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Pace the Nation #143 – The Hosts Talk Amongst Themselves


We start the show on a serious note, at (4:25) we talk about the recent gun violence at Stoneman Douglas High School.

We shift gears at (13:15) Joanna talks about her quick trip down to Florida to visit her grandmother, and the weather comes up and leads us at (16:38) where we talk about the local weather and Farley makes a bold prediction and hates on the snow.

Joanna is getting her foot fixed at (17:56) so we talk about how that will impact her Boston marathon weekend 5k streak.

At (19:05) we have a weather related where are they now which leads to an impromptu proposal to our education community.  And at (23:02) Joanna gets a new phone.

At (28:00) we have an interesting choice for an in-the-news running story that was probably not picked up by other news outlets: Docs runs with Farley a couple of times.

At (29:58) we have a more realistic in the news running story that was picked up by other news outlets, a DC taxi driver drives on the Custis Trail.

At (33:24) we talk about a few events at the USATF indoor nationals, the women’s 3k and the men’s mile.

At (44:20) Farley reveals his strategy for asking questions while asking a question about last weeks PTN episode title.

At (53:44) we recap our biggest happy hour ever and finally, at (56:00) Farley has a big announcement.


The 5k isn’t enough for a Magruder runner

Zachary Zhao (1966) during the Parks Half Marathon. Photo: J.Bird


Cross country races are tough, guts-out, lung-ravaging affairs, and for most high schoolers, 5k is long enough.

But some want to ride that feeling a little longer. Like Zachary Zhao.

Though he wanted to play soccer as a freshman at Magruder High School in Rockville, he broke his collarbone over the summer. That was his second break in the same year, and contact sports were out of the question.

Luckily for him, cross country isn’t a contact sport.

“I didn’t realize kids were running five miles at a time,” Zhao, now a sophomore, said. “That first practice was a shock. Three miles was so hard.”

Zhao soon became more comfortable with training and running. But the short three-to-five-mile runs for cross country practice or the quick bursts of speed for track weren’t satisfying his need to excel. He needed a tougher challenge; he wanted more miles.

In September 2017, Zhao competed in his first half marathon, and since those initial 13.1 miles, he’s been aching to run more long-distance races. He wants to complete a full marathon before graduating high school.

“After track season freshman year, I just had the really strong to run,” he said. “It was a lifestyle. I would get cross country withdrawal if I didn’t run on a certain day.”

The summer of 2017, Zhao would run five to 10 miles because he was enjoying it so much. Leading up to cross country season, Zhao wanted to run a half marathon, and the Parks Half Marathon was basically in his back yard.

He got permission from the race committee to race, since he was younger than 18. Training for that race was a bit tricky with balancing school, homework, sports and evening Chinese lessons. His cross country coach had him training hard — upwards of 70 miles per week.

“I was running in the mornings, and evenings after practice,” Zhao said.

His grades did suffer a bit including in honors physics, said his mom, Shuling Hwang.

“In the beginning, I was a little bit worried. Now he balances himself much, much better,” she said. “Before when he first started running, he was tired so he forgot to do homework. Now, he knows what to do.”

On race day, Zhao was unsure of his own abilities. He started with the 1:50 pace group, but soon realized they were a bit too slow. He sped up and caught up to another group. The race course was similar to some of his cross country routes, so he felt comfortable.

He finished the race just under 1:40.

“I realized that even if I won my age group, I wouldn’t be able to get any prize money because I wasn’t qualified technically because I was underage.”

He hopes to complete this race again in the fall, and his goal is to get his time to under 90 minutes.

“I have a pretty rigorous training plan over the summer that I want to try,” Zhao said. “It’s 65 to 70 miles per week, which sounds like a lot, but after track, my fitness should be a lot better.”

“I’m so happy he found a sport he loves,” Hwang said. “I used to have to wake him up, but now he wakes up himself! I can see the difference.”

That bucket list marathon is calling him, but Zhao doesn’t know which race he’d run. He considered registering for the upcoming D.C. Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in March but concedes that might be too soon.

“He’s growing into a great athlete, and he has a lot of potential,” said cross country coach Exavier Watson. “He just has to focus.”


Off the Beaten Path: Difficult Run

First, let’s get one thing straight although there are numerous hills that make this run strenuous at times, Difficult Run is actually named after the tributary stream, or run, that runs for nearly 16 miles through Fairfax County, eventually ending at the Potomac River approximately two miles south of Great Falls.

