Jason Fitzgerald of Silver Spring nears the halfway mark of the Potomac River Run Marathon Sunday. Photo: Cheryl Young
Jason Fitzgerald of Silver Spring nears the halfway mark of the Potomac River Run Marathon Sunday. Photo: Cheryl Young

The factors that made Sunday’s race could have been the perfect weather, the flat course on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, or months of hard work and training. Whatever the factors were, the 10th annual Potomac River Run Marathon seemed to have the perfect combination of elements that allowed many participants to qualify for the Boston Marathon and, for many, achieve a new personal record.

[button-red url=”http://youngrunner.smugmug.com/Race-Photo-Galleries/PRR-2013-Marathon-Half/i-vDjDfS6″ target=”_self” position=”left”]Photos[/button-red]Weeks before Strength Running Coach Jason Fitzgerald passed the leader at mile 24.5 at Sunday’s race, he was cheering on two of his athletes in the Boston Marathon at mile 25.5. Afterward, he went to a restaurant in Cambridge, where his phone started to ring. His family and friends had heard what had happened at the race.

[button-red url=”http://www.safetyandhealthfoundation.org/20130505.html” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red] “It was a challenging time to be in Boston,” Fitzgerald said. “Even more so if you were a runner and coach.”

Fitzgerald clenched the first-place prize in the Potomac River Run Marathon. His goal in the race was to qualify for the Boston Marathon by 10 minutes. Although he had qualified before, he had never taken advantage of the opportunity. But just moments after making qualifying time, Fitzgerald said he plans to compete in the 2014 Boston Marathon. Fitzgerald said that next year’s race will be that much more special for anyone running.

Albeit a chilly start, temperatures rose to what many runners considered perfect. Along with “Air Quality Awareness Week,” the marathon celebrated “World Laughter Day,” which prompted race director Jay Wind of the Safety And Health Foundation to tell jokes at the starting line.

“There’s nothing quite so funny being out on a race day wearing very little clothing,” Wind said. “We really just try to have fun with it, that’s the bottom line.”

Kirby Mills joined the many athletes who accomplished a qualifying time for the 2014 Boston Marathon and a new personal record. Prior to competing in the race, Mills, who serves in the Marine Corps and is currently stationed at Quantico, missed a Boston qualifying time in March by only 34 seconds.

“I fought to get orders back in Virginia to be close to my family and knock out some races on the east coast,” Mills said. “As I move around in the Marine Corps…I hope to run a Marathon in every section of the United States.”

Mills is a member of the National Marathon Maniacs group, which has a minimum requirement for members to run three marathons every 90 days. The Potomac River Run Marathon marked Mills’ 54th marathon.

“You can’t beat the virtually flat, in-the-shade course, with trees blocking the wind,” Mills said. “It was an easy course with no real tangents to worry about.”

The twice out-and-back course on the sandy—but sometimes rocky—C&O towpath had the potential to be a mental challenge for some. But Chip Warfel and his Mid Maryland Triathlon Club teammates, Heather Beutel and Dan Mooney were not fazed. In fact, Warfel said that he liked the two-time turnaround course.

“Having a turn-around broke up the race,” Warfel said. “It was almost like running a mile—you knew you only had four laps to go.”

At the beginning of the triathlon season, Warfel, Beutel and Mooney all wanted to make the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon—and they did. Warfel said that after the Boston Marathon bombings, he was more motivated to qualify for the race.

“I really want to be there next year to show that no one is going stop anybody from doing this,” Warfel said.

Warfel’s teammate, Deb Taylor, who served as a pacer during the race, will also join her teammates of the Mid Maryland Triathlon club to compete in the 2014 Boston Marathon.

“There’s not a lot of things we can do,” Taylor said. “But as runners, the one thing we can do is show up.”

The Safety And Health Foundation Board of Directors agreed the day after the Boston Marathon bombings to donate $1,000 to the One Fund Boston, an organization that was established to assist the victims of the bombing at the finish line.


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The lead pack rockets down Rockville Pike during the Pike's Peek 10k.                                          Photo: Cheryl Young
The lead pack rockets down Rockville Pike during the Pike’s Peek 10k. Photo: Cheryl Young

If tailwind and the downhill course weren’t enough to get people rolling at the Pike’s Peek 10k in Rockville, five days of pent-up tension led to a moment of silence on the starting line to honor the victims and their families affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.

[button-red url=”http://www.mcrrc.org/pikes-peek-10k-5″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]Race director Jean Arthur said that Monday’s tragedy created anxiety for her with less than a week until the race.

“It added a few extra steps,” Arthur said. “But it went off okay. People showed up and I’m happy about that.”

