She started off anonymously, but as Jamie Watts kept going, more and more people noticed what she was achieving.
“No one was ever supposed to see me.”
That’s what she thought, back when she first started running in 2012. With a simple goal of getting herself in shape, Watts began running on a treadmill at her gym several times a week, but she never intended to run in public.
Disabled since birth with cerebral palsy, Watts’ gait is different than most. She runs on the treadmill independently, but uses a cane to compete in all of her races. Like any runner, Watts has to take extra care on rough or steep terrain, but she views it as just a part of her overall strategy when completing a race.
Disability does not limit Jamie’s spirit, or her ambitions. Six months after she began a concerted effort in running, Watts decided to register for her first public race, the Marine Corps Gender Defender 5k in Quantico, Va. “I thought I’d start with the Marines – and they’re intense,” she said. Though she was so sore after the race she could barely stand, she loved every minute of it. She was soon racing regularly, about seven races per year.
On April 25, 2015, three years after beginning her journey, and dozens of races later, Watts crossed the finish line of her longest race yet, the Pacers George Washington Parkway Classic, with a time of 6 hours, 32 minutes, and 12 seconds for 10 miles. The race represented the accomplishment of a significant milestone for Watts: her 34th race completed over the course of a year, a goal she set out to complete last June to commemorate her upcoming 34th birthday on June 13.
The journey to get to the finish line of a 10 mile race began when Watts met Stacy Sanders, a Pacers race staffer, at a 5k race last June. Watts mentioned to Sanders her tentative goal of finishing 34 races, but also her concerns that it would be too logistically challenging to complete.
“Living in DC, we have lots of races, but some are in cold or bad weather. What if I fall, or what if they can’t keep the roads closed long enough for me to finish?” she worried. Rainy or icy conditions, rough terrain, and downhills all present challenges for Watts due to her disability. Sanders responded that Pacers would do whatever it took for her to meet her goal.
Pacers was good on their word – and much credit is due Lisa Reeves, Pacers’ race director, for making it her priority. “The objective with Jamie is to provide the same quality experience as everyone else,” she said. “I’d like to see her finish in the middle of the pack. That means she gets crowds, and music, all of it.”
After talking with Sanders, Watts’s first Pacers race was the Freedom Four Miler, a race that finishes on a tough uphill course, on what happened to be an extremely humid day last June. “I’m used to finishing when no one is around, but that day, there was a huge crowd of people when I finished,” Watts said.
Finishing with the crowd meant Pacers had to accommodate an earlier start time for Watts on all races – sometimes 30 minutes to one hour. On the day of the 10 miler, Watts lined up to the starting line at 6 a.m., a full two hours earlier than the rest of the participants.
As she continued onward towards her goal throughout this past year, Watts would research and plan her races about a month in advance, but then often added additional ones at the last minute when her friends invited her to try out new events. This meant she would sometime race twice in one day, or twice in one weekend.
“I had the goal in the back of mind to complete, but I always thought that something was going to happen and I wouldn’t be able to finish. But as we got closer and closer, we started to think I could do it,” she said. “And I say ‘we’ because I could not have done it without Pacers. I give that credit to Lisa and her team, and it is flawless every time.”
In addition to the early start time, Pacers also designated an assigned volunteer to run with Watts during every race. “That wasn’t something I asked for, but it’s something they came up with as a best practice,” Watts said. “Lisa knows I’m a strong runner, but she wants to make sure I’m fully supported just like everyone else.” Watts and Reeves chat before every race to make sure all details are in place.
She did encounter some challenges along the way. One race around Halloween took runners through a field at night in the dark. Watts would trip every 10 feet over a tree root, falling multiple times. “It was major danger,” she said, “but I met people on the course, and eventually we all finished together. Every race you have that flash of thought, when you think ‘I’m not going to finish this.’ But everyone has that. And then you power through.”
Of all her races, Watts is most proud of completing the 10 miler. “I knew I had the first 10k down, but I needed my friends to get me through the rest,” she said.
This concern was realized on race day. Between miles seven and eight, she began to fear she couldn’t finish. But as she approached two spectators cheering on the side of the GW Parkway, she realized one was her best friend Katie, who flew in from Austin the night before to surprise her at the race. “I just remember saying over and over, ‘I am so glad you are here,’” she said. “There were some tears of joy between mile 7 and 8.”
Watts’ enthusiasm, upbeat attitude, and positive outlook have made an impression on many.
“She is amazing. One of the kindest, gentlest, most generous individuals you will ever meet,” Reeves said. “And appreciative almost to a fault, because what we do to help her out is just what we do.”
In addition to her training, where she keeps a consistent schedule of four miles a day, five days a week, Watts works at an organization supporting individuals with disabilities. She also loves attending concerts and spending time with friends.
Throughout it all, she has maintained her love of racing. She has no plans to take a break, now that her 34 race challenge is complete. Her next race is the Marine Corps Historic 10k on May 17, and she is already preparing for the two killer hills on the course.
Reeves has no doubts she can do it. “There are no limits on what a person can do, and she is a true example of that,” she said.
|Where she did it
|June 14 – PurpleStride for Pancreatic Cancer
|June 21 – Fit Foodie 5k
|June 29- Freedom Four Miler
|July 4 – Firecracker 5k
|July 12 – Latinas Leading Tomorrow 5k
|July 19 – Pittsburgh Epilepsy Walk
|July 26 –Crystal City Twilighter 5k
|Aug. 8 – Lost Dog 5k
|Aug. 9 – Glo Run DC
|Aug. 15 – Lost Dog 5k
|Sept. 6 – National Press Club 5k
|Sept. 12 – Divas Wine Country
|Sept. 20 – Light The Way 5k
|Sept. 27 – Clarendon Day 5k
|Sept. 28 – Color Run DC
|Oct. 4 (a.m.)- Run or Dye
|Oct. 4 (p.m) – Dead Man’s Run
|Oct. 11 – Monster Glow Dash
|Nov. 1 – Color Run
|Nov. 2 – Stache Dash 5k
|Nov. 9 (a.m.) – Veterans Day 2.5
|Nov. 9 (p.m.) – Color My College
|Nov. 22 – Marine Corps Turkey Trot- 10k
|Nov. 27 – Fairfax Turkey Trot Four Miler
|Dec. 7 – Jingle All the Way 5k
|Dec. 14 – Frosty 5k
|Jan. 1 – St. Louis Commitment Day 5k
|Jan 25 – Ft. Myers, Fal. Cypress Sprint for Music
|Feb. – First Down 5k
|Febr. 8- Love the Run You’re With
|March 1 – St. Pat’s 5k
|March 14 – Four Courts Four Miler
|April 11 – Epilepsy Walk DC
|April 26 – George Washington Parkway Classic
Racing down the final downhill straightaway in first place, with a strong finishing kick, Tyreece Huff was the picture of confidence. Even on a hilly course at Fort Dupont Park, with “brutal hills on the backstretch,” Huff was not fazed. “This course is like a backyard to me. I train here,” he said. “And I love hills.”