With that settled, perhaps one of the most difficult things about running here can be finding a parking spot at the trailhead (although there are nearly 30 different spaces for cars to squeeze into, the Difficult Run Parking Lot is quite popular with local dog walkers and area hikers). If you can’t find a spot here, there is no need to fret, you can also park at Great Falls Park; the entrance is only a half-mile up Georgetown Pike. There are hundreds of spots here, though the park charges a fee.

The forests that surround Difficult Run and Great Falls host a variety of wildlife, including deer, fox, snakes, muskrat and beaver. If you’re lucky, you might see a bald eagle over the Potomac. Luckier still, a coyote or even a black bear in the woods; young males tend to lumber through the area in the spring and summer. There are also miles and miles of trails, which you’ll continuously intersect throughout your run, so it’s impossible to outline this entire recreational area in one try. However, the route I’ve outlined below is a tried and true classic an out-and-back ten miler that will serve as a great introduction to the park.

Once you’ve locked your door and tied your shoes, face the stream then head left, or south, and follow the twisting Difficult Run Trail for a quarter of a mile as it meanders its way under Georgetown Pike. It’s quite rocky, so watch your step, but soon the trail transforms into a wider dirt path. Approximately one half mile into your run, you’ll spy a swimming hole on your right. If you find yourself out here in the summer, take note and consider cooling off here near the end of your run. For now, continue to follow the stream until you reach a decision point, a little less than one mile into your run. To the left, up the hill, is the Ridge Trail, which you’ll eventually want to take. However, I’d first recommend running the short out-and-back to the end of the Difficult Run Trail to see where the end of the stream meets the mighty Potomac. Retrace your steps and tackle the hill. Regardless of your fitness, you’ll no doubt be breathless once you’ve reached the top. However, you’ll be rewarded with a great view of the river. Keep the Potomac on your right and follow the rolling trail as it makes its way north towards Great Falls proper. There are various side trails which intersect along the way, but, generally, the path is easy to follow. Eventually, after approximately 2.5 miles, the trail ends when it hits the Old Carriage Road. Turn right, and continue north towards the park. Your first opportunity to use rest rooms and a water fountain will be up ahead on your right.

If you weren’t able to find a place to park at the Difficult Run Parking Lot, you would have parked somewhere around here, which is what the majority of those visiting Great Falls will do. If it’s a nice day, prepare to negotiate through a lot of people engaged in a variety of activities. I once ran through a cricket game here.

To the south, back in the direction from where you came from, there are a number of great side trails that won’t add much mileage to your run. One of these trails will lead you to the ruins of Matildaville, a town chartered in 1790 built to house and support workers constructing the ill-fated Patowmack Canal, the remains of which can also be viewed here. Not much remains of the town a few dilapidated stone structures, is all – but it’s certainly an interesting piece of history to note.

After you’ve read the historical placards, retrace your steps then deviate one last time and sojourn over to one of the three Great Falls of the Potomac River overlooks, have a quick peak, and continue north along the river. Eventually, the parking lot on your left will end. Around here, the River Trail quietly morphs into the Potomac Heritage Trail, but all you’re doing is continuing to follow the river north, so disregard the formality.

Just before the dam, you will have to negotiate your way through a rock field and climb a short rock scramble, but be patient because the trails that lie ahead are some of the best in the park. Perhaps the most pleasant time to explore these trails is mid to late April – that’s when Virginia Bluebells bloom in abundance giving the trail and the forest an air of magic. After nearly 5 miles, you will arrive at Riverbend Park and have another opportunity to use a restroom and grab a drink. You’ve come a long way from your car at Difficult Run Parking Lot, but I encourage you to explore a bit more if you have the time and the energy. Although technical in places, the Potomac Heritage Trail goes on for miles. However, some of the trails that run perpendicular to the river offer a nice change of scenery and are preferred. Once you’ve had your fill, retrace your steps back towards your car, potentially checking out some of the various side trails you encountered on your way out. If it’s a hot, sunny day, recall the swimming hole about a half mile from where you parked. For sixty-six-year-old Sterling resident Chuck Moser, who’s run this route regularly for over two decades, the swimming hole is an absolute must at the end of any warm outing from Difficult Run.

