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Love, and a chill, was in the air in Pentagon City

by Mike Shomaker February 9, 2014 at 11:30 pm 1 Comment

Calah Schlabach sprints down Army Navy Drive on her way to a third place finish. Photo: Swim Bike Run Photography

Calah Schlabach sprints down Army Navy Drive on her way to a third place finish. Photo: Swim Bike Run Photography

When you think of Valentine’s Day, what comes to mind? How about waking up early on a frigid Sunday morning to run a 5k dressed in a frilly pink tutu? No? Anybody?

For the eleven hundred who showed up to run the Love The Run You’re With 5k in Pentagon City, it became abundantly clear that there’s more to this “Hallmark holiday” than flowers, chocolates and overly expensive dinners that require a reservation six months in advance.

[button-red url=”http://www.albanyrunningexchange.org/results/search.php?ID=3745″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Results[/button-red]The below-freezing temperatures and overcast sky didn’t seem to put a damper on the prerace atmosphere as hundreds gathered for the annual Valentine’s-themed 5k along Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City.  In addition to all of the festive running garb, including tutus, cupid wings and heart-shaped headwear, participants signed up according to relationship status: green bibs for the singles, or “stupid cupids,” as they’re affectionately known and red, meaning “stop right there, I’m taken,” for the codependents.

“We signed up as ‘Stupid Cupids,’” said Lisa Pare, an elementary school teacher from Frederick County who ran as part of a group of teachers donned in homemade shirts and heart-adorned headbands, sunglasses and leggings.  “We do a 5k once a month. It’s brings us together.”

For Pare and her group, “Love the Run You’re With” isn’t necessarily the venue for a romantic encounter but more an opportunity to display their creativeness. “We like the theme – we like having group craft time,” she says with a chuckle and showing off her outfit.

When asked if Pare and the group would ever go beyond a 5k she said, “sure. We’d have to work up to it but we wouldn’t be opposed to doing a 10k or longer.”

For couple Melissa and Eric, the socialness of the race stopped at registration. They signed up together but had no plans to run together.

“We signed up together but we definitely won’t be running together,” Melissa said as they waited inside Champps Sports Bar to stay warm before the race. “He’ll be way ahead of me.”

Others, like Herman Blount of Back On My Feet was simply there to set a PR. “We have different colored bibs?” He asked before the start of the race. “I’m just looking to set a PR, 22 minutes to beat my old time of 25.” Though he finished in 23, he seemed content. “It felt good out there—I enjoyed it.”

The course, which is an out-and-back along Army Navy Drive, isn’t necessarily optimal for PR-seekers.

“There was a big hill at the very beginning,” said Gordon Atkins of New York City who was in town visiting his girlfriend. Both wore red bibs. “I wasn’t ready for that.”

Despite the tough course, he spoke very highly of the race. “It’s cold but people seem to be in good spirits. I’ve done races like this before but I’ve never seen anything like this—there are a lot of smiling people. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Finishing in first place with a time of 14:56, a very humbled Chris Kwiatkowski hadn’t run this course but didn’t seem too fazed by its sharp incline or out and back route. “There are so many hills in the D.C. area, you just kind of expect it.”

Kwiatkowski barely edged out Mark Allen, fellow member of the Pacers-New Balance Racing Team.

While this particular race is set in what is typically referred to as the area’s harshest weather month, it is well timed for those looking to get some training in for bigger races come spring.

“I ran 20 miles yesterday,” said Ali Smith, who was there in support of the 31 Back On My Feet participants. “So today was a little rougher than I would have expected.” Smith is preparing for the Rock n’ Roll USA Marathon next month.  “But it was fun—it went well.”

Yarshay Thorpe, another “Stupid Cupid,” was using the race as a way to get back into the sport.

“I’m coming off a few injuries,” she said as she stretched and bounced around to keep warm. “I used to run with the Pacers 3k groups, which was pretty fun. But today my goal is just to finish. I’m looking to get back into [running].”

Others like Drew Biederman, a Georgetown student and his girlfriend Jennifer Lynn were running their first race together.

“I ran cross country in high school but haven’t run a race since. This is a fun way to get back into it and this is now something for us to do together,” Biederman said.

Lynn, who looked cold but in good spirits chimed in, “I really enjoyed it. I’d definitely do another,” she said.

Mary Baroch, a D.C. resident donned in a green bib was simply out for a little physical fitness with friends.

“I’m not much of a runner,” she said. “I ran with a couple friends, which was fun. I’m going on vacation to Mexico this week so I thought I’d try to get some exercise in before.”

At precisely 9am, the start gun went off, echoing between the shops and buildings on Joyce Street. Three minutes later, when the droves had disappeared, a couple running arm in arm, dressed in festive reds and pinks, crossed the start line, turned back to the cameramen and shouted, “we’re getting married!”

Whatever your relationship status: green bib, red bib, or “it’s complicated,” Sunday’s race proved that running transcends boundaries and brings people together.

“People are out there for so many different reasons,” said Jeff Leon, a middle-of-the-packer who exceeded his expectations in his first 5k. “But it’s cool to see them out there, running together.”

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