An impressive group made up the elite competition and led the way through some heavy wind conditions and a cool breeze. But runners seemed to enjoy the near-ideal running conditions downhill along the Rockville Pike to White Flint Mall.

First place finisher Girma Gebre and second place finisher Ayele Feisa, both of whom came from New York

City to compete, pulled away from the leading pack near mile three. Less than a mile later, Gebre was able to widen the gap even farther and brought home a $1,000 check with a winning time of 28:23. Washington, D.C.’s very own Tumicha Horsa also had an impressive finish with a time of 28:45, placing third and winning $650.

The women’s competition came down to Tsehay Getiso, a 19-year-old visiting from New York City for the race, and Jane Murage of Royersford, Pa. Both Getiso and Murage led the close-knit women’s pack for the majority of the race.

Getiso, who recently overcame an injury, is currently working toward qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. And despite her best attempt to hang on, Murage took home the $1,000-winning prize money by crossing the finish line two seconds faster than Getiso. Trailing less than a minute behind the first two women was third-place finisher Hirut Mandefro of Washington, D.C. Mandefro brought home $650 with a fast finish of 33:13.

The race’s additional security included K9 dogs at the start and finish and motorcycles that drove up and down the course. Though every year requires a strong police presence, which involves coordinating several large road closures, this year’s race implemented heightened security measures in the wake of recent events.

Caroline Thompson of Rockville, Md., who has been running with a group of five other friends, said that she noticed some anxiety in the air.

“I think everybody had such a great spirit about it,” Thompson said. “I didn’t hear anyone wanting to drop out and not run.”

While the 18th Annual Pike’s Peek 10k marked Thompson’s second time competing in the race, she ran the course seven minutes faster than she did in 2012.

Pike’s Peek marked Calvin Baxter’s first 10k race. A runner since 2001, Baxter of Silver Spring, Md. competed in a Superman t-shirt, the same shirt that his son wore for the Kids Fun Run. Though Baxter was a little nervous about competing in a race that he had signed up for only one day prior, he said he found himself wanting to pass people on the course.

“I just wanted to compete in the race to bring my son out here so that he could do the kid’s race,” Baxter said. “I didn’t realize that when you get out here, it gets kind of competitive.”

Tradition is important for Pike’s Peek, a race that celebrates finishing with a festival area full of food, family activities and live music. Thirteen years ago, Lieutenant Pedro Meneses competed beside his recruiting class when he was enrolled in the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Training Academy. On the day of the Pike’s Peek 10k, Meneses led his own group of recruits to the race as head of the recruit fitness department for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, a tradition that he said has been going on for at least 13 years.

“This is culminating a lot of the training they’ve been going through at the academy,” Meneses said with recruits around him. “They’ve got another 10 weeks to go.”

Despite race security concerns throughout the country, the tradition and timeless racing spirit led to another successful  Pike’s Peek. The event proceeds went to the Montgomery County Youth Recreation Fund, Rockville Youth Recreation Fund, Scleroderma Foundation of Greater Washington DC and the RRCA Road Scholars.

Doug Woods (229) scopes out his competition at the MCRRC Piece of Cake 10k. Woods went on to win. Photo: Conroy Zien
Doug Woods (229) scopes out his competition at the MCRRC Piece of Cake 10k. Woods went on to win. Photo: Conroy Zien

When runners registered for the most recent Montgomery Country Road Runners Club race, they were mistaken if they thought it would be a “piece of cake.” Little did they know that they would have to conquer tough-rolling hills through Seneca Creek State Park in order to cross the finish line.

“It’s a very challenging course,” said Carol English of Germantown, Md. “But it’s good. It builds character.”

Since 1997, English has been involved with the Montgomery County Road Runners Club. She is currently enrolled in the club’s speed development program, which included the club’s Piece of Cake 10k.

“The club is an amazing group,” English said. “They put on well-organized races.”

MCRRC’s Piece of Cake 10k, one of several races of the MCRRC championship series, attracted nearly 350 runners. The Piece of Cake title actually comes from the annual cake contest the MCRRC holds in celebration of the club’s birthday. This year’s race marked the club’s 35th anniversary.

[button-red url=”http://www.mcrrc.org/piece-cake-10k-cs-2″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]

The race brought out several talented competitors, including Douglas Woods of Gaithersburg, Md. Woods trailed behind second-place finisher Eric DaSilva until the last 800 meters, when he passed DaSilva. “I just ran on his shoulder, he didn’t want any help,” Woods said. “I kicked the last half mile.”

[button-red url=”http://www.mcrrcphotos.com/2013Photos/Race-Photos/Piece-of-Cake-10K-2013/i-vLhX2nC” target=”_self” position=”left”] MCRR Photos [/button-red]Aside from the first-place title, Woods may have had another motivating factor waiting for him at the finish.