He proved his point, running a 17:42 on the rolling 5k course at the third annual D.C. State High School Cross Championships, winning with a wide lead over second place Jake Gosselin of Sidwell Friends School in 18:01.
[button-red url=”http://www.zippyraceresults.com/search.php?ID=4473″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Boys Results [/button-red]Understandably, Huff was happy with the outcome of the race. “I think I executed all my splits correctly,” he said. “Some parts were too fast, due to the adrenaline, but then I settled into it.”
[button-red url=”http://www.zippyraceresults.com/search.php?ID=4472″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Girls Results [/button-red]Huff, a junior at Phelps ACE High School in Northeast D.C., also competes on the track in sprints, middle distance, and the 2,000 meter steeplechase.
“He’s been a great runner the past three years, and just ran a fantastic race today, with a great kick, ” Sidwell Friends head coach Bill Wooden said of Huff.
Wooden has reason to be pleased, for his team’s top finish in the boys’ competition with a remarkable 19 points overall. “I’m very pleased with how they did,” he said. “They ran fantastic.”
Following Gosselin, a strong contingent of Sidwell runners swept spots three through five, with their fifth runner, Julian Dixon, finishing in ninth place in 18:42.
“I pushed that big hill on the second mile really hard,” Gosselin said, which may have taken away from some of his finishing kick. “I wish I could have pushed it more at the end. But we did great. I’m super proud of these guys.”
These guys include Christian Roberts, third place in 18:07, Sam Blazes in fourth in 18:09, and Amal Mattoo in fifth in 18:17. “It’s fun when we can run as a pack,” Blazes said.
The Sidwell team plans to race again next week in the Maryland & Washington, D.C. Private School Cross Country Championships in Derwood followed by the Nike Cross Regionals in Raleigh, N.C. at the end of November.
Finishing second place overall in the boys’ team competition was Wilson High School with 76 points. St. John’s College High School rounded out the top three with 91 points.
Wilson head coach Pat O’Steen was proud of his team’s performance, led by Aaron Coates‘s sixth place finish in 18:28. “We had a couple minor injuries going into today, so I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished,” he said.
Wilson team captain Gorka Fraeters has been struggling with a knee injury, but gutted it out to finish 13th in 19:06.
In his sixth year of coaching the Wilson runners, O’Steen has seen their performances steadily improve over time as the team and program mature.
“Looking back, we have clearly improved every year – not just in finish times, but in how we work together,” he said. “The guys are doing a great job of closing, and in tightening up our top five runners.”
On the girl’s side, Sidwell Friends junior Taylor Knibb took first overall in 19:37. While happy with her race, the challenging course left her somewhat at a loss for words afterwards. “I don’t remember much, to be honest,” she said. “It’s a tough course, but everyone’s got to do it, right?”
Knibb is new to running, having never run cross country or track before. A more experienced swimmer and cyclist, she considers running to be her weakest sport of the three, but is considering track this spring.
Finishing in second place with a time of 20:00 was Sami King, a junior at The Field School. King raced on legs that were less than fresh, having competed three days earlier at the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference (PVAC) Championships, where she finished first place overall in 18:48.
“The race today was tough, with long intense uphills and not many chances for recovery,” she said. “I wish we had trained more on hills, but it was a really pretty course, and a perfect day for cross country.”
With a sixth place team finish overall, The Field School head coach Jesse Gaylord was happy with his team’s performance. “I think we ran fine for two days of rest and Halloween the night before,” he said. “They ran tough on a tough course, so I’m proud of them.”
Georgetown Visitation continued their winning streak from this same meet last year, taking first place in the team competition with 48 points. Georgetown Day School finished second with 50 points, while the Sidwell Friends girls came in third with 65 points.
Led by senior Emily Kaplan in third place with a time of 20:21, the Visitation team included eighth place Michaela Kirvan in 21:25, ninth place Elle Lynott in 21:27, 11th place Cassia Torczon in 21:34, and Jillian Murray in 17th with a time of 22:33.
“I was dying on the hills, but I had a lot left in the last mile,” Kaplan said. After struggling with injuries throughout her junior year, Kaplan is fully healthy now, and plans to attend Yale University next year.
Visitation Coach Kevin Hughes was pleased. “I’m always pleased if we execute the plan,” he said.
Hughes takes a strategic approach to racing. “You have to walk the course to know where you can excel, where you can take advantage of certain parts of it, and where you need to be conservative,” he said. “The first 1,000 meters is tough, but there are a lot of really gracious downhills on this course too.”
Cori Coats, assistant coach at Georgetown Day School, was thrilled at her team’s second place performance, but found it bittersweet too, having lost to Visitation by only two points and by three points last week in the ISL/ICA/MAC private school conference championships.
She chose to look at it in a positive way, however. “[Visitation] has such a strong program, so for us to finish so close really speaks well of us,” she said. “We are really excited, and the girls have such a strong friendship, and are really gelling now as a team, and as a community.”
With a total of 59 girls and 75 boys in the race, D.C. State Athletic Association (DCSAA) Athletic Director Clark Ray is happy with how the event has grown over the past three years. “But where do we go from here?” he said. “We’re small, but I want to make it bigger.”
To Ray, this may mean expanding the meet to include middle school. elementary school, and junior varsity teams.
To pin a label on George Banker, you’d have to get him to slow down first.