“It’s like a cold whirlpool,” Moser says, “and it feels great on the legs”.

When you return to your car, don’t be surprised to find a few automobiles running in idle; they’re waiting for one of the parking lot’s coveted spaces to open up.

You can catch the D.C. Capital Striders out here at 6 on Wednesday evenings for group trail runs.


Running Shorts – Feb. 26

  • The transfer period for Cherry Blossom bibs ends Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.
  • Kensington’s Cindy Conant was named the long distance runner of the year for the 55-59 age group by USATF.
  • A taxi drove onto the Custis Trail in Arlington the afternoon of Feb. 19.
  • College and high school teams continued their indoor track postseasons with conference and state meets, respectively. Here are the local distance event winners or local sweeps. On ths high school side, Northern Virginia girls dominated the 6A 1600 meters, and Loudoun Valley’s boys swept the top six spots in the 4A 1600 meters.

NCAA Division I – Big East Conference

800 Meters
1. Ray Rivera Georgetown 1:49.97
2. Spen Brown Georgetown 1:50.28

1 Mile
Amos Bartelsmeyer Georgetown 4:09.10

5000 Meters
Jonathan Green Georgetown 13:51.23 (meet record)

High School state championships – Maryland

3200 Meters
Nandini Satsangi Poolesville 11:26.37

Damacus 9:39.39
Heather Delaplaine, Juliana Ancalmo, Samantha Kameka, Melissa Kameka

1600 meters
Abigail Green Walter Johnson 5:05.30

3200 meters
Green 10:51.92

800 Meters
1 Chase Osborne 12 Northwest 1:58.01
2 Garrett Suhr 10 R. Montgomery 1:58.09
3 Eldon Phillips 12 Northwood 2:00.24

1600 Meters
1 Garrett Suhr 10 R. Montgomery 4:21.47
2 Peter Antonetti 12 Gaithersburg 4:23.91

3200 Meters
1 Adam Nakasaka Bethesda-CC 9:26.21 2
2 Eldad Mulugeta Northwood 9:30.93 2
3 Obssa Feda Northwood 9:33.11 2

4×800 meters
1 Bethesda-Chevy Chase 8:08.39 (Joe Viqueira, Nick Bailey, Aidan Smyth, Adam Nakasaka)
2 Montgomery Blair 8:10.05 (Abou Sow, Leoluca Cannuscio, Samuel Rose Davidoff, Nathaniel Kinyanjui)


1. Sam Affolder 4:18.22
2. Colton Bogucki 4:19.47
3.Connor Wells 4:19.99
4.Jacob Hunter 4:21.22
5.Peter Morris 4:22.54
6.Jacob Windle 4:26.80

Loudoun Valley 8:01.87

1000 meters
1.Olivia Duston Herndon 2:56.38 2
2.Sarah Coleman West Springfield 2:56:55
3.Nicole Re Chantilly 2:59.63
4.Lillian Stephens West Springfield 3:02.05
5.Chase Kappeler West Springfield 3:02.36

1600 meters
1.Gulgert, Isabelle South Lakes 5:03.04
2.Kappeler, Chase West Springfield 5:03.45
3.Leak, Merrill James Madison 5:05.67
4.Willen, Seneca James W. Robinson 5:08.04
5.Yentz, Lindsay Patriot 5:08.22
6.Green, Rachel Oakton 5:08.89
7.Webb, Laura Woodbridge 5:14.02
8.Spear, Anna Langley 5:14.10
9.Tedesco, Sophie George C. Marshall 5:14.51
10.Lebert, Katya Oakton 5:16.72

3200 meters
Lindsay Yentz Patriot 11:04.91

West Springfield 9:12.50


Off the Beaten Path – Dual Ferries

“Kansas” on River Road

Poolesville, Md. 

Directions to Lock 25

Length: 10.1 miles

Description: A mostly-natural surface loop in rural Montgomery County that gives you five miles of the C&O Canal Towpath Trail, starting at Edward’s ferry and running to White’s Ferry, then back on River Road.

Cons: Quite a hike if you don’t live in Western Montgomery County. You’re pretty much stuck with up to five miles to cover if things go awry. The mile markers on the towpath are off at times.

Pros: It’s a delight. There’s very little traffic on River Road, and the loop lends itself to running it twice. Try getting one loop under your belt and then pushing the pace the second time around.

