Frank Perna remembers smiling a lot as he ran the Jacksonville Marathon earlier this month.
The Bethesda man, 56, was aiming to finish in under three hours, making this his fifth straight decade of running sub-3 hour marathons.
He crossed the finish line in 2:53:17, overcoming a chronic hamstring injury that he’d initially worried would derail his race.
“I knew I was going to hit my time, and I was just taking it all in,” said Perna, a member of the Montgomery County Road Runners and sports psychologist and program director at the National Cancer Institute. “It felt very satisfying to execute a race and just do it.”
In 2011, Mark Robinson, a longtime coach at Catholic University, was at a crossroads.
He was essentially juggling two full-time careers: His job as head cross country coach and assistant track coach at Catholic, and his job as a curriculum manager for a D.C. nonprofit.
Robinson, a CU graduate who set records on the track that still stand today, opted to retire from coaching to focus on the job that paid his bills.
“It was a gut-wrenching decision,” he said.
Andrew Bumbalough’s marathon career began almost by accident.
A professional runner for Nike since 2010, Bumbalough was training with the Bowerman Track Club in Portland, Ore. and focusing on chipping away at his 5K PR, aiming to qualify for the Olympic and World Championship teams. But then one of his teammates was trying to make the 2012 Olympic marathon team, and he needed a pacer.
So Bumbalough went to Houston to pace his friend, planning to run 10 miles. Except one of the other pacers had cramps and had to stop. Bumbalough, though, “felt amazing.”
“I was running a 5-minute pace, I felt strong, I kept clicking off the miles,” said Bumbalough, 32, a 2010 Georgetown graduate. “I went all the way to 16 miles. I think my coach was impressed, but also a little irritated. That kind of planted a seed in the back of my mind that I could do a marathon at some point.”
Now Bumbalough is hoping to earn a spot on the 2020 men’s marathon team when he competes in the Olympic Trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29. He finished as the fourth American in the 2019 Chicago Marathon, running a 2:10:56.
The Annapolis Ten Mile Run was three weeks away when the Annapolis Striders got a phone call that almost ended the annual race for good.
It was illegal in the state of Maryland to shut down the roads for a foot race, police said.
That was news to former state Sen. John Astle (D), a longtime member of the Striders who helped found the A10 in 1976 with six other runners. Over the next few decades, the race grew into one of Annapolis’ biggest running events.
“We were told if it wasn’t specifically permitted, then it was prohibited. The law was silent,” Astle said. “We were three weeks out — people had made travel arrangements to be there. They told us we could have the race this year — but then no more.”
When Aileen Barry was a lacrosse player for Watkins Mills High School in Gaithersburg, she knew she was quick on her feet.
If she got the ball, “no one could catch me,” Barry remembered.
It was the first sign that the Montgomery Village native, now 37, had a hidden talent for running. But it wasn’t something she paid much attention to back then, instead concentrating on ballet and field hockey in addition to lacrosse.
Fast forward to 2018, when Barry punched her ticket to the 2020 Olympic Trials at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. She finished in 2:44:49, 11 seconds under the 2:45 standard for women (her gun time was 2:44:51, which is what U.S.A. Track and Field accepts for its qualifying standards.)
“It was close,” said Barry, who now lives in Manhasset, N.Y. on Long Island. “Grandma’s was an amazing experience. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. At mile 24, would I totally blow up?”
Instead, she passed two other women in the last mile.
Barry’s OTQ came as little surprise to her coach, Devon Martin, who has been working with Barry since she joined the Central Park Track Club in 2006.
“Six weeks before the marathon, I knew she was ready,” Martin said.
When designing the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon’s participant t-shirt, graphic designer Corbin Stewart was excited to try a new technique, one that would illustrate the enormity of the race known as the People’s Marathon.
Using full-dye sublimation, a design style where the artwork covers the entire piece of clothing, Stewart created a shirt with images of previous marathon participants all over the front and back. An image of the start line is on the front of the shirt, which is a long-sleeved mock turtleneck. The American flag and the Marine Corps flag are on the back. It’s a colorful shirt, to say the least.
“It turned out a little brighter than expected,” Stewart said. “And then it took off on social media.”
As the medical director for the Pike’s Peek 10K and the Parks Half Marathon, Dr. Trevor Myers is used to treating certain common injuries in runners.
Bruises. Blisters. Sprained ankles.
Bee stings, on the other hand, are not something he expects to see in the medical tent.
But that’s exactly what happened one year during Parks, when bees escaped a beehive on the course and stung about 15 runners.
“So now we always have Benadryl,” said Dr. Myers, an anesthesiologist at Virginia Hospital Center and race’s medical director since 2010.
Medical volunteers play a crucial role at area races, preparing for the unexpected and keeping calm in challenging circumstances.
“You can’t be someone who is going to pass out with a little bit of blood,” said Andrea Myers, who volunteers alongside her husband at Pike’s Peek and Parks.
Lokesh Meena had just moved to D.C. to work as a diplomat for the Embassy of India when he started to notice the city’s active running scene.
At the time, running as a lifestyle choice was a foreign concept to him.
“Look at them,” he remembers thinking. “And look at me.”
Meena weighed nearly 200 pounds, and his doctor was lecturing him about his high blood pressure and cholesterol. Then 27 years old, the Rockville resident began to think more seriously about taking up running to lose weight.
Since then, 31-year-old Meena has dropped about 80 pounds and has racked up an impressive collection of running accolades. He holds a world record for Asian runners in the indoor men’s marathon, set last June at the Grant-Pierce Indoor Marathon in Arlington after he won the race in 3:13:19.
When Zach Gallin wants to hang out with some of his closest friends on any given day, he knows to show up at the Bishop John Carroll Statue in Georgetown at 5 pm.
That’s where the Georgetown University Running Club, which has about 80 active members this year, meets to log some miles and have lots of fun along the way.
“It was one of the first things I joined at Georgetown,” said Gallin, a junior who recently became the club’s president. “It became the centerpiece of my life.”
For college students like Gallin who love to run and crave a team-like environment, club running has become a popular alternative to joining the varsity track or cross country team.
When Jennifer Hickey completed last year’s Oklahoma City Marathon, there was a big surprise waiting for her at the finish line.
Hickey had dedicated the race to Army Sgt. Daniel Eshbaugh, a member of the Oklahoma National Guard who was killed in September 2008 in a helicopter crash while serving in Iraq.
He was one of the dozens of fallen soldiers honored by the D.C.-based runner last year, in her quest to run at least 53 marathons in 2018 to remember those who died serving their country.