He’s a runner, an organizer, a historian, a photographer, a speaker, a joker, a mentor, a problem solver, and whatever else anyone needs him to be.
But as Oct. 26 approaches, Banker is first and foremost a marathoner. The 64-year-old will run his 30th Marine Corps Marathon, and his hundredth marathon, overall.
“Is it a passion? Yes, it is,” he said. “If you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to get it done.”
You’ve seen him: tall, a lean runner’s build, short hair, notepad in hand and camera around his neck.
He grew up on the Quantico Marine Corps, the son of two Marines and the stepson of another. He went on to serve 20 years as a tech sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, eight in active duty from 1969 to 1977, which included service in Vietnam. While spending 12 years in the Air National Guard based in Washington, D.C., he studied accounting at George Washington University, began working for IBM. He worked at IBM for 25 years, while raising children Ronald, Yvette and Dre with his wife, Bernadette. They’ve been married for 43 years.
Banker’s military upbringing and career shaped his outlook. “There is just a bond that the military has that is very difficult to duplicate in civilian life,” he said.
His name is synonymous with the area’s military-sponsored races. His job as operations manager for the Army Ten-Miler “pays the bills,” but he also serves as the MCM historian and in an unofficial capacity on the board of many other local D.C. races, including the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, the George Washington Parkway Classic and the Lawyers Have Heart 10k.
At other races, he works as an announcer and provides general support and troubleshooting to race directors.
Martha Merz, an elite masters runner and Navy spouse who has lived in the D.C. area on an off for the past 25 years, has known George since she began racing here after college. “He is the professional behind the scenes at so many races, getting things done and ensuring that race organizers understand runners and all the intricate details that go into a quality event,” she said.
Writing race recaps for the Rock Creek Running Club in 1984 gave him his start in running journalism and he was hooked when he saw his byline in Runner’s Gazette. For the next decade, Banker covered about 60 races per year, sometimes running in them, too. He followed the lead of Jim Hage and Steve Nearman, then developed his own style, becoming a race reporter for the masses.
“I would talk to anyone and everyone – front, middle, and back of the pack,” he said. “Every race has a soul. But it takes the right person to write about it.”
Documenting MCM’s history, from its debut back in 1976, was one of his passions.
Those Runner’s Gazettes, along with seemingly every other running artifact he has collected, are neatly filed in boxes that basically insulate the basement of his home in Fort Washington, Md.
“I’m an organized pack rat,” he said. “When I die, there’s going to be a U-Haul in the funeral procession, behind the hearse.”
Those records helped Banker assemble The Marine Corps Marathon: A Running Tradition, published in 2008.
“This book was a labor of love, an ego trip,” he said. “I wanted my name on the front cover and my picture on the back. I don’t track sales; I don’t go buy a truckload of books and park out by the Metro.”
But writing the book was important to him, for the simple reason that he is the only one with as much knowledge on the history of the “people’s marathon.”
“He is the people,” said MCM race director Rick Nealis. “I can’t think of another individual in the D.C. area who does what he does for the sport of running. And from a historian’s standpoint, he’s been invaluable.”
Nealis appreciates that Banker has been able to cross “party lines” by being a uniting force among race directors, race organizations and sponsors… even different branches of the military. “He is the definition of ‘joint,’ or purple, as we call it [in the military],” Nealis said.
His ATM duties include the role of community outreach director. He also sees himself as an advocate for runners. “I’m looking out for that runner, because no one else is going to,” he said. “I may be bumping heads with the race director on some of my decisions, but frankly speaking, that’s my job.”
He’s not shy about getting an elite runner into a race to help boost the quality of the fields. “I look at this as a way to validate everything these elite runners have been doing,” he said. “And I’m going to bring in some talent to race with them.”
But Banker also welcomes talent to races for other reasons: the great stories that emerge. He seeks to tell not just the running story, but the personal side, too. He has learned that writing about what makes runners tick, and how they balance the running, the personal, and the family side of things, is what people want to read – not just race results.
Masters ace and Potomac River Running owner Ray Pugsley, who won the masters title at the 2013 ATM, said in September that Banker was urging him to defend his title, despite recent back surgery. Pugsley had recovered, but had not quite fully regained his fitness.
“He’s relentless,” Pugsley said.
Pugsley has known Banker for 20 years. He remembers seeing George at the finish line of every race with a smile on his face, hoping to interview the finishers.
“He knew our names, he knew about us, about races we had run, about who we were,” he said. “And in turn, we started to get to know George — not just as a reporter, but as a friend.”
Throughout his many dedicated years of service to the sport, Banker has managed to keep up his own racing. Running well before dawn has always been routine, given his schedule.
His fastest marathon is a 3:04:37, run in Houston in 1988. Nowadays, Banker is happy just to finish, injury-free.
He has targeted Marine Corps for number 100 for some time, but ice on the George Washington Birthday Marathon course, which forced its cancellation in February, meant he had to improvise and run the Elkton Trail Marathon in Maryland to catch up and stay on pace. It did not go well.
“It was one of those races where I had to tell myself to stop looking at my watch,” he said. “I have some unfinished business there.”
In addition to running his hundredth marathon at MCM, he also plans to run his seventh JFK 50 Mile on November 22. He wants the sweatshirt given to runners who have finished 10 JFKs.
Banker has been “the heart and soul of military-related running in the region for decades,” said Race Director Mike Spinnler.
Banker has long been advised by Joe Lugiano of Cary, N.C. Banker thinks of Lugiano as more than a coach, but someone who embodies what running means to him.
“He has been my coach back to IBM days and I have known him since I have been running,” Banker said. “We all have that person who knows your body and what you can do. He trains [me] by using my confidence in my abilities.”
In his own coaching, Banker takes a demanding yet realistic approach.
“I will get inside your head; I want you to make a commitment. Take a look at your schedule. How much time do you have to devote? That’s how much time you give. You need to get out of it what you want.”
Local runner Elyse Braner met Banker several years ago. “He took me under his wing and quickly became of my most important mentors and role models,” she said. “Many others can say the same of George. His commitment to volunteerism and the community is nearly unequaled. On top of all of this, he finds the time to train for marathons and ultra-marathons. I only hope that one day I can have even a fraction of the impact on the community that George has had.”
Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World Bart Yasso first met Banker at a convention nearly three decades ago.
He described Banker as a “dear friend,” and as someone who does a “bundle of everything for the sport.” Yasso was particularly impressed, though, by Banker’s efforts to promote diversity in running.
“He had so much insight on the future of the sport … and he’s really had an impact in that way,” he said.
Throughout his 20 year career in the Army, Jeremy Rausa has learned how to deal with challenges. Multiple deployments – to Iraq, Korea, and Germany – meant he had to be away for long stretches from his daughter Adriana, now seven. A passion for running helped him stay fit, and he found it helped him integrate more easily into new communities as he transferred from place to place.
He has always felt a debt of gratitude for the Army and an obligation to give back to his fellow service members. He’s showing this gratitude in a big way in September when he sets out to run 185 miles in seven days (approximately 26 miles per day) along the C&O Canal Towpath to raise funds and awareness for wounded warriors, in a mission known as 185 for Heroes.
The organization has partnered since 2010 with the Georgetown University Running Club to host the event every September, and all donations go directly to Operation Second Chance, an organization dedicated to serving wounded, ill, and injured combat veterans.
Rausa now works as the vice presidential communications officer at the White House Communications Agency, is stationed at Bolling Air Force Base and lives in Arlington. A after 25 years of running, he has recently focused on marathons and ultramarathons. He is now training for this year’s Marine Corps Marathon and JFK 50 Miler.
He’s a member of several running groups, including Hardcore Oats and I Run, You Run. “I came to D.C. as a runner, because that’s what we do in the Army,” he said, but only recently began focusing on training seriously for long races, and the groups have helped him stay motivated.
Rausa learned about 185 for Heroes through several coworkers, David Brown and Michael Rychlick, who participated last year, and was motivated to sign up to support the cause of wounded warriors. “Anything that benefits the Army, I’m all for,” he said.
Rausa won’t be alone in his quest. He’ll run side by side each day with fellow “Team 185” member Paul Kozcera.
After enlisting in the Air Force in 2008 (leaving with an honorable discharge due to a health condition), Kozcera now works at Natural Running Center in Shepherdstown W.Va., and often travels to compete in running events.
The race starts Sept. 14 in Cumberland, Md. and finishes on Sept. 20 in Georgetown. The two men have a support team in place, including two cyclists and a support vehicle.
The plan is to run about half the daily distance in the morning, break for lunch, then run the remainder of the miles for the day. They’ll stay in hotels, for which Rausa is grateful. “I’ve done the camping thing, and it will be nice to have a good bed to sleep in after running 33 miles,” he said.
Rausa has been training steadily all summer, primarily for his fall marathon and ultramarathon. He does a lot of trail running, swimming, and biking, and also competes in triathlons. Speed isn’t his main focus when he races (his goal for Marine Corps is a sub 3:30), but his daughter Adriana is pushing him. “She tries to teach me how to run fast, because she sees me jogging slowly a lot,” he said. Adriana completed her first race, the Fort Belvoir Turkey Trot, at age four.
Rausa is not concerned about finishing 185, since he plans to run at an easy pace and not push too hard. He expects his biggest challenge, after dealing with tired legs, is boredom. “But there’s ways to deal with that,” he said, “I learned at JFK 50 how to focus my mind on things, and the C&O Canal is pretty scenic so that will help.”
He has a good nutrition regimen in place – breakfast being his most important meal. Eggs, Greek yogurt, coffee, fruit, and flaxseed waffles with peanut butter and honey are some of his standbys. During a run, “I haven’t come across a food on a 50 miler that has upset my stomach,” he said. He plans to take a lot of Gus, Clif Blocks, and electrolyte tablets along the way.
When asked what the first thing he plans to do when he finishes the run, Rausa paused. “Well, I’ll be in Georgetown, so I guess I’ll ask someone to get me a cupcake [from Georgetown Cupcake],” he said. He’d like a chocolate peanut butter.
He’ll then take a few days off, and start back up again training for his fall races.
“I know I’m prepared mentally,” he said. “Physically, I’m as good as it’s gonna get. It’s a good challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
Perhaps she was getting her legs back under her, 10 months after having a baby. It might have been the adrenaline that came from not being able to find her bib and almost missing the start. Maybe runners just don’t forget how to race.
Whatever it was, it worked for Lindsay Wilkins, who won the Capitol Hill Classic 10k May 18 in 37:38. Earlier in the year, she had finished third at the Four Courts Four Miler. The race is an annual fundraiser for the Capitol Hill Cluster School and starts and finishes at Stanton Park, after a run out to RKF Stadium on East Capitol Street. The event yielded almost $80,000.
[button-red url=”http://www.zippyraceresults.com/search.php?ID=3972″ target=”_self” position=”left”] 10k Results [/button-red]Baisa Moleta letd the men’s field, finishing first overall in a time of 31:52. Teammates Lidedu Tekelu and Teresa Fekensa followed him in third place (32:05) and fifth place (33:05), respectively. Moleta also finished first in the 3k race, held immediately after the 10k, in a time of 9:11. Fekensa finished second overall in the 3k in 9:24.
[button-red url=”http://www.zippyraceresults.com/search.php?ID=3973″ target=”_self” position=”left”] 3k Results [/button-red]All originally from Ethiopia, the group now trains in Washington, D.C. Their teammate, Hirut Mandefro, finished first place overall for women in the 3k race in a time of 11:51.
Fekensa enjoyed the race and was very happy with his time, but noted that he and his teammates were not running on fresh legs, having just competed in the James River Scramble 10k Trail race in Richmond the day before. Fekensa finished fourth overall in that race.
Finishing second place for the men in 31:54 was Kieran O’Connor of Arlington. O’Connor was pleased with the great conditions, organization, and competition at the race.
“The first four miles were very tactical, each guy in the lead pack surging then sagging back again,” he said. “I tried to take it hard from about four and half miles, but the winner sat and outkicked me. I was just second best today.”
O’Connor, who runs with the Georgetown Running Club, is training for June’s Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, Mn.
“Times were definitely slow out there today, but I felt it was a really solid effort,” he said.