Tricky Points: Be sure to catch the right turn on River Road after it passes Fairbanks. Don’t trust that someone won’t throw a water bottle away if you leave it sitting out at Edward’s Ferry. The Towpath is isolated.

Afterward: By the time you reach River Road’s intersection with Falls Road, you’ll have an appetite for Potomac Pizza or Vie Da France.

From Jake Klim: Despite being just a hop, skip and a jump away from the concrete jungle known as Washington, D.C., parts of Maryland’s Montgomery County would easily be mistaken for agrarian Iowa or bucolic North Carolina. There are many places to run in “MoCo” and one of the best could be the “Dual Ferries” loop in Poolesville.

This 10-mile run passes through two historic Civil War river crossings — Edward’s Ferry and White’s Ferry (hence the name “Dual Ferries”) — while traveling the C&O Canal Towpath and a five-mile section of River Road.

The best part about the run us that is nearly all on natural terrain. There’s a parking lot at Lock 25 (Edward’s Ferry), and from there, head west on the towpath for just under five miles. Just more than a mile in, you’ll cross a bridge that passes over Broad Trunk Run. You will notice mile markers along the towpath, but they will be wildly inaccurate after a while.

Just shy of four miles in, you’ll pass a water pump and a portable toilet. As you pass some houses to the left, it’s just about a mile to White’s Ferry. When you read the road at about 4.9 miles, take a left and head onto River Road. It’s not well protected from the sun, so be sure to wear sunscreen in the summer.

In fact, once you cross the power lines (7.1 miles in), you may feel like the sun is punishing you. Surrounded by fields on all sides, it might seem like you’re in the Midwest, which has inspired the name “Kansas” for this one-mile stretch.

Follow River Road as it makes a sharp left and then a sharp right, and be ready to climb the loop’s only visible hills. If you are lucky, you’ve only seen one or two cars the entire time. As you turn onto Edward’s Ferry Road as you approach 10 miles, the question presents itself: One more loop?

Lockhouse at Edward’s Ferry

Marathon challenge costs worth it for Arlington County police officer

Josh Estep

Josh Estep struggled to finish his first race.

Estep was in the Air Force and stationed in Florida in 2011 when he signed up for a 10k.

“The last couple of miles I was huffing and puffing and pouring sweat,” he said. “I thought anyone who runs more than 10k — you’re crazy. Anything more than that, you’re going to die.”

The 31-year-old Alexandria, Virginia, resident has come a long way since then. He has run dozens of races around the world, and is working his way through an impressive feat: completing a marathon in all 50 U.S. states, all seven continents and the six world majors.

Estep’s running career may not have had a stellar start, but his first winded 10k led him to try another race, the Spartan Race, when he relocated to Joint Base Andrews. And while he admits he was “110 percent fatigued” at the end of the race, the running bug bit him … hard.

“It was something inside me that changed that day,” he said. “I found out it’s not improbable or impossible [to compete in races] … I’m going to persevere.”

As of early February, Estep has completed marathons in 43 U.S. states as well as races on three continents. And in case that weren’t enough, he runs ultra-marathons, too. Overall, he has competed in 58 marathons and ultra races.

Training for that many races can be a full-time job. But even Estep’s true full-time job as an Arlington County police officer can be a demanding and physical job in its own right.

His 10.5-hour evening and overnight shifts can quickly turn into 14 hours if cases are complex or paperwork stacks up. So Estep works to get just the right amount of mileage in before work to guarantee he’s training properly while not exhausting himself.

“My goal is that if I can get 5-8 miles in on a work day before my shift starts. I have to wake myself up a little early to do that — I know I’m going to be a little bit tired, but I’m going to feel better,” he said. “As a police officer, you can’t be tired — you can’t be behind the ball — you have to be on your A game, so it can be tough.”

His Arlington County Police Department patrol supervisor, ​Sgt. Don Fortunato said the department supports and encourages him in his goal — but that doesn’t mean his co-workers aren’t a little baffled by his choices.

“When he first told me about [his running goals]. I looked at him with a little bit of bewilderment, like, ‘you’re going to do what?'” Fortunato said.

Still Estep’s dedication is admirable as well as his perseverance to follow through with his goals, Fortunato said: ​”It’s just nothing short of amazing.”

And his ambition shows in his police work, too, Fortunato said.

