Photo: Jamie Corey
Photo: Jamie Corey

When nearing the end of an hour-long run in this hot and humid weather, the last thing you want to put your body through is a full on sprint. But just a few weeks ago at approximately 6:05 a.m., several runners of the Pacers 5 a.m. running group spent the last few minutes of their run sprinting as fast as they could.

As the group made their way down 13th Street, N.W. toward P Street, several runners of the group passed a woman holding a bag and a man walking as they described, “close behind her.”

Kayla Nicolay, the group leader, said something “didn’t look right” as they noticed the man walking up close behind the woman with a large bag.

“He was really on top of her,” she said. “I had this really weird feeling when we passed them. The man looked at all of us so I thought, ‘okay, he made eye contact, he knows we’re all here.’ But then we made it to the corner and she screamed.”

Fortunately, there were another four runners of the group close behind.

“I didn’t see him take it but I physically saw him running with it and I knew it wasn’t his,” said Ody Odell. “So that’s when I screamed…and threw my water bottle at him.”

But not everyone in the group had realized what had happened at first—it’s not that uncommon for a runner to scream out loud when they fall.

“When I turned around and heard someone scream, I thought someone had fallen,” said Katie Makris who was running with the first group and hadn’t seen what happened. “But when I saw someone throw a water bottle at the man, I thought, ‘what is going on back there?’”

Subsequently, the man ran into the street.

“We all took off after him,” Nicolay said. “And we were all screaming at him, drop the bag, drop the bag!”

As the group chased after him, the man kept turning around only to find that he wasn’t making much ground from the group.

Just a few strides later, the guy tripped and one of the group members who close enough to reach his shirt was able to grab the bag.

Nicolay said at that point, everyone backed up.

“The whole point was to get her bag and we didn’t know what was on him. He kept running…and we called 9-1-1” Nicolay said.

Nicolay added that the threat of petty crime had already made members of her group more vigilant. That, crossed with familiarity of the areas in which they run, breeds heightened awareness.

“We’ve been running the same areas for years so you just sort of pick up on what’s normal and what’s not,” Nicolay said.

Perhaps chasing after a mugger wasn’t exactly how the group preferred to spend the last quarter mile of their run, but it was a win-win for the group who had done their good deed of the day and also woke up a few fast-twitch muscles.

Adam Meyer and Ashley Donovan. Submitted photo

There’s no doubt that completing a marathon is an achievement. But completing a marathon 120 days in a row to run across the country from Portland, Oregon to Washington, D.C. is just flat-out nuts.

Ashley Donovan, who plans to knock out a marathon a day with her friend Adam Meyer, would be the first to agree. That was her reaction when Meyer, who has wanted to run across the country for more than a decade, asked her to join him.

“One day, Adam casually mentioned he wanted to run across the country,” Donovan said. “I had your reaction, ‘that’s nuts.’ But it kept coming up again and again. So finally one day, I called his bluff: ‘Alright, what would this take?’”

Near the end of last year, Donovan and Meyer began planning a run from Portland, Oregon to Washington, D.C. But during the initial discussions, they discovered they wanted to get more out of the experience other than just running. They wanted to create an organization that focused on unique ways that connected them with other people and different communities.

They went on to officially create a non-profit called “Run to Connect,” and set out a goal to meet with others in various communities along their route.

“I am never more at home then when I am learning and speaking with someone who shows an interest in improving their world,” Meyer said, who has worked at a number of organizations in Washington, D.C., including Transportation for America and Pew Charitable Trusts. “I live off my interactions with others.”

In addition to the public policy angle, Donovan looks forward to connecting with members of the education community during the trip.

“Whether it’s teachers, students, school board members or local officials, I want to talk to them and see what’s working and what’s not from both a pedagogical and a policy angle,” Donovan said, who is in the final stages of earning a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry from Princeton University. “In the meantime, we’re reaching out to people in organizations and other networks. So hopefully when we get to these places along the route, they know we two idiots are coming.”

Albeit connecting with others is their main goal, that’s just one aspect of the trip. From late July to November, the two aspire to conquer 3,000 miles by foot, averaging about a marathon a day, with a few built-in rest days.

“Day two we’re already going up Mt. Hood so early in the run we’ll be doing a little less than a marathon a day,” Donovan said. “But once we get to the Midwest, it’s very flat…so we’ll be able to pick up some more mileage there.”