“Cake. Where’s the cake?” Woods asked as he looked around.

But not all runners were able to reward themselves with delicious cake in celebration of the club’s birthday.

“I gave up sweets for lent,” said Tommy Young of Brookville, Md., who had just completed his first 10k.

Unlike sweets, Young was able to enjoy quiet roads through the woods near Clopper Lake during the race. His girlfriend,Katherine Young of Silver Spring (they’re not related—they just happen to have the same last name), “pulled” Tommy in with the club earlier this year. Katherine has been involved with the club for two years.

Both of them plan on competing in the upcoming 10 Mile Cherry Blossom.

Cindy Conant of Kensington Md. was the first female finisher to cross the finish line with a time of 40:29. With Conant competing in races nearly every weekend, including the 10 Miler Cherry Blossom and the Boston Marathon, Conant said she prefers the low-key club races.

“I don’t have to pick up my race-packet the day before,” Conant said. “I want to end where I start.”

As the club wrapped up it’s 10k race, it was only the beginning of its annual meeting and awards brunch. Among the awards presented, four outstanding high school runner college scholarships were divvied up between Benjamin Withbroe of Einstein High School, Nick Simpson of Einstein High School, Isabelle Latour of Quince Orchard High School and Laura Nakasaka of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

“We’ll be living up to what they saw in us these past four years and will be working hard academically, in the community and in our sports,” Nakasaka noted.

Though the club rarely hands the award out, Dee Nelson of Gaithersburg, Md. was presented a life-time achievement award. With 45 years of running under her belt, the Piece of Cake 10k marked her 1,487th race.

“I have found over the years that training less is actually working out,” Nelson said.

Nelson is nearing her goal of hitting 1500 races and averages nearly 60 races per year.

Among other impressive award-winning runners was Joe Sangillo of Rockville, Md. He received the most improved runner of year award. Sangillo may look like another other seasoned runner, but that wasn’t always the case. In two years, Sangillo weighed more than 100 pounds heavier and could barley complete a 12-minute mile. But just last year, after completing the MCRRC first time marathon program, Sangillo accomplished his goal: completing the Marine Corps Marathon in 3:40. Since 2006, Sangillo has lost a total of 130 pounds.

“Just don’t underestimate yourself,” Sangillo said. “I smashed any expectations that I had for myself.”

Sue Tate, Jori Beck, Christa Elza and Kelly Bauer finish up the Georgetown 10 Miler on the C&O Canal Towpath March 9. Photo: Jamie Corey
Sue Tate, Jori Beck, Christa Elza and Kelly Bauer finish up the Georgetown 10 Miler on the C&O Canal Towpath March 9. Photo: Jamie Corey

As Kristin Mitcham’s feet hit the sandy Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath in Georgetown for 10 miles, Kristin’s brother’s feet were hitting a treadmill nearly 7,000 miles across the globe — in Afghanistan. Her brother, Sean, who has been stationed in Afghanistan for nearly five months in the Army, told Kristin that he would run 10 miles on a treadmill at the same time of her race.

[button-red url=”http://www.dcrunningclub.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/FINAL10MILERRESULTS_030913.67183300.pdf” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]“My brother bought me the registration,” Mitcham, 33 of Reston, Va. said. “He buys us all presents over the internet when he’s deployed around Christmastime and holidays.”

Less than a week after “Snowquester” hit, runners who were lucky enough to snag registration for the inaugural DC Running Club Georgetown 10 Miler were all given a present: An out-and-back flat course along the scenic C&O canal path with clear blue skies, bright sun and 45 degree weather.

“A lot of runners today are asking for trails,” said race director John Braithwaite. “We could have easily had 1,000 to 1,500 runners, based on folks calling and people inquiring about the event.”

Since 2008, the DC Running Club has been holding races with a special twist throughout the area, including Take a Sick Day And Run a 5k and the Cupid’s Single Mingle Sprint. In the fall, the club will also host a five-mile disco Roll or Run where athletes will have the option to rollerblade or run.

“Folks get tired of the same 5ks or 10ks,” Braithwate said. “We like to come up with different themes for events.”

Starting March 18 at 6 p.m., the club will kick off their free beginner running training program on Mondays and Tuesdays in Haines Point. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the club also meets at 6 p.m. in Marlboro, Md.’s Watkins Regional Park.

First-place retired Marine, Alex Hetherington, 45 of Va., won the race by several minutes in 55:52. Hetherington, who will compete in the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile, said he has been running competitively since high school.

“Running has been an important tool for a lot of reasons,” Hetherington said. “It gives you a reason to set goals.”