​”When he locks on to something, he’s not letting go of it — he follows through,” he said.


Planning and cost behind the goal

What Estep thought would be a lifelong goal to run marathons in 50 states and seven continents, has turned out to be more achievable than he had ever imagined. It just comes down to planning.

“I thought, ‘There’s no way I’ll finish this before I’m 70 or 80,’ but going into 2015 and 2016, I just started amping things up,” he said.

He runs roughly one or two marathons a month, only venturing to do more when timing and destinations allow (in October 2017, he did four marathons in a month!) In the first six months of 2018, he plans to run nine or 10 marathons or ultra marathons.

“I literally have a white board in front of me and I’m always trying to figure out strategically how to do this with money I have and with the time I have,” he said.

At times, the cost of such a hobby can cause financial strain, Estep said. But he knows when to cut back in other elements of his life to accommodate for costs of race registration, travel and lodging.

“I might not be able to go out as much as I’d like to. People ask ‘Why don’t you go on this trip or this vacation? And I say ‘this is the goal that I’m striving for, so I can’t take this extra vacation.'”

In 2017 alone, Estep estimates he spent between $22,000 and $25,000 on race registrations, travel and lodging.

And for those who can’t fathom why someone would fork over that much for running?

“My response to them is we all have goals; we all have passions. And anybody’s goal — it’s important and you’re going to find a way to get that goal done. I don’t want my account to dwindle to zero. So anytime it gets close, I just monitor it.”

What keeps him going?

Shortly after Estep’s first marathon, the D.C. Rock and Roll Marathon, he decided to try his first ultramarathon, the North Face 50k. He admits he hadn’t properly trained for the race, and runner’s knee issues forced him to drop out of the race. Still, instead of sulking, he used the DNF as inspiration.

“I took that bib and put it on fridge and used it as a motivator,” he said, adding that seeing it every day helped push him to run his second marathon and sign up (and complete) the North Face 50K a year later.

Now, his comrades in the Air Force and his family members motivate him. His running career has in return inspired his mother, brother-in-law and many others to lace up their running shoes and try the sport.

“My mom was never a runner, and she started running about 1.5 years ago and started running halves. A year ago, we were having coffee and she said, ‘You and your running, that has inspired me. That’s why I get out there and I map out the miles and I do these races,'” he said of the touching moment.

The inspiration is behind his branding too. During races Estep, his family and crew wear “J Fortitude” shirts. It’s a slogan that reaches what he strives for.

“The word ‘fortitude’ is about courage and adversity and overcoming obstacles,” he said.

When he wears the shirt and promotes his brand, he hopes it resonates with people. It can be seen on his blog as well, where he recaps races and ticks off his latest achievements.

“Maybe, just maybe, I can go ahead and inspire this next person that they can dig deep and accomplish what they’re trying to do.”

When he’s not traveling the world …

When Estep isn’t traveling the world running, he enjoys training locally at Fountainhead Regional Park, Bull Run Regional Park and Burke Lake Park.

The self-coached runner likes to mix it up from time-to-time with trails, scenic sites and hills.

And his favorite race in the area is a no-brainer: “The Marine Corps Marathon,” he responds instantly when asked. The monuments, support and scenes are great, but this race “really mean something.”

“With the military aspect, it really hits home to me.”

And for those who may be aiming to finish their first run, race or marathon, Estep has some advice: “don’t give up.”

“Some days are hard, some days are going be better than others. Some races will feel on top of your game and others go out and feel tired and sluggish and feel like ‘man, this may not be for me.’ Just keep up with it. Cherish and relish the good days and when you have the bad days … show yourself that you’re greater than the challenge you’re currently facing.”


Running Shorts – Feb. 19

Georgetown’s Martha MacDonald at the 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
  • Georgetown freshman Martha MacDonald finished third in the women’s under-20 6k at the Pan American Cross Country Cup in San Salvador, El Salvador Feb. 17. MacDonald was third in a sweep of Canadian women, running 21:02, behind the 20:36 winning time.
  • The Oxon Run Trail reopened Saturday in Southeast D.C.
  • The Washington Post published a story about refugee Ethiopian runner and Silver Spring resident Demssew Tsega Abebe‘s Valentine’s Day reunion with his family.
  • The George Mason and George Washington indoor track teams collected eight first place finishes at the Atlantic 10 Conference Championships in Kingston, R.I. and American’s Brianna Belo added another at the Patriot League Championships in Lewisburg, Pa.