After conquering Mt. Hood, they’ll continue east through the rest of Oregon to make their way to Idaho and Wyoming. From there, the two will make run across Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The last of their trip will take them through Pennsylvania, and then on over to Maryland, which takes them to final destination, Washington, D.C.

“Keeping our bodies healthy will require substantial training,” Meyer said. “There is no particular day during the run that is unmanageable, but when you stack marathons back to back for over 100 days, it will expose us to the most intense physical challenge we will likely ever experience over the length of our lives.”

But both agree, that’s an exciting prospect.

Meyer and Donovan have been running for several years. Meyer ran track at the University of Oregon and has also completed multiple marathons. Ever since Donovan finished Philadelphia Marathon in 2012, she too has run recreationally and competitively.

But even with a running background, preparing for a 3,000-mile run across the country is no easy task. That’s why they’ve pulled in experts and coaches—including ultrarunner Marshall Ulrich, who ran across the country in just 52 days in 2008.

According to Donovan, Ulrich recommended to not “over do it” in the months prior to their trip. With that advice, Donovan said, she’ll be keeping her mileage around 50-miles per week for the few months leading up to the trip.

With the challenge of keeping their bodies and minds healthy, the two also have to organize visiting nearly 50 locations, fundraise, meal-plan and recruit family, friends and colleagues to join in on aspects of the project. The two also plan on having a support vehicle to help them along the way. They strive to keep web and social media updated as well.

“There are days when I wake up and wonder if running across the country and trading ideas with others will accomplish anything,” Meyer said. “I don’t have an answer to that.  What I do believe to be true is that if we do nothing in the face of political and societal challenges that face our country, we will not make progress.  We hope that the run shows how positive changes can be made, one step at a time.”

To find out more information about Run2Connect, visit their website

Molly Hagen, Katherine Sear, Annie Pavia,either Vanessa Fontana or Christine Smith and Nadine Matar approach the finish line for the Run Rogue 5k. Photo: Jamie Corey
Molly Hagen, Katherine Sear, Annie Pavia,either Vanessa Fontana or Christine Smith and Nadine Matar approach the finish line for the Run Rogue 5k. Photo: Jamie Corey

Trudging up and down numerous rolling hills isn’t exactly how many of the third annual Run Rogue 5k participants hundreds spend their Sunday mornings. But when it’s for a good cause, like raising money to fight cancer, participants couldn’t have been happier to be spending their morning that way.

More than 350 runners — including three athletes of the wheelchair division — came together on a chilly Sunday morning to conquer the 3.1-mile course in Fairfax Corner and also raise funds for Life with Cancer and Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure.

[button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]Just two months ago, Joey Russo and Dan Russo lost their father, Tom, to cancer. During Tom’s illness, Life with Cancer, an organization that provides education and support to those living with cancer, helped out the Russo family “quite a bit,” they said.

More than 50 of the Russo family’s friends, along with who sported stickers on their shirts, which read “Team Tom”, ran the 5k. They may have come through the finish line at all different times, but everyone on the team, including his wife and two daughters, ran for the same cause: in memory of Tom’s legacy and to raise money for the organization that helped his family get through a tough time.

“It was pretty humbling how many people we knew signed up,” Joey Russo said.  “We had friends from when we were little to co-workers we work with now.”

The two brothers, who described themselves as “casual strollers,” received overwhelming crowd support as each of them crossed the finish line.

“It’s so great to be part of a race that honors all the survivors and those lost to cancer who are in our hearts and minds,” Joey Russo said.

While competitors of the race turned the corner for the home stretch located at the Fairfax Corner Shopping Center, they were greeted with an unyielding chilly headwind. But that didn’t stop Landon Peacock from pulling off a fast kick to the finish.

“I grew up in Michigan and ran for Wisconsin so the cold is second nature to me,” said Landon Peacock, the overall winner.

Peacock and runner-up finisher Chalie Bitew gapped the pack by nearly two-minutes. Peacock clocked in at 15:29 and Bitew at 15:43.

The location of the race’s start and finish line was local to many residents of Fairfax, Va. and the surrounding area but also helped provide a short commute to work for some of the participants.

