie every day,” Hobart somberly said. “Their strength and love for life motivates me every time I run a marathon.” He started running after seeing an advertisement for an AIDS marathon training course plastered on the wall of a Metro car in 2004. He’s the event and corporate fundraising coordinator for Whitman-Walker Health, a community health center that focuses on serving the LGBT community. Hobart never considered long distance running, and hadn’t been athletic since junior varsity football, but something about the advertisement piqued his interest. So he embarked on a new adventure: training for his first marathon in New Orleans. After eight months of rigorous training, the vision morphed into reality as he ran his first marathon. And while he claims that he and his family don’t share the same passion for long-distance running, he says they have come to a mutual understanding. He plans to complete his 50-state journey in Maine, where Winans and Williams met, at the 2016 Mountain Desert Island Marathon. The race will fall on the 20-year anniversary of their deaths. Hobart will also celebrate his 50th birthday that year, and though he is on pace to finish his 50 marathons ahead of time, he is holding up to coincide with that anniversary. “It’s going to be an amazing and emotional time,” Hobart said. “I wish I picked an easier way to honor my friends’ lives, but then again, running 26.2 miles across America is a pretty awesome way to show (them) how dedicated I am to finding strength and peace.” He’s coming up on 10 years of these races. His Marathon Maniacs page, on which he nicknames himself “Dead Last Monkey,” chronicles each race. His remarks for races demonstrate why his times don’t faze him — he clearly loves a challenge and relishes overcoming tough conditions. “Running marathons gives me a sense of peace, that Zen moment to myself,” Hobart said. “I am not a fast runner, but it’s the courage and determination that I bring to all my marathons that allows me to finish strong and with a smile on my face.” In Deadwood, he found himself in the running for another DFL when he came across a first-time marathoner, Cynthia. She was having a rough time, and he drew on his 65 marathons of experience and counseled her through it. “I told her that even if I moved ahead, she should just keep me in sight,” he said. “In the last few miles, I got away from her, but she finished.” JULY AUGUST 2014 | RUNWASHINGTON.COM | RUNWASHINGTON | 63
Ian Hankins leads a group across the Key Bridge in the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. Photo by Cheryl Young
by Charlie Ban Turning onto the Key Bridge, Ian Hankins ran into the screaming hometown crowds. A few months out of Muskingum University, he was at the front of the leading packs in the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. Running a little over 5:30 pace, he had big goals. It wasn’t a heat-of-the-moment move. His 2:30 target was based on his 10k time, and he ran 110 mile weeks to meet that goal. His racing strategy was as ambitious as his training. And he was all in. The marathon isn’t like a 10k, multiple tries typically aren’t an option. But for Hankins knew that wasn’t a possibility anyway. With an enlarged heart, he was making this his one try at the distance, and he was running the only way he knew. He was going to make his marathon memorable. “I should have gone out more conservatively, but I have raced to win my whole life, so breaking that habit was hard,” he said.
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Not as hard as walking after the race. After splitting a PR at the half, he became Wile E. Coyote, about to plummet off a cliff. Things really started falling off around mile 18. Hankins, a St. John’s College alumnus and then an assistant coach there after undergrad, loved the phenomenal crowds, which pushed him to a second wind before the bridge. After a 9:17 pace for his last 5k, the hare collapsed due to extreme dehydration and mild hypothermia. “I learned that the marathon is a beast and you must respect it. Go out conservative for 16 miles then race.” He limped around for two weeks before packing up to coach at Baker University and now, Potomac State College in West Virginia. His strategy worked for one of his athletes at the NAIA Championships, but it didn’t for him. But he’s glad he took his shot. “I have no regrets,” he said.
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September 27, 2014 CLARENDON, ARLINGTON What better way to celebrate Clarendon than a run down it’s most storied boulevard? Join us for the Clarendon Day 10K/5K & Kids Dash, the official kick off to the popular Clarendon Day Festival presented by the Clarendon Alliance. Easily one of the area’s fastest courses, this course takes runners along a foot tour of the eclectic neighborhoods along the orange line. Top off the race with a post-race party at Clarendon’s hometown watering hole, Whitlow’s on Wilson, and other great restaurants, pubs, and vendors.
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RunWashington July/August 2014 issue