Patriot League Championships (Division I)
800 Meters
Brianna Belo, American 2:12.12

Atlantic 10  Championships  (Division I)
400 Meters
Rico Gomez, George Mason 48.58

500 Meters
Tyler Benson, George Mason 1:03.88

800 Meters
Blaine Lacey, George Mason 1:50.95 (Facility record)

800 Meters
Ashley Lewis, George Mason 2:09.27

1 mile
Colin Wills, George Washington 4:09.29

3000 Meters
Carter Day, George Washington 8:18.93

Women’s 4×400
George Mason 3:46.78 (Sharon Dorsey, Ashley Lewis, Ashley Lucas,  Sarah Moore)

Men’s Distance Medley Relay
George Washington 9:56.46 (Meet record) (Colin Wills, Ed Delavergne,  Carter Day, Chris Shaffer)


Pace the Nation 142 – Sean Huffman

At (4:02) Docs talks about where he was which was watching the Eagles win the Super Bowl from a lonely apartment in Mexico.

At (13:21) we are joined by Vice President of Sports Medicine at MedStar Health Sean Huffman.

At (14:23) we jump right off with a game trying to figure out what each abbreviation in Seans title means.

At (15:57) we talk about his hometown Columbus, Ohio and their avid sports fans.

At (20:10) we talk about the Medstar Sports Medicine organization including (21:05) its partnership with the Marine Corps Marathon.

At (24:47) we talk about the typical running injury cycle and at (26:06) we talk about injury preventative measures.

At (28:47) we talk about the new facility at Lafayette.  At (35:56) we return to the Marine Corps Marathon.

At (35:17) we talk about youth sports restrictions and wonder if we are over correcting.

At (38:45) we talk about Seans own running.

We come back at (43:10) with a Farley story about political luminaries, vocabulary and the New Jersey Marathon.

We have a sad story at (49:40) with the untimely passing of elite runner Jonathan Grey.

At (53:53) we go where are they now and at (57:57) we request a transportation story from Joanna.


Rock Ridge coach bounces back from biking injury

Brian Schmidt finishing the Step Sisters’ Ribbon Run 5K. Photo: Jessica Monte 

It’s as inspiring as it is a little naughty.

T-shirts that say “Run like Schmidt,” worn by dozens of runners at Rock Ridge High School in Ashburn.

Parents love it, though. The shirts aren’t as self deprecating as you think, because Brian Schmidt, the school’s cross country and track coach, is running again despite a traumatic injury a few years ago. He had been an avid road racer and ultramarathoner, and before Rock Ridge opened, had coached at Dominion and W.T. Woodson.

“I’ve been running since 1983 and when something gets taken away from you that you’ve been doing for 34 years, it’s very difficult to come to grips with it,” he said.

While on a bike ride on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail June 6, 2016, he was broadsided by a car. He only remembers portions of the day, recalling only crossing over Leesburg Pike on his way to Route 9. He doesn’t remember heading to the outside of a roundabout, and he certainly doesn’t remember being flung 40 or 50 yards away.

Emergency responders quickly airlifted him out to a hospital in Fairfax, which was news to him when he got the bill in the mail a few days later.

His laundry list of injuries were intimidating to an avid runner, let alone someone who had been scheduled to coach his team a day later at the state track championships.

“My first thought was, ‘I’m going to miss my track meet! I’ve got to get to the track meet,'” he said.

Schmidt had a lengthy list of injuries including a broken pelvis, a broken sacrum, a right collapsed lung, shattered ribs, a broken clavicle, a fractured right eye socket, a concussion, and a traumatic brain injury, along with multiple abrasions from sliding across the pavement.

For years, Schmidt’s motto had always been, “The relentless pursuit of forward progress”, a motto he says was inspired by his ultramarathon running. Even with this devastating injury, Schmidt was not about to let this stop his forward progress. He wanted to be up and running again.

Schmidt’s worries were soon put to ease thanks to the care and understanding of the doctor he had just recently met.

“I had a trauma surgeon who said to me, ‘Listen, I know your background and what kind of runner you were. Just give me time. Just follow my directions. Don’t walk right away and do the wheelchair and I’ll get you back to where you were.'”