Elena Jamison, Leslie Magner and Monica Vancourt finished a 5k before their workday began at Lucy, a women’s active clothing store in Fairfax Corner . Aside from the convenient location of the race, they also recognized the importance of the cause.

“Everybody has someone in their life that has been affected by cancer so it’s for a good cause,” Jamison said.

In the women’s division, Tezata Dengersa won with a time of 17:53, an almost-two-minute lead over second place finisher Kristi Markowicz 19:52.

Leader of the wheelchair division, AJ Nanayakkara, pushed into the finish line with a time of 46:23.

“When you’re [racing] you feel like you’d do anything to get out of it,” Nanyakkara said. “But when you’re done, it’s a huge sense of satisfaction.  We’re also here just to challenge our selves.”

For many, this was their third year in a row competing in this year’s Run Rogue 5k. Brian Hansen said he and his daughter (in a stroller) keep coming up for one main reason.

“My mom’s a cancer survivor so we run to honor her and our friends whose children have cancer,” Hansen said.

As Hansen and his daughter finished the race, his mother, greeted them at the finish line.

“We originally started the race because we had two friends battling cancer,” race director Holly Jahshan said. “We wanted to make donations in their name to respective charities they chose, which were Life with Cancer and Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure.”

With the help of 350 participants and a dedicated group of volunteers, organizers hope total fundraising will top the roughly $20,000 the last two years have yielded, which will be split evenly between the two charity groups.

“We hope next year to come back with a new course, warmer weather and a big turn out,” Jahshan added.

Erika Campbell, Douglas Kung and Kara Guzman run the 12k at the .US National Road Racing Championships in Alexandria. Photo: Cheryl Young
Erika Campbell, Douglas Kung and Kara Guzman run the 12k at the .US National Road Racing Championships in Alexandria. Photo: Cheryl Young

From global to local, the .US National Road Racing Championships in Alexandria, Va. catered to runners of all skill-levels. The race not only featured 30 Olympian and world-class athletes, but also included a community 12k. While many competitors did not have their sights on a new world record like Molly Huddle did when she broke through the tape with a time of 37:50, runners looked forward to competing in a new distance that guaranteed 12k newbies a personal record.

Among the several hundred runners who clenched a 12k personal record was Alexandria City Council Member Justin Wilson and Del. Rob Krupicka, who represents Virginia’s 45th District. Usually rolling out of bed on Sunday mornings to run together, they competed with hundreds of their constituents and a number of world champions all in one race—and in the same town they both represent in public office.

“It’s wonderful putting [Alexandria] on the map for races,” Wilson said.

Krupicka agreed with Wilson and said that the race brought good attention to the city.

“The best part of running on your own streets is you see so many friends along the way that are cheering you on.”

Wilson sped through the finish line two seconds before Krupicka finished. Krupicka said he will have a rematch with Wilson in the upcoming Turkey Trot they compete in every year together in Del Ray, Va.

“I thought [Krupicka] was going to catch me,” Wilson said. “He was right on my tail.”

In addition to hoping to achieve a goal time and a personal record, some runners were hoping to spread a message. Benjamin Villagracia of Fort Belvior, Va. and Teddy Gonzales of Silver Spring, Md. passed spectators on the streets of Alexandria while holding the Philippines flag in an effort promote relief efforts for the recent typhoon that struck the Philippines and killed thousands.

“I have relatives that were affected by the typhoon and I wanted to fight for their spirit and suffering,” Villagracia said.

Villagracia and Gonzales switched off holding the flag every two miles. Villagracia said it wasn’t easy running with the flag, but was the least he could do for his relatives.

“Compared to the suffering people have back home, the flag is very light,” Villagracia said.

As they passed spectators, Villagracia said they received a tremendous amount of support from the cheering audience.

“Holding the flag and hearing the crowd support was very inspiring and kept me going,” Villagracia, who started running three years ago to improve his health, said.

Participants competed on the same course that world-class athletes raced on, which made for a flat and fast route through the streets of Alexandria. Though the course lacked hills, it was complete with more than 20 turns—and some runners embraced them.

“I actually found that I was able to pass people on the turns,” said Barb Fallon Wallace of Alexandria, who is a member of the Pacers-New Balance racing team and placed second in the female open division. “I lost people on the flat straight-aways, they just get too monotonous.”