Vidhya Amirthalingam of Silver Spring commemorated her race by taking a selfie with her daughter at the finish line. It was the first race for her 20-month-old daughter Oviya, who enjoyed the ride.
“Since I’ve had her, I’ve cut back on mileage, but I’m increasing my speed,” she said. “I realized that the shorter runs can be just as fun.” Amirthalingam tries to run as often as possible, but primarily trains alone due to her hectic schedule. “Between work and being a mom, you just go when you can fit it in,” she said.
Mona Shah, of Washington, also used the race as a motivation to get back into shape after giving birth to her son Rohan last October. “I haven’t trained at all for this,” she admitted. “But it’s a very family friendly race, and I wanted to get out there and do it.”
The Cupitt family also made the race a family event. Julia and Howard Cupitt, of Durham, N.C., traveled to the D.C. area for the weekend to run with their daughter, Hilary Moore of Arlington. They all started the race together, but mom and dad finished a bit behind their daughter. Moore does a lot of 5ks and 10ks, but this race marked the end of her spring racing season. She plans to take the summer off from racing until next fall.
Despite running what she described as her “personal worst” time, Julia was very happy for Howard’s strong finish. She is also proud that Howard ran his half marathon PR in 2012, when he turned 70.
Julia is glad that both she and Howard have remained healthy and injury free over the years. “The secret is to keep all your joints keep going in the same direction,” she said. She and Howard often run together in the trails around Duke University.
For several participants, the race served as a change of pace from their typical competitions in triathlon. Terra Castro of Arlington is a recently retired professional triathlete. She placed fifth overall in 40:22, holding strong in second place until the last mile of the race. “10ks are brutal, but I gave it my best effort,” she said.
Castro added that she is in the process of learning how to be a non-pro athlete, while also taking on the new challenge of being a running coach to middle school students. She is now in her first year of serving as the cross country coach at Oyster-Adams Bilingual School in D.C.
Her husband, Zane Castro, is the head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country and triathlon teams at Marymount University in Arlington.
A fairly new D.C. resident, having arrived here from Austin, Texas with her family in 2012, Castro is looking to become more familiar with the D.C. running scene. “I’m just taking it all in, trying to network with people and build connections throughout the running community here,” she said.
Derek Smith, of Washington, also spends more of his time training for triathlons, but selects a few good road races a year in order to keep up his running shape. He chose to run the Capitol Hill Classic because he likes how well organized the race is, and he had a few friends running with whom he planned to celebrate after. His nephew Sebastian was also there to run the kids fun run.
“I choose races based on convenience,” he said. Given that he doesn’t own a car, “A race needs to be accessible either by metro or Capital Bikeshare for me to want to do it.” Rockville Twilighter and GW Parkway Classic are on this list.
Smith trains with the D.C. Triathlon Club and also just started running with The November Project. He plans to race the Nation’s Triathlon in September and the inaugural IRONMAN Maryland two weeks later.
Jess Levin and Carlos Maza, both of Washington, were pleasantly surprised at their race performances. Having partied perhaps a bit too hard the previous night, both were struggling with the after effects, but found the race to be enjoyable, except for the loop around the RFK parking lot.
The two had trained hard to compete in a Ragnar Relay, which they did last weekend in Cape Cod, Mass., so this race turned out to be more of an afterthought. Still, both had fun and look forward to future local races, including the Ragnar in D.C. this fall and the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015.
Finish lines, pacing and water stops.
Colored powder, costumes and glo sticks.
How could going from point A to point B could be so different?
In the end it’s simple: racing versus participating. And sometimes one can lead to the other.
In the mud. Covered in paint. Glowing in the dark. Chased by zombies. Under barbed wire. Plop down $40 and you’re in. Everyone goes home happy — the organizers make a bundle, the runners have fun and a bib to go with the story. Some events call themselves 5ks, but they’re nothing like what the typical weekend racer has seen. There are no clocks, no age group prizes, no quibbles about the course being short. But the events get people moving — at least for a while.
Diva Dash event manager Sharon Cutler said she’s seen participants use her race, held in Frederick, Md., as a “gateway drug” to the sport. With obstacles, costumes and mud pits, the women’s-only race has a clock, but the race is more about personal challenge than head-to-head competition.
“Not everyone out there is inclined to get PRs in every race they run,” she said, but added many women see their potential as runners and transition to more traditional races.
The same goes for the Color Run, a series of more than 170 events worldwide, in which participants are pelted with paint powder over the course of five kilometers.
“This race is not focused on competition because we try to promote camaraderie with your fellow runners and create a fun, happy atmosphere,” said Jessica Nixon, the series’ national spokeswoman.
Large parking lots, like Washington’s RFK Stadium, seems to serve as a local nexus with the traditional running world. It’s a short distance from the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, where every day joggers and runners log their miles, just for the sake of running, and in the middle of the summer dozens of elite Ethiopian runners vied for a big cash prize in a competitive 5k.
The Run or Dye 5k, similar to the Color Run, was held at RFK. Months later, revelers made their way through the Dance Party 5k course around the stadium’s parking lots. Some came to run, but most came to dance. Though organizers advertised it for both fitness and the afterparty, the aroma of booze and tobacco from participants waiting to groove meant they weren’t fretting over positive splits.
But some indeed came for the run. Bianca Johnson and Jennifer Anyaegbunam traveled from Charlottesville. Bianca signed up after losing what she described as “a lot of weight,” and ended up finishing her first 5k.
Her friend likes to punctuate fitness with fun and festive events.
“Part of the fun is the preparation – buying costumes and dressing up,” Anyaegbunam said.
Though they appreciated that the race was untimed, keeping it fun, they kept track of their own times. Anyaegbunam was proud to report that she finished the run without stopping.
“People who take themselves too seriously here stand out,” said Washington resident Isaiah Williams, who came to the event with three friends who ran collegiately. Williams did not.
“I’m a competitive person, but I didn’t want to do a regular race,” he said. “The fanfare and spirit attracted me to this one.”
Jacqueline Fox of Alexandria got her start at the Run or Dye 5k. She considered herself unathletic while she was growing up.
“I would do anything to avoid sports — including hiding from gym class in the nurse’s office,” she said. “As I learned more about healthy nutrition, I knew that incorporating healthy physical activity into my life was important.”