Schmidt followed his trauma surgeon’s directions every step of the way, relying on him for guidance to recovery. His instructions were carefully catered to Schmidt’s goal to be running again. Where regular patients would be sticking to the wheelchair for a longer duration, Schmidt was told to walk two miles. After following his directions carefully for about 12 weeks, Schmidt was up and walking regularly again.

Schmidt credits the doctors for the reason he is alive today, along with his helmet.

“I can’t say enough that the doctors and the helmet have saved my life. If I was not wearing my helmet, I’m pretty sure that I would not be here because I would have too much brain injury to be lucid.”

All along the way, Schmidt received incredible support from the school and his community. He was surprised by numerous visitors, from his athletes, to the individuals he works with, even athletes and staff from his previous school he had worked at four years prior.

Ashley Campolattaro has two sons at Rock Ridge, and and runs a K-8th grade youth running program in Brambleton. She recalls the incredible outpouring of support for Schmidt.

“It’s a tight-knit group of kids. Everyone visited him over the summer,” Campolattaro explains. “There was a Go Fund Me Page [for the coach’s medical bills] … I think we raised like $20,000. There was a complete outpouring from the community.”

“I’m just a PE coach and I didn’t think I impact that many kids, but this showed me that they do pay attention and that they do worry about their teachers and it was just so, so heartwarming,” Schmidt said.

But still seeking that “relentless pursuit of forward progress,” Schmidt set some specific goals for himself. One of them was to be at the season-opening cross country practice, Aug. 1.

Sure enough, once the first day of practice came around, he was there. In the beginning, he was still bound to the wheelchair, but as the season progressed, the community saw him improve from his wheelchair to his walker to no walker.

“I know it’s inspired the kids,” Campolattaro said. 

Once school started in 2016 the school honored Schmidt at a pep rally, selling shirts with his motto written on them. “Relentless pursuit of forward progress,” not “run like Schmidt.”

“The school took [my motto] and realized that our mascot is the phoenix and they used that,” Schmidt said. “It’s just a great moving slogan that the kids can rally around and understand and relate to.”

Proceeds from those t-shirt sales now go to a college scholarship.

Schmidt says he is still proud of that motto and that he is considering getting it tattooed on his body.

Rock Ridge’s running program has enjoyed great success since Schmidt’s injury. That season, both the girls’ and boys’ teams went in to the cross country state meet. The girls team finished fifth and the boys finished seventh in the 4A division

After a successful season, Schmidt was eventually able to run again. He participated in his first race since the accident on his birthday in the Step Sisters’ Ribbon Run 5K, a race Campolattero directs.

With such an incredibly journey behind him, Schmidt says he has learned one big piece of advice from the whole ordeal: “Just don’t take things too seriously. Things can change in the blink of an eye and you just have to have fun,” he says. “Keep moving forward … You’re going to have bumps in the road, but you just have to get over it and just keep moving forward.”

But most importantly, he says, “Enjoy the small moments.”


Running Shorts Feb. 12

  • The last few days’ worth of heavy, sustained rain has caused Lake Accotink to flood a little. It’s not a huge problem, and affects only the area near the dam, but you should not try to cross it. In fact, don’t try to cross any flooded trails, you have no idea what might be under there. At the very least you’ll probably twist your ankle.
  • For the 2017 season, the local Gatorade Players of the Year for cross country include, for D.C. Gonzaga sophomore Gavin McElhennon and National Cathedral School senior Page Lester, for Maryland Walter Johnson senior Abbey Green and for Virginia, Loudoun Valley junior Sam Affolder and South Lakes senior Olivia Beckner.
  • The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named Loudoun Valley coach Marc Hunter boys’ coach of the year.
Jonathan Terrell
  • Washington, D.C. consultant Jonathan Terrell completed the World Marathon Challenge, in which runners complete marathons on every continent over the course of seven days.
  • The transfer period for the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run is open through 11:59 p.m. Feb. 29.
  • South Lakes alumnus Alan Webb will be one of the inaugural inductees to the National High School Track and Field Hall of Fame.  Webb, the American record holder in the mile since 2007, will join 29 other inductees, including former U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun (R-Kan.) who has lived in Washington, D.C. Here’s his July 2017 appearance on Pace the Nation.
  • The Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B voted to approve a 1.6 mile segment of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which will connect Fort Totten to Takoma Park, Md.

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