Because the race was local for her and her family, Fallon Wallace’s husband and nearly three-year-old twin daughters were able to cheer her on during the race. Though she had never competed in a 12k race before and was used to shorter races, Fallon Wallace said the distance had benefits.

“I need to start bumping up my mileage so the more I do, the better,” Fallon Wallace said. “I just tried to race people and it worked out. The distance didn’t feel much different than a 10k race.”

Fallon Wallace also added how much she enjoyed competing in the same race as the elite world champions.

“It is fun to mingle with the professionals,” Fallon Wallace said. “They’re the big cheeses.”

Currently serving in the Air Force, Jessica Vega of Alexandria also liked competing in the same race as the elite runners.

“It was cool to see some of the Olympians and world-class champions,” Vega said. “It was an honor running on the same course as them.”

The race started and finished near Oronoco Bay Park near the water front in Alexandria, Va. After the 588 athletes who competed in the .US National Road Racing Championships community 12k race weaved in and out of the neighborhood streets of Alexandria, they received medals from volunteers as they crossed the finish line—the same medals that the 30 elite men and women received once they crossed the finish line.

Paul Thistle of Washington, D.C. took first in the overall community race with a time of 36:33. Mindy Sullivan of Woodbridge had over a one-minute lead over second place in the women’s division and claimed the first-place title with a time of 43:49.

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Run with the June Bugs (XC) 2013 - Photo by Ken Trombatore
Zach Hawkins forges through the mud at the Run with the June Bugs cross country race. Photo: Ken Trombatore

More than 100 runners’ feet hitting the ground on an open field toward wooded trails. Trudging up a hill, giving every last bit of effort with legs and shoes covered in mud. A strong storm just minutes away from plummeting the course; nobody paying it any mind. Team spirit filling the air as competitors burst into the finish chute and turn back around to cheer for their friends.

It may seem like a typical high school cross country race, but the racers were fathers and mothers with jobs and mortgages. They were finishing the Montgomery County Road Runners Club’s Running with the June Bugs, not a dual meet against a rival school.

Though they traveled to the meet in sedans and SUVs instead of school buses, these adults were enjoying racing off road, just like they did decades ago. There’s no time machine required to relive a race through mud, ankle-deep creeks and gruesome hills.

Rodney Rivera of Poolesville, Md. is rediscovering cross country years after competing in high school. He’s run the MCRRC Cross Country Series for the past two years, and says he enjoys its close-knit community and the toughest course out there: the Black Hills 10k.

Leonardo Placios of Hyattsville, Md., a member of the Spanish American Running Club and a cross-country runner since he was 14, said cross country is crucial to improving as a runner.

“Running on these … courses improves our speed and endurance,” he said. “When you train on these kinds of courses, you are faster and stronger. And it’s fun.”

Ant adult cross country isn’t limited to community races. Ray Pugsley, of Potomac Falls, Va. has continued to compete on the national level at cross country races. He finished second at this Feburary’s USA Cross Country Championship in the masters division, following up a fifth place finish at the USATF Club Cross Country Championships.

“You never have a chance to get into a rhythm, and that’s why I enjoy it so much,” he said. “You have to be a strong runner. It’s about as pure as running can get; You’re out there, just racing people. Time doesn’t matter, you just have to finish ahead of the next guy.”

That love of cross country has motivated Potomac River Running’s sponsorship of the Glory Days 5k in Manassas, run before the Bull Run Invitational high school meet in October. Pugsley is an owner of Potomac River Running.

Things change between high school and whatever “now” is. Their days of essay writing and science quiz prep now behind them, many adult cross country runners now balance their passion for the sport with taking care of a family.

Cross country memories have reunited former high school teammates Colleen Dahlem and Anna Savage. And while most high school friendship reunions take place over coffee, Dahlem and Savage first reconnected during a run in Great Falls Park — the first of many more runs to come. Leading up to the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA and the Boston marathons, they trained together on Beach Drive.

“We are both incredibly supportive of one another,” Dahlem says. “Anna met me at mile 6 in [the DC Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon] as it headed through Adams Morgan. She ran the rest of the 20 miles by my side handing me water when I needed it. Then I headed up to Boston to cheer her on. I was so proud of her amazing accomplishment.”

As Dahlem and Savage create a new chapter in their friendship, Dahlem says they will never forget high school cross country.