The Georgetown 10 Miler attracted runners from all over, including New York City.

“I usually do the New York Road Runners races,” said Neal Sussman, 30. “Those races are usually 4,000 runners. It’s nice to get a small competitive field where you can actually have a chance to win a race–or come close to winning.

Though 550 runners seemed like a small crowd for Sussman, the DC Running Club had to start the athletes off in several different waves to avoid large crowds on the tight canal path, which remained open to the public. Runners who hadn’t registered for the race however, were not able to enjoy the benefits of volunteers handing out water at various mile-markers along the course and a large, supportive crowd greeting them at the finish line.

Jeff Martin, of Vienna, runs into an illuminating, but not warming, sun during the Reston 10 Miler. Photo by Cheryl Young
Jeff Martin, of Vienna, runs into an illuminating, but not warming, sun during the Reston 10 Miler. Photo by Cheryl Young

March definitely had “in like a lion” down pat.

One look at the sell-out crowd at the Reston 10 Miler demonstrated that. Among the 1,040 finishers, there was barely any exposed skin outside of a few nutcases, like PR Racing teammates Andrew CiarfaliaAndrew Whitacre and Noah Zaring, who decided to [button-red url=”http://prracing.racebx.com/files/results/4d9205ce-7a0c-46c1-8929-4f56c0a86522/4f6b2f94-68cc-4f16-bc36-62fac0a86522/2013%20Reston%2010%20Mile%20Overall.htm” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]forgo long pants, and the former two long sleeves, on their way to top-five overall finishes.

“You came, you conquered and sure worked hard for that finisher medal,” the race announcer shouted through the microphone as [button-red url=”http://prracing.racebx.com/files/results/4d9205ce-7a0c-46c1-8929-4f56c0a86522/4f6b2f94-68cc-4f16-bc36-62fac0a86522/2013%20Reston%2010%20Mile%20Overall.htm” target=”_self” position=”left”] Photos [/button-red]runners finished the last 300 meters on the South Lakes High School track. The Reston 10 Miler was one of 18 races that are part of the Potomac River Running 2013 Trophy Series.

Leading the female division pack with a time of 1:00:15 was Peggy Yetman, a Potomac River Running club member.

“I’m getting over a little bronchial thing this week so my strategy was to not be too aggressive and lie back a little,” said Yetman who took the lead at mile three.

Yetman, 44 of Leesburg, Va., has been training for Ironman Texas but the Cherry Blossom 10 miler is on her list for top priorities.

“I didn’t want to leave everything out there today because I really wanted to be there for Cherry Blossom,” Yetman said while she stood at the awards ceremony receiving congratulations from her family and friends.

Yetman got her start in running while conditioning for gymnastics. She continued to run through college, though wasn’t expecting to.

Wendi Robinson, 25, of McLean Va., took third place in the female division with a time of 1:02:05.

“I ran faster than I thought I was going to,” Robinson said. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

Robinson got her start in the Potomac River Running Club when she began working for the PR store nearly two years ago. The last 200 meters of the race, which finished on South Lakes High School track, took Robinson down memory lane to her high school and college years.

“I liked finishing the 200 meters on the track,” she said. “It’s that feeling like you’re used to of sprinting in at the end of a race.”

Before the last 200 meters on the track, runners enjoyed two miles of down hills, which Matthew Clark, 29 of Reston, Va., said was a nice break.

“The last two miles on the downhill comes off of a couple really hard miles and you can really push 30 or 40 seconds faster for each mile,” Clark said.

He mentioned that many people use the Reston 10 Miler to tune up their legs after the winter season. Clark was tuning up to compete in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon USA and the Boston Marathon.

Barry “the juggler” Goldmeier, 48 of Rockville Md., was also using the Reston 10 miler to prepare for the season ahead. Goldmeier, who said he has juggled during his runs for the last 25 years, has several marathons planned for the spring.

“It’s just what I do,” Goldmeier said of his unique talent. “I had to stop sometimes to see the cones and where I was going, but this race one of the easiest. I have a lot of marathons lined up.”

The proceeds from the Reston 10-Miler will benefit the South Lakes High School Track & Field program.

Scott Vinads of Philadelpha cruises through the Seneca Greenway Trail 50k. Photo by Ken Trombatore
Scott Vinads of Philadelpha cruises through the Seneca Greenway Trail 50k. Photo by Ken Trombatore

Runners of all ages turned out for the Seneca Greenway Trail Race, which took runners through a rolling course consisting of a mostly smooth dirt path in the Damascus Regional Park. The two scenic courses turned out to be 29.71 miles for the “marathon” distance and 32.6 miles for the “50k” distance. With a cool temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and snow flurries, competitors started out in the Lower Magruder Branch Side