Capitol Hill Classic runners learn the bill comes due, eventually

Cole Ashcraft leads a pack through the first half of the Capitol Hill Classic-- the course that plays out like an episode of Behind the Music. Photo: Charlie Ban
Cole Ashcraft leads a pack through the first half of the Capitol Hill Classic– the course that plays out like an episode of Behind the Music. Photo: Charlie Ban

For an overzealous runner, the Capitol Hill Classic can seem like an episode of Behind the Music. Early on, everything is going great and the gravy train seems like it will never stop. But then reality hits and they have to run back uphill.

[button-red url=“” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]Springfield’s Shauneen Werlinger didn’t know what she was getting into when she took the lead among women in this year’s 10k. She wanted to make sure that if her pursuer, Selameawit Lemma, was going to stay behind her and make a move late, she would have to work for it.

“I was moving along and surprised by how fast I was running, until I saw the mile marks on the other side of the road and realized I’d have to come back this way,” she said. “It was going to be a lot harder on the way back.”

Werlinger opened up a gap at the mile four water stop and started pushing the uphill and went on to win by 29 seconds in 37:18.

“I was just running scared from there,” she said.

American University alumnus Carlos Jamieson pulled away midway through the race to score a 31:42 victory over runner-up men Matt Crowe (32:54) and Dave Wertz (33:48).

“I just kind of sat for a while to see how the pace was and started working the gap half around mile three,” he said. “I was hoping to run a little faster, but the conditions were rough.”

He doubled back to win the 3k in 9:07 over Thaddeus Cwiklinski’s runner up 10:03. Debbie Gutfreund won the women’s 3k in 11:58 over Dionis Gauvin (12:11).

Werlinger’s experience was common among 10k runners.

“Things were going great until about the five mile mark, then I started getting really really tired,” said Sunit Mitra, of Silver Spring. “I slowed down to collect myself and once I caught my breath, I just pushed myself to get that last mile-plus.”

Adding to the challenge was a spike in humidity the morning of the race, which benefits the Capitol Hill Cluster School.

Despite having to walk for a bit late in the race, it was a success for Carolyn Fiebig. She used the race to pick up steam in her push to improve her life through fitness.

“I’m turning 40, and I am going to fight it tooth and nail,” she said. “I’m not going to have a mid-life crisis; I’m going to be positive.”

It was the longest single run of her life so far, and finishing it put her well beyond the halfway point to finishing the Army Ten-Miler in October — her long-term goal. She has an alarm set to wake her up in time for the 6:30 registration window’s Tuesday morning opening.

That’s not to say the 10k was easy. Despite a growing up and living as an adult near the Mississippi River in St. Louis before moving to Silver Spring, the humidity wore on her, as it did many of the other 2,500-plus runners who made the trip from Staton Park down East Capitol and around park of the RFK Stadium parking lot and back.

Cheryl Fitzgerald started off with her friend Vivian Hou, who sped off after a mile. Both had finished a half marathon, but Hou’s effort was a little more recent than Fitzgerald, who admitted the effort began to wear on her in the latter stages of the race.

“I started to feel my blood sugar drop at four miles,” she said. “I should have brought a gel along, but I was glad to have all the water stops.”

How did she push through those last 2.2 miles?

“I made myself smile,” she said. “That made all the difference. And there were kids offering high fives.”

The positivity she mandated applied to her interpretation of the conditions, too. Positivity that made her an outlier.

“I loved this weather, it was perfect. there’s a little breeze, it was sprinkling,” she said. “My muscles didn’t tense up because it wasn’t too cold.”


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