“Some of our fondest memories are on the bus on the way to meets,” Dahlem says. “Listening to the Violent Femmes on our Walkman and planning our weekend adventures. I really feel that our adult love of running is what brought us together again and has strengthened our bond.”

Emily Cole and Erin Masterson ran four years of cross country and track together. They stayed in touch during college, and, 10 years later, both are in same city again, training for the Marine Corps Marathon.

“Building such a strong bond as we did while high school cross country runners enabled this close relationship,” Masterson says. “And I know we’ll always have it. Emily is a loyal, dedicated training partner.”

After rekindling their running relationship, Masterson and Cole have gone for long runs almost every weekend. While their training and lives have evolved, 10 years later, so, too, have their conversations, which Masterson says are invaluable.

“Now we talk much less about homework and teachers and more about relationships, family job stress, career changes, weddings, babies and upcoming races,” Masterson says. “A weekly session of ‘girl talk’ has been a lifesaver for all of us during challenging times and an opportunity to share our joy during exciting periods. Running together has allowed us to share some of the most important moments of our lives.”

Jennifer Panetta crosses the finish line of the Kensington 8k just ahead of Jocilyn McNally. Photo: John Seabreeze
Jennifer Panetta crosses the finish line of the Kensington 8k just ahead of Jocilyn McNally. Photo: John Seabreeze

Young kids in race bibs laughing and playing games as they followed “Larry the Lion” around a park is not the typical road race finish line. But the Kensington 8k, a race that donated its proceeds to three local public schools, attracted competitors of all ages.

In its 20th year, the Kensington 8k race brought more than 500 runners—for just one distance. In addition to the 8K competitors, the Two-Mile Challenge was made up of 400 participants along with the 1k Fun Run that turned out 300 runners. With over 40 local sponsors, the event proceeds went to supporting Kensington Parkwood Elementary, North Bethesda Middle and Walter Johnson High Schools.

The entire Walter Johnson High School Crew team showed their support by making up a substantial portion of the 8k participants. Ofri Shmul, a Walter Johnson High School crew athlete, said it’s a longtime tradition for her team to launch the beginning of their season with the Kensington 8k.

“This race is to show that we support our school and our team,” Shmul said.

Shmul found the motivation to keep going by sporting a brightly-colored tutu over her outfit.

“I run with the tutu a lot,” Shmul said. “I take it to a lot of my crew practices and it motivates me to row faster. It’s also to cheer everyone up. Instead of thinking about running, you’re thinking about an awesome tutu.”

Shmul’s teammate Emma Landgren noted there was also one other added benefit to competing in the race other than just supporting their school and team.

“Running is one of the easiest ways to get your cardio built up for rowing,” Landgren said.  “Even though we’re not a very fast team, we still finish and go as hard as we can. It’s also good for team building and to working together.”

The event highlighted Kensington’s unique small-town feel with fans that came out to watch the race all over the course as it weaved in and out of 120-year-old historic neighborhoods.

“The community really comes together,” said Scott Silliman of Olney, Md. who has participated in the Kensington 8k on and off for nearly 15 years.

Some competitors of the race used the course to gage where they were at in their training, including Bill Teng of Buronsville, Md. Less than two weeks away from his up-coming race, the Wine Glass Marathon, Teng smashed his old course records by several minutes.

“The hill repeats in my training program must be working,” Teng said.

A runner all his life, Teng didn’t start to get serious about competing until he set a new goal for himself two years ago—to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

“When I got the Boston qualifying time in my head, I had to keep trying.”

The race started out on a down-hill for the first two miles and then took runners past the Kensington Town Hall and along the Antique Row. Runners then entered Rock Creek Park for a scenic run along Beach Drive. But the historic course is best known for its suitably named the hill, the “East Bexhill.”

“It’s a very ideal course—albeit that hill,” said first-place finisher Jake Klim of North Bethesda. “The hill is a disqualifier in terms of a fast course.”

Pulling away from the pack right at mile two in preparation for the hill ahead, Klim kept the lead for the entire race and won with a time of 26:17—the fastest time the course has seen since 2009.

“It’s what a race should feel like,” Klim said. “It’s got that local village flavor to it.”

Not far behind him were his Georgetown Running Club teammates, Sebi Devlin-Foltz of Washington, D.C. who took second-place and Justin Snair of Arlington, Va who finished in third.