To prepare for the event, Fox began running 3.1 miles a day at her local gym and loved the experience. Since then, she has completed two additional novelty races – the Color Me Rad 5k and the Electric Run – and a traditional race (the Crystal City Twilighter 5k). She plans to continue with both kinds of races.
“I have fallen in love with the supportive atmosphere at races,” she said. “There are always plenty of spectators and other runners cheering each other on and the energy just can’t be beat. Most of my races have been untimed, but I’ve been able to finish each race strong and be proud of the effort I put in.”
Arlington resident Shannon Burke has also embraced novelty races–though she is not exactly a novice to the sport. After participating in high school track, she ran only sporadically until she decided to run 13 races in 2013. When she planned her race schedule, Burke decided that these novelty races would count. She has done the Hero Rush, Color Run, Run or Dye, Louzilu, Ridiculous Obstacle Course and Electric Race. She has also participated in the Warrior Dash and the Primal Mud Run. She mixes up novelty runs with competitive races, appreciating both for different reasons.
“It really just depends on the race,” she said. “I think the novelty races could give you a more fun time during the running. But the regular races often have better SWAG and can provide you with a better time that can build your running self-esteem.”
Mindy Mucci of Alexandria also likes to combine novelty runs with more competitive longer traditional races. She has done a Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Glo Run, ROC Challenge, and just completed her longest race to date, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon.
“I was a decently-fast kid growing up, but I think it’s because I equated speed with being finished more quickly. I’ve carried that philosophy with me to my current running days,” she said.
Mucci likes both novelty and traditional races, saying “I think they both serve their purposes, which for me are: giving myself incentive to keep in shape and exercise leading up to the race and to have a good time (especially when it’s over).”
Color Run spokeswoman Nixon believes the lack of a clock prevents races like hers from being intimidating.
“People from all different athletic backgrounds can participate in this event,” she said. “The Color Run is an attainable goal that novice runners can work to achieve and hopefully will act as a catalyst to inspire continual healthy living.”
She estimates that about 50 percent of Color Run participants have never run a 5k before. About 70 percent of the participants are women, mostly between 18 and 35. Since most of those runners are novices, Nixon says, “We hope that our events can be the jumping off point that some people might need to know that they can accomplish their fitness goals. A 5k fun run may not seem like a daunting task to a seasoned runner, but many of our participants train seriously before this event and make huge changes in their lives in order to be able to complete it.”
The participation in novelty races is generally skewed toward women. Organizers from different races attribute this to the abundance of paint, tutus, costumes, feather boas and other accoutrements, but no one knows for sure. Mud runs and warrior dashes, though, tend to make up for the relative glamour of novelty races by their excess of dirt.
Diva Dash’s gender restriction help draw participants who might not otherwise feel comfortable participating in a coed race.
“By taking men out of the equation, we remove a whole lot of the intimidation factor,” Cutler said. “Our event is much kinder and gentler – we eliminate some of the aggressiveness, and our event is all about support and encouragement.”
She believes the costumes and personalized race bibs attract women.
And the Dance Party 5k? That was open to anyone who wanted to have a good time. If they kept running, well, that’s fantastic.
“I tried this last year and actually liked running,” said Samantha Marquart of Washington. She has since done a handful of 5k races and the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. “I’m going to do the half again with my sister and our four cousins to celebrate my sister beating cancer.”
She brought along a friend who doesn’t run and doesn’t plan to after the party, but that was just fine with Samantha. She knows what the event has meant to her.
“I hated running, but I did this because it seemed fun and stupid. I like being ridiculous,” she said. “Now I’m going to do another half marathon. With grad school and work, running has become a big part of my life and helps keep me sane. I wouldn’t have started without this run.”
The George Washington Parkway Classic kicked off its 30th running with a shady 10k before a long, sunny stretch that didn’t slow winner Dereje Deme, whose 49:46 was the first sub-50 time in three years, or Claire Hallissey, who is in the middle of a farewell tour of D.C.’s races.
Though the temperature rose considerably in the latter stages of the race, both winners ran negative splits over the second half of the course, despite a considerable downhill in the first few miles as runners left Mount Vernon for Old Town Alexandria.
The event’s 10 mile and 5k races drew 6,338 finishers, with 5,152 in the larger race, compared to the 1,516 who finished the 2001 race, the last time it was a 15k.
[button-red url=”http://www.zippyraceresults.com/search.php?ID=3847″ target=”_self” position=”left”] 10 Mile Results [/button-red]Ethiopian Deme made his move on Dan Vassallo, of Peabody, Mass., with less than two miles to go and put 20 seconds on the Bay Stater. Vassallo ran a PR of 50:07, and was glad for what he called “near perfect” conditions out on the race course. He’s won a few marathons, including the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon, and said he was in the process of getting back into shape.
[button-red url=”http://www.zippyraceresults.com/search.php?ID=3848″ target=”_self” position=”left”] 5k Results [/button-red]Ayele Belete, who coaches Deme and women’s runner-up Dehininat Jara, said his charges might have suffered slightly from their efforts the day before at the Dismal Swamp Stomp Half Marathon in Chesapeake, Va. Deme won that race overall and Jara finished third.
Hallissey, the GW winner in 57:45, who also won the Crystal Run 5k two days before, is wrapping up her four-year tenure as an Arlington resident before moving back to England, the country for whom she raced the 2012 Olympic marathon. Jara followed, Sunday, in 58:01.
The first American woman, Amy Hemenway of Washington, D.C., finished third. She thought the race to be most challenging from miles five to seven. She says she only made it through that difficult patch with the help of another runner.
“Thank god for him,” she said. “I was getting depressed, and missing my splits, but I stuck with him and got back on track from miles eight to 10.”
Hemenway won the Charlottesville Ten Miler two weeks ago and admitted that she could have planned the logistics better, because the races may have too close together. But overall, she was happy with her performance.
Former Falls Church resident and longtime Pacers runner Matt Barresi, now of Palmyra, Va. finished third in 51:01, matching his third place finish in 2011. Barresi was fairly happy with his race, though the humidity played a role, and forced him to slow down somewhat. He still ran his fastest time on the course.
