Grab the tortillas but hold the sour cream — Washington, D.C. is getting its first taco mile.
Organized by November Project DC, and in partnership with the D.C. Parks and Recreation Department, the Aug. 26 taco mile challenges runners to eat tacos before running a quarter mile. And then again. And then again… And then again. It’s an all-ages alternative to a beer mile, one that can be sanctioned on public property but still tests runners’ digestive discipline.
Participants can choose their own running-and-taco adventure. The Fast Taco Mile challenges runners to eat a taco and run a lap, repeating the process three times. Although runners are racing the clock, it may feel more like racing their stomachs. They can opt to run four laps and eat a taco, completing the Fun Taco Mile. There is also a family-friendly race open to strollers and runners of all ages. District Taco will furnish the food, with other support from Shake Shack.
“Every now and then you need something refreshing, something more interesting and will bring out a unique and niche crowd,” said Jason Millison, interim communications director for the parks department.
After dealing with injury, the 2017 Chicago Marathon was supposed to be Kathy Hoenig’s big return back to marathoning after a five-year hiatus. At mile 13, she felt awesome. At mile 14, she felt like death.
“I never thought I was never going to finish a marathon,” said Hoenig, of South Riding, Va. “But I didn’t think I was going to finish this race.”
Her legs hurt and her stomach felt queasy. She switched to straight walking around mile 16, as it was the only way to keep moving forward. Finishing the race felt out of reach. Her goal switched from one of time to one of simply crossing the finish line.
Twenty-two miles in, she heard the kind words, “Are you okay?”
Coach Herb Tolbert can’t go anywhere in Gaithersburg without someone calling out, “Hey, Coach!”
It’s a testament to his commitment to the community. A retired Gaithersburg High School guidance counselor and one of the school’s track and cross country coaches, Tolbert has been a pillar in the Montgomery County running scene for over 40 years. Still proud and enjoying what he does, Tolbert is nearing the point where he’s coaching his kids’ kids’ kids.
“It’s kind of like six degrees of Coach Tolbert,” he said with a smile.
Tolbert, 70, has spent his entire teaching and coaching career at Gaithersburg, and simply put, it’s the kids and close-knit community that have kept him there.
Runners have heard it thousands of times: They need carbohydrates and lots of them. It was common to see runners gobbling down bowls upon bowls of starchy pastas and eating tons of bananas.
But this and other conventional sports nutrition knowledge is being questioned as the scientific field of nutrition grows.
Many runners have taken it upon themselves to buck conventional dietary knowledge and experiment with a diet that is tailored to them. For some, it means eschewing meat and loading up on plant-based proteins. For others, it means making a deep switch and relying on healthy fats for energy. Ditching grains has become popular, too.
From paleo to veganism, specialty diets have become popular for runners as tools of weight loss, health advancement or as a performance boost, but like running shoes, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
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.
As soon as runners cross a starting line, they have big ideas as to what their finishes will look like. It could be a fast time, a new personal best, an epic photo finish or the idea of hugging a loved one at the end. Whatever the motivators may be, they’re powerful.
But there are some runners who are unable to cross the finish line. Because of weather, injury, time cut-offs, poor training, mental blocks or other issues, some runners drop out and take a DNF, Did Not Finish.
After race registration fees and months of training, it’s hard to fathom the idea of not finishing a race.
Update: Richmond retired from running the Marine Corps Marathon before the 43rd race, set for Oct. 28, 2018.
Elisa Zwanenburg is in awe of her father, as he nears 80 years old.
“He’s very determined,” she said. “He’s very competitive. It may be the Marine in him.”
Determined is one way to describe it. For over 40 years, Alfred “Al” Richmond has laced up his running shoes and competed in every Marine Corps Marathon in Northern Virginia. He is now the last “Groundpounder” to have completed every race.
“Honestly, I just didn’t want to be the next one that dropped out,” he joked. “It kind of ended up being a rite of fall.”
Richmond doesn’t gloat, nor does he relish in this distinction. It doesn’t seem ingrained in his identity, it’s just fact: He’s the last of the elite group.
While their peers may be slurping down ice cream cones or putting in hours at their part-time job, local high school runners are gearing up for the upcoming cross country season.
With little turnaround between the last school bell and the start of summer practices, athletes don’t have long to go before they lace up their shoes.
And their shoes are pretty important: It’s pretty common for a high school runner to log hundreds of miles over the course of one season. And they need gear up to the challenge. Like pads for football, sticks for hockey or swimsuit and kickboards for swim team, it’s important to get the right gear.
“Running is going to be the most efficient way of getting in shape and the least expensive sport a high schooler is going to participate in,” said Chris Farley, owner and general manager at Pacers Running stores.
Training runs can be long, much longer than a race day 5K, so runners need a shoe durable enough to stand up to the demands.
“The most essential piece of equipment is going to be a training shoe,” said Ryan Long, COO of Potomac River Running. “The training shoe is going to be an everyday running shoe and typically a high schooler is going to like something a little lighter weight.”
Purchasing shoes can be overwhelming, so Long recommends runners head into their local running store and get a gate analysis, if they haven’t done so already. A gate analysis will check their movement, and result in a running shoe recommendation for their needs.
“Younger athletes are not accustomed to picking out their own shoes,” Long said. “They don’t really know what they’re looking for.”
Runners are looking for the proper amount of support and cushion based on their gate and foot type. And with shoes that have minimal cushion to those that look like pillows, a running store associate can provide the right guidance.
As their heel strikes down, some runners roll from their heels onto their toes and their arches bow in. This over–pronation is the result of too much movement of the foot and can put a lot of pressure on the ligaments up the leg. Stability shoes are designed to help alleviate the problem, with a dense piece of foam underneath the arch.
“The shoe will keep the runner in neutral position, all the way from heel to toe off,” Long said.
Women in D.C. are ditching their shirts for their runs: It’s not about looking cute or beating the heat; it’s about striking the conversation of body positivity and how empowering being a woman is.
“We want to change the mentality to recognize our accomplishments [as runners] and we do that through running in a sports bra,” said Lauren Masterson, co-founder of the running group #SportsBraSquadDC.
Masterson, along with Erin Brown and Marisa Carden, started #SportsBraSquadDC as a continuance of body positivity conversations they were having together. Through word of mouth and social media, it became a tiny, yet supportive community.
Joe Stammer never considered himself much of a runner. And yet, there was something appealing about signing up for a 200-mile relay. Tom’s Run offered more than just a flat course and a good time, it offered a logistical challenge that intrigued Stammer: Runners have 35 hours to get their team from Cumberland to the finish line in Alexandria.
His team was welcoming, and Stammer took on the shortest legs–all under two miles. He wasn’t too concerned with his speed. It was Tom’s Run that helped him become a runner.