“It was good to have a one, two, three finish with the teammates,” Klim said. “It was just icing on the cake.”

Jennifer Panetta of Berwyn Pa. and Jocilyn McNally of Kensington, Md. ran neck and neck through the finish line in the women’s competition.

“[The race] was what I expected,” Panetta said. “I went out fast on the downhill mile on what’s normally my 5k race but faded a little at the end.”

Despite fading toward the end of the race, Panetta held on to take the first-place title with a time of 31:07, just four seconds ahead of second-place.

Though a gruesome hill in the middle of the race, competitors were able to savor the downhill sprint that led them back to the finish line in Old Town Kensington, which was full of hundreds of spectators from the community cheering all of runners on.

Race Director John Seabreeze took over the race after Jenny Smith had retired from her duties for 19 years. She wanted to focus on her bakery shop, which was right around the corner from the finish line.

“The race went really well,” Seabreeze said. “It’s the most sponsors we’ve ever had and raised nearly $24,000 for local schools. It’s truly a community race.”

Frank Fung and David Storper represent the MCRRC elite team at the Parks Half Marathon. Photo: Steve Zuraf
Frank Fung and David Storper represent the MCRRC elite team at the Parks Half Marathon. Photo: Steve Zuraf

The debut of a grand pianist in a full tuxedo complete with tails at mile six was not the only new tradition that the Montgomery County Road Runner Club’s Parks Half Marathon started in its eighth year. The runners themselves were determined to mark new ground by crushing the old course record by more than a minute.

Filled with hills, scenic parks and trails, the race included an elite class of runners, many from the local area.

Clocking in less than two minutes after the women’s finish line tape broke, Etaferahu Temesgen of Silver Spring, Md. clenched second place followed by Tezata Dengersa of Washington, D.C., who took third. Meseret K Tolwak of New York, N.Y. won the women’s competition with a time of 1:16:25.

Haile Teg Mengesha from New York, N.Y. took the overall first-place title with a time of 1:04:31, which was 20 seconds faster than Ernest Kebenei of Norfolk, Va., who finished second. The elite competition also featured professional ultra-marathoner Michael Wardian of Arlington, Va. 

But even with the cost of attracting more runners and providing unique entertainment, Race Director Mike Acuña and the Montgomery County Road Runners Club have not lost sight of the club’s goal established eight years ago to provide a high-quality race at a good value.

“It’s a local race with a big feel to it,” Acuña said. “We’ve figured out a way to make it grow without making it too crowded.”

Acuña also mentioned the race’s other priority—giving runners a chance to get a race under their belt before the marathon season begins.

“We’ve got people who [want to] race half marathons,” Acuña said. “And then we’ve got a lot of marathoners that use this race a tune-up for fall marathons.”

Many runners who tuned up for a marathon hoped to achieve a certain time and looked to Run Farther & Faster coach Julie Sapper as their pacer. While celebrating her birthday with 13.1 miles and a ribbon filled with glitter, Sapper noted that the day was not about her.

“It’s about everyone else,” Sapper said. “You don’t want to disappoint people and not have them get the time they want. Although you sometimes lose people along the way, you know there are some people that can see you from far away and are using you as a marker. So I just tried to stick with my pace.”

Despite feeling the pressure, Sapper successfully led her group into the finish line to their goal time.

Among the thousands of athletes who competed on the hilly course through the parks, some competitors had a home-field advantage.

“I normally run on the trails during the week,” said Robert Palmer of Silver Spring, Md. “So it’s like a home course for me.”

Rob Hannon also had a home-turf advantage.

“[The course] is in the neighborhood,” Hannon said. “I can see my house from the trail.”

The race started near the Rockville Metro station and winded through Chevy Chase and Bethesda, took runners along Rock Creek Park paths and Capitol Crescent and Georgetown Branch Trail. Finishing in Elm Street Park in Bethesda under humid conditions, runners were greeted at the finish with commemorative beanies, refreshments and massage therapists.