‘The lead runners broke away early, around the 5k mark, and I tried to keep up, but they pulled away a little more than I had hoped,” he said.
He didn’t let this faze him too much though. “It’s a beautiful day, and I’m blessed with great teammates and great weather. Any time you can come in top three is a great day.”
He noted that this was the first time his 10 week old son, Miles, had seen him race. Barresi planned to use his race winnings — $100 for third overall and $300 and second American — to take his wife out to brunch after the race.
Washington, D.C.’s Jess Zdeb, who finished in 1:08:31, attributed her performance to strength she gained from the November Project’s drills and exercises.
Meredith Thompson, of Potomac River Running’s team, was hoping to run just under 65 minutes today. She accomplished that, finishing in 64:40.
Thompson was happy with her performance, as she had some pretty good training leading up to the race. The warmer weather conditions were a bit of a challenge, as she hasn’t had much chance to acclimate, but she appreciated the great support along the course and the many water stops.
Thompson served for five years in the Army as a military police officer, and her husband is currently active duty military stationed at Fort McNair. She takes advantage of their frequent relocations to try out different regional races.
Many participants out on the course had to overcome challenges just to make it to race day.
Gene Sweetnem hadn’t raced in three years. He first took a break from running after tearing a meniscus, then recovering from Lyme disease and arthritis. He was unable to get out of bed for 18 months, and side effects from his medications led to frequent infections, keeping him from running more than 1.5 miles at a time.
After stopping his medications six months ago, Sweetnam set a goal for himself to run the 10 mile. Though he found the course to be difficult, especially because of the warmer weather, he was determined to finish.
“I never quit anything in my life,” he said. He wanted to stop and walk, but wouldn’t let himself do it, not even stopping to take water. He finished the race in 1:33.34.
The Malcak family made the day a family affair. Born and raised in Slovakia, son Peter now lives in Arlington. He recruited his dad Jozef to join him in the race, so Jozef traveled from Connecticut for the event.
Though Peter has been running for several years, his dad just began running a year ago. Saying his son “dragged him into it,” Jozef nevertheless bested junior by 20 minutes, finishing in 1:33.57 to Peter’s 1:53.01.
The senior Malcak now has goals now of completing the Chester Half Marathon and the Hartford Marathon in Connecticut this year.
These plans were news to Peter, who thinks he should probably find a marathon to train for so he can keep up with his dad.
Tom Craig of Herndon also brought along his kids to the race. Daughter Sarah and son Tommy raced the 5k, while Tom completed the 10 mile. Both kids run for Oakton High School. Tom dragged the kids out of bed on their first day of spring break, and despite such insurmountable odds, Sarah finished third in her age group.
Charles Logan, of Stafford, Virginia, only started running a year ago. Calling himself a “virgin racer,” the 10 mile was his first race ever. He played soccer for years, but stopped a few years back, and got behind on his fitness.
After adopting Atlas, his black lab puppy, Logan realized he needed to do something to work off all the dog’s energy. Now they go for runs of at least six miles three times a week, and Logan has begun working towards longer and longer distances himself.
His three kids, ages 20, 17, and 14, help out by taking the dog on walks, but Logan and Atlas run exclusively together. “I thought running was boring, before this,” he said. “Now I live for it.”
Arlington’s Erik Price used the 10 mile as a final tuneup before the following Monday’s Boston Marathon. He planned to use the race as a tempo run and followed his own plan until the last mile, where he sped up for a final kick to the finish.
“It can be dangerous – it’s so easy to go out hard in a race, get caught up in the excitement,” he said. “You have to be on your best behavior and use it as a tempo run.”
Price plans to take it a little easy next week in Boston, and pace with a friend. He is looking towards an ultramarathon the week after.
The 5k race also included some strong performances.
Finishing first in the men’s race, with a time of 16:48, was Pacers-New Balance Nick Pasko, of Bel Air, Md. He graduated last year from St Mary’s College of Maryland, and was one of the first athletes to compete for all four years for St. Mary’s newly-formed track team.
Pasko was happy with his performance in the 5k, coming off racing the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile last weekend. Never having won a 5k, he was also happy to try out a shorter distance. “It was nice to have a straight shot into the finish,” he said, though he did note the course had its share of hills.
Matthew Matyjek of Arlington came in second overall in the men’s 5k with a time of 17:11. After a strong spring season, where he finished the DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon in 1:22 and the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile in under 60 minutes, he is looking towards running the Alexandria Running Festival Half Marathon in May.
Jackie Gruendel of Clifton was just happy to finish the race. She had a benign tumor removed three weeks ago and though she set a conservative goal of 20 minutes, she beat that by nearly a minute, finishing in 19:03.
Places three, four and five of the men’s 5k race went to Team AVA TC composed of Bishop Ireton High School distance coach Brad Byrnes and seniors Duke Roach and Michael LoGrande.
Describing his coach as “the greatest man I’ve ever met,” Roach was happy with his performance, and plans to attend the U.S. Naval Academy this fall.
LoGrande, who plans to run at Emory and Henry College, described the conditions as “perfect, with no crosswind in the second mile.”
Brynes was proud of his two runners, and pleased with his own performance. Though he hadn’t done much speed work to date, Byrnes said his training was going well. He plans to race the Potomac River Run Marathon in May in an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Carrie Sepko of Woodbridge used the 5k race today to cross train for her primary sport, amateur boxing. She trains with UFC Gyms and her next match is planned for May 10. This race last year was her first 5k, and she improved from an 11 minute pace to an 8:27 pace, finishing 14th in her age group with a time of 27:01.
Megan Wilson didn’t start high school planning to run cross country. In fact, she spent her first two years at Sidwell Friends School in the District playing club volleyball. Though she comes from a running family – her father ran at Columbia and her mom at Villanova- Megan had other interests and didn’t feel pressured by her parents to follow in their footsteps. By the start of her junior year, however, she decided to join the cross country team, in part because of her close relationship with coach Gaby Grebski and the team’s strong camaraderie.
