Sean and Ryan Leahy love going the miles together. The 25-year-old Alexandria brothers have been running together since high school, but are now upping their mileage out on the trails.
The Leahys both ran at Slippery Rock University, north of Pittsburgh. Sean ran for three years, his main event being the 400-meter hurdles. Ryan ran for only a year and a half, his main events being the 400 and 800.
“After that year and a half, my sister got me into the ultra community in western Pennsylvania,” Ryan said. Intrigued by the longer distances out on the trails, Ryan decided to give it a shot. From there, he put the 400 and 800 behind him.
He ran his first ultra, a 50K, during his sophomore year in college.
“I had no clue what I was getting myself into,” Ryan said. “My sister said, ‘There is this race by my house. It’s a 50K. You should do it.’ I think being naïve helped me out because I had nothing to compare it against. No expectations allowed me to enjoy the experience and get the most of out of it that I could.”
Giovanni Reumante’s experience as a freshman at Northwood High School was a little different than most. His school had recently reopened after being used for offices for the previous 19 years, but rather than siphoning students from other schools, he and his peers were the only class in the school. The Gladiators could have been called the Trailblazers.
He was one of the first members of the school’s track team in 2005, and the cross country team in 2006.
“It was an interesting year. My freshman year, we only had freshmen,” he said. “We were always the top of the class. We didn’t have upperclassmen until we were the upperclassmen.”
You may not know their names, but you probably know their brands.
If you’ve been to a race expo, attended a brand-sponsored event, or even participated in a fun run at your local running store, odds are you’ve encountered a footwear brand representative. They are the hidden people behind your favorite running shoe brands, working across the region to make sure their brand and products are properly celebrated and understood.
The job description of a footwear brand rep is not easy to describe, admits D.C.’s Brennan Schwab, who will soon be celebrating his two-year anniversary as a Brooks rep this April. “It’s kind of a mix between sales, education, and marketing.”
Put in simple terms, the job of a footwear brand rep is to interact with stores who sell that brand’s product. Reps ensure that the sales associates at those stores understand the product, know how to sell it, know what’s coming up next, and to assist with any events, education or promotion.
“I love the mile,” said D.C.’s Henry Wigglesworth, who considers it his favorite race distance. The 61-year-old has fallen in love with the mile after years as a distance runner.
Wigglesworth took up running after college when he moved to New York City and his friends encouraged him to run the New York City Marathon. He did not take the race too seriously but enjoyed it enough to run it again a few years later. During his second New York City Marathon, Wigglesworth even stopped in Central Park for a beer with his friends toward the end of the race.
“I didn’t really think of myself as a very serious runner,” he recalls.
The D.C. area is home to one of the most vibrant running communities in the world, with multiple races happening every week. But it’s easy for runners to miss the inner workings when they’re focused on getting to the finish line.
We all know that runners can get intense. But for most runners, there is a finish line at the end where the intensity comes to a stop. That was not the case for us. For 101 straight days in the heat of D.C. summer, my friend Brian McElhaney and I competed in a grueling run streak competition, all for the prize of a $30 dessert.
Brian and I are both Arlington residents and coworkers at Potomac River Running. One day in the early summer, Brian proposed seeing how many days we could run idea of having a run streak competition between the two of us. I thought it sounded fun, so I agreed. At the time, neither of us really understood what we were getting into.
Tradition versus at uniformity on Fairfax County’s hallowed grounds
Anyone who’s been part of Fairfax County cross country knows the Burke Lake course. You can’t talk to a cross country runner without hearing about it. Since 1974, the park in Fairfax Station has served as a primary competition location, playing host to numerous postseason races, district meets and the season-opening Monroe Parker Invitational. Some of the best distance runners in the country have been through there.
Despite a few minor tweaks here and there, the course has remained relatively unchanged since 1974, which gives it a certain sentimental identity. But unlike the other courses that grace Fairfax County’s high school cross country scene, Burke Lake is not a 5K. It’s 2.98 miles and it has been that way from the beginning. This has sparked a debate over whether to preserve this unique trait or to conform the venue to other courses.
Starting a team from scratch is not easy, but for one local runner, it is a challenge worth doing.
Nicole Mancini may have had a short tenure as a cross country athlete, only competing for two years in college before switching over to marathon running, but her love for the sport is as strong as ever. Originally from Michigan, Mancini moved to northern Virginia in 2006 to work at Brentsville District High School in Nokesville.
With her running background, Mancini was an assistant for Rob Dulin for several years. But everything changed when Patriot High School opened nearby in 2011. Staff at Brentsville split between the two schools, and many coaches chose to go over to Gainesville Middle School rather than go through starting a new athletic program from the ground up at Patriot.
After a brief time at Gainesville, Mancini eventually took a professor job at the Manassas campus of Northern Virginia Community College. At the time, there was no cross country program there. To Mancini, that seemed somehow wrong.
There was no medal, no bib and no race director. But for Silver Spring’s Adrian Spencer, none of those things mattered as he attempted a run to Washington, D.C from Gettysburg.
Spencer had not always been a runner. He started running six years ago while on a beach trip with his family. Back then, he was 50 pounds heavier and could not even run a mile. Quickly approaching his 30th birthday, Spencer decided to give running a shot, hoping it would get him in better shape.
In 2007, Greg Mariano ran the worst race of his life when he attempted, and did not finish, the New York City Marathon. He considered giving up running for good after that. But less than 11 years later, Mariano is turning heads as one of DC’s fastest improving sub-elite runners.
Originally from Colonie, N.Y., Mariano can still remember the first time he discovered his knack for running. During his high school freshman gym class, he was asked to run as far as he could for 12 minutes. Mariano ended up running 8.5 laps. “I don’t know what possessed me to try so hard,” he jokes.