Runners take a moment to ask if they really want to put themselves through a 5k with temperatures in the 90s at the Women's Distance Festival in Bluemont Park. Photo: DC Road Runners
Runners take a moment to ask if they really want to put themselves through a 5k with temperatures in the 90s
at the Women’s Distance Festival in Bluemont Park. Photo: DC Road Runners

[button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] Women’s Race Results [/button-red][button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] Men’s Race Results [/button-red]

Despite already rescheduling the Women’s Distance Festival 5k and Run After the Women 5k due to a scheduling conflict at Bluemont Park, dangerous temperatures nearing 100 degrees throughout the day almost left race director Alex Albertini with another predicament.

“If it was five degrees warmer, the race would have been called off for safety reasons,” Albertini said. “But everyone seemed to enjoy the race in tough conditions.”

The two races were part of the DC Road Runners Club’s Bunion Derby Series, consisting of eight races throughout June, July and August—some of the hottest months of the year. The series is free to the club’s members but in order to be eligible for a Bunion Derby age-group award in the fall, participants must volunteer with the club at least once.

Runners competed on the out and back course on the partly shaded Bluemont Park Trail in Arlington, Virginia. Though several runners had to dodge bikers on the trail, runners were satisfied with the low-key race that consisted of a steady uphill on the way out. Runners also seemed to enjoy the second half of the race, which started out with a water station and then took off on a steady downhill on the way back to the finish line.

First place finisher Anna Holt-Gosselin of Vienna, Va. did not seem bothered by the scorching temperatures while she bolted off the staring line from the rest of the pack. Holt-Gosselin held on to the lead all the way through the finish line, with a time of 19:44.

A graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Holt-Gosselin felt well hydrated after the race, adding that she drank much more water than usual to prepare for the heat.

The men’s race started 15 minutes after the women’s race, dubbing it the “Run After the Women 5K.” Rising senior Christopher Hoyle of Gonzaga College High School finished first in the men’s race, with six of his cross country teammates close behind him.

“This is my first road race of the summer,” Hoyle said. “I just wanted to go out and see what kind of shape I was in.”

The DC Road Runners Club, which was voted the best 2012 running club in the Washington area by RunWashington readers, is among several running organizations in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Well known for their Saturday long-runs that kick off at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Rosslyn, Va., runners noted that they chose DCRRC out of other clubs partly because of perks like competing in the Bunion Derby Series races.

“It’s an excuse to get out and meet people while having a great atmosphere,” said Adam Pearlman. “And I like the friendly competition during the races.”

Pearlman found some “friendly competition” during the evening race as he went head to head with another participant, each of them competing back and forth for 2.5 miles.

The Women’s Distance Festival 5k and Run After the Women 5k took place on one of the hottest days of the year so far. Participants’ goals in the two races varied throughout but one goal seemed to remain the same: get through the toughest months of the year to the fall running season.

Colleen Lerro is in the beginning stages of her training for the Marine Corps Marathon. She aims to qualify soon for the Boston Marathon—a goal she came short of two minutes in her most recent marathon. Lerro said that training and racing through the toughest months of the year won’t be as much as a challenge for her as it is for some.

“I’m the crazy one who likes the heat,” Lerro said.

Though Lerro does not dread the heat like others, she noted that she does take precautions, like eating pretzels in an effort to raise her salt intake.

As runners came in to the finish on the Bluemont Park Trail, many were groaning out-loud in pain caused by the heat. But many runners will continue to endure this type of pain that comes from the heat with an expectation that they will be rewarded later on in the cooler months of the year, when marathons take place. Even after they moan and chug down gallons of water throughout the summer months, runners all over the Washington Metropolitan Area will keep training and racing in events like the Women’s Distance Festival 5k and Run After the Women 5k to become more resilient.

“If we can get through this”, said DC Road Runners Club member Erica Holmes of Germantown, Md. “We can get through anything.”



Trying to schedule a friendly get together in the past four months with Monique Young has been no easy task. In order to meet her weekly mileage goal in preparation for the 50 Mile North Face Endurance Challenge, her days started at 5 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m. But waking up and going to sleep that early to get enough miles under her legs has been worth the trade off for her.

While she described the course through the woods of Algonkian Regional Park, her face lit up. “Amazing” was a common word for Young to describe the mostly dirt and gravel course that she said smelled like honeysuckle.

[button-red url=”″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]While Young left road running for trail running to be closer to nature two years ago, the North Face Endurance Challenge marked one of several 50 mile trail races that she has completed.