[button-red url=”http://www.runwashington.com/2013/12/16/runwashington-high-school-cross-country-team/” target=”_self” position=”left”] More of the All-RunWashington team [/button-red] Despite her relatively late start to the sport, Wilson had an outstanding debut season in 2012, winning the DC. .State Athletic Association championships by over two minutes and placing third in the IAC/ISL/MAC championships. She improved upon those performances this year, winning the Lake Forrest Invitational, the D.C. state meet and the Maryland/D.C. Private School championships. She looks to continue her strong showing in outdoor track this spring before taking her performances to the next level and competing next year for Stanford.
Wilson credits much of her success in the sport to Grebski and the strong team.
“She loves running, and she loves coaching, and her pushing us this year really got the team fired up to do well, ” Wilson said of Grebski. Wilson’s workouts — which include a lot of hills, mile repeats, and 400 meter repeats — focus on quality over quantity, and are geared towards relatively low mileage to avoid injuries.
Grebski, a counselor at Sidwell, says of Wilson, “Even on days, especially race days, when Megan wasn’t feeling 100%, she still gave 110% effort. She is one of the mentally toughest athletes I’ve coached.”
For her final outdoor track season, Wilson hopes to improve her times in the mile (4:56 PR) and 800 (2:10 PR). Looking forward to her collegiate career at Stanford, she welcomes the opportunity to be pushed to improvement by a group of talented runners, especially in cross country.
“I have a lot to improve in cross country, and I know I don’t have a ton of experience,” she said.
Grebsky has high hopes for Wilson’s collegiate future, “Megan’s a very versatile athlete,” she said. “Although I think she is strongest on the track, her talent and work ethic has allowed her to still have a very competitive and successful cross country season. I think she will see very similar results at Stanford.”
Wilson has a range of interests and hobbies outside running, including volleyball, baking, reading and swimming. She acknowledges that college will be a challenging academic experience, particularly balancing her coursework and training regimen. She’s planning on studying economics.
Wilson knows she can count on the support of her family, which includes her older brother, older sister, and three younger sisters, to be there for her as much as they can, even though this may mean cheering her via Skype from the East Coast.
Scaling the final steep hill towards the finish line of the D.C. State High School Cross Country Championships at Fort Dupont Park in Washington D.C., Georgetown Day School teammates Tristan Colaizzi and Aiden Pillard impulsively decided to finish the race together, hand in hand. Having trained and raced side by side all season, often finishing within seconds of each other, made racing down the final straight away together at the DC championship meet even more special. Though they finished with an identical time of 17:34 for the 5k race, Pillard, a junior, was officially declared the winner, and later MVP of the boys race. Colaizzi, a sophomore, was happy for Pillard and with his own performance, saying, “It hurt, but it hurt good, and there’s nothing better than running next to teammates.”
When Amanda Garzon was making preparations to host the third annual Hydrocephalus Association 5k Run/Walk on September 29, she knew that many of the runners participating would not have a first- hand knowledge, or even an awareness of the disease. Many would be standing on the starting line on the mild Saturday morning in late September mainly because they were searching for a local, flat, and fast 5k race to include in their competition schedule. At the same time, however, Garzon, the Co-Chair of the race and the Director of Media and Marketing for the Hydrocephalus Association (HA), hoped that by drawing local attention to the HA cause, she could raise awareness and build support for finding treatment and a cure for the disease.
Garzon knows all too well about the impact hydrocephalus can have on lives. Her 13-year old daughter, Gabriela, has suffered from the disease since she was a baby, and has had 15 brain surgeries. Hydrocephalus, a condition characterized by the buildup of fluid in the ventricles of the brain, afflicts over one million Americans. Anyone can get hydrocephalus, at any age, and there is no cure. The primary treatment is the implantation of a shunt in the brain, a surgery with a high failure rate requiring repeated revisions.
By hosting the event at East Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., the Hydrocephalus Association was able to raise over $62,000 for the cause, and attract more than 550 participants. In addition to the 5k Run/Walk, the event also included a Kids Fun Run and a performance by Annie Baney, a Nashville area singer-songwriter known for her alternative pop-country style.
Leading the race was celebrity lead runner Wilson Komen. Komen, 35, a native of Kenya and 2:17 marathoner, is a professional distance runner, local running coach, and sales representative at Georgetown Running Company in Washington, D.C. He finished smoothly (and apparently effortlessly) in a time of 16:26.7. Komen learned of the race through DC-area resident Hollin Dwiggins, who suffers from hydrocephalus. He says he was inspired by her story as well as those of other hydrocephalus survivors, and wanted to help build awareness for their cause.
Komen recruited five of his athletes to run the race, including Joe Fisher, who finished 6th overall in a time of 18:34.8. Fisher was pleased with his performance at the race, noting that he was continuing to build back his fitness level after undergoing rehabilitation for a stress fracture last year.
Finishing first overall for the women in the race was DC resident Liz Clapsis, 35, who crossed the finish line with a time of 20:41.3 in her first 5k race ever. Though a runner in high school, Clapsis has only recently getting into road racing, and has been more focused on training for the longer distances, completing the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon on September 14. Clapsis trains with the DC Road Runners and EZ8 Running Group, and was inspired by a friend to sign up for a 5k as a complement to her longer distance training. Finding the HA 5k through a Google search, she was aiming for 7 minute miles, but was pleasantly surprised to find herself the lead runner and finished strong to take the top award.
Also running in the race was Jessica Ford, 22, of Ithaca, N.Y. Ford traveled to D.C. for the race in support of HA, where she formerly worked as an intern. A hydrocephalus survivor herself, diagnosed at age 16, Ford is currently asymptomatic and counts herself lucky to have never needed brain surgery. An avid runner, Ford has completed four marathons and her goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon one day.
Making the day a family affair, the Crenshaw family of Fairfax, VA came out in full force in support of daughter Rhyan Crenshaw, 15, who suffers from hydrocephalus. Mom Dawn, dad Calvin, brother Tristian, and Rhyan’s aunt and grandparents all came out to walk or run the race. Dawn Crenshaw notes that while Rhyan has dealt with hydrocephalus since she was eight months old, they have done their best to encourage her to lead as normal a life as possible, to include taking dance classes, playing soccer, and other active pursuits that make her happy.
For more information on how you can support the cause of the Hydrocephalus Association, visit their website at http://www.hydroassoc.org/