Laura Coogan, first place finisher in the women’s marathon with a time of 3:57:31, conveyed a similar nightlife situation—which she said has been on the decline since college. While balancing a time-demanding training schedule and nursing school life, Coogan took great delight in indulging in the North Face Endurance Challenge post-race festival, which consisted of ice baths, food, beer and many other activities.

“It’s like a big party,” Coogan said. “Except that you have to run a marathon. But at least you earned that party.”

The North Face Endurance Challenge consisted of an entire weekend of trail racing. And with a eight different events, including a 50 mile, 50k, marathon and marathon relay race, there was something for everybody.

All that George Johnson could remember from last year’s North Face Endurance Challenge marathon relay were trees, shade and cool temperatures. But all that Johnson could remember from this year’s race was the sun beating down on him.

While Johnson appreciated the lack of rain that muddied up the course in last year’s course, he said the start and finish that took place in an open field with no shade was quite the challenge this year.

Above the Potomac River, the well-marked courses included three miles of tip-toeing and hopping along bluffs on the River Trail with climbs up to 300 feet. In return for their brave climbing skills, the shaded areas of the park blocked them from temperatures that steadily rose to the mid-90’s.

Potatoes, salt, chicken broth and chips were served throughout the race to keep runners fueled. Gallons of water and sport drinks were guzzled down all in an effort to conquer the heat and finish the race.

Among the several local note worthy athletes that competed in the Endurance Challenge included Elite Ultra Runner Michael Wardian of Arlington, Virginia, who took first in the 50 mile race with a time of 6:45:36. In the women’s 50k, Rachel Clattenburg of Washington, DC won first place with a time 5:05:05.



Three Races, One Cause

Runners head off at Jeremy's Run in Olney, Md. on Memorial Day.                                                            Photo: Jamie Corey
Runners head off at Jeremy’s Run in Olney, Md. on Memorial Day. Photo: Jamie Corey

[button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] 10k Results [/button-red] [button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] 5k Results [/button-red]Just minutes prior to wiping off sweat, many runners were wiping tears. During an emotional pre-race ceremony, Jeremy’s Run Race Director Cyndi Glass lit candles to honor those in drug addiction recovery and as a symbol of hope for those suffering from drug addiction.

The fifth annual Jeremy’s Run consisted of a one-mile fun run, 5k and 10k. Hundreds of runners and members of the community came out to support the race and cause that was dedicated to Jeremy Daniel Glass and others who have died of complications from drug addiction.

Glass, who is Jeremy’s mother in addition to race director, said she appreciated the turnout, which has continued to increase over the years.

“I want to help my cause,” Glass said. “And having more people means more support for my cause. That’s the reason I’m doing this.”

This year marked Stephen Raye’s second year participating in the race. Raye participated in the 5k and has a son who suffered from drug addiction. He said he came out to show his support for the important issue.

“Everybody thinks it’s a weakness,” Raye said. “And it’s just…you’d be okay if you got your head together. But we learned a lot from our son going through the process of recovery and learned that it’s a medical condition and it’s got to be thought of that way.”

Corey Graeves of Silver Spring, Md. took advantage of the first half of the downhill 5k course to take the lead within the first half mile. Though Graeves said the slight uphill on the way back to the finish sort of “broke” him, he finished 1st place with a time of 17:16.

In the women’s division, Audrey Perlow of Arlington, Va. also held the lead for the majority of the race. Finishing with a personal best time of 19:41, Perlow said she was happy to see the community come out to support the cause.

The 10k overall winner, Aaron Anderson, of Germantown, Md., took the lead with one mile left to go. He finished with a time of 34:55. The 2011 1st-place finisher in the Jeremy’s Run 5k said that he has recently increased his mileage because he is training for a shot to compete in the 2016 Olympics.

Vying for the overall women’s 1st-place 10k trophy was Katelyn Rogus and Megan Llewellyn. Rogus had the home-turf advantage having grown up within a few blocks from the starting line and took home the 1st-place trophy.

“When you run a race, you’re doing something for yourself,” said Paula Galliani, Gaithersburg, Md. “But you’re also doing something for somebody else and it feels really good.”

Though Galliani has been running for nearly 25 years, she said that she felt a calling to compete in Jeremy’s Race. A mother of teenagers, she added that the race website brought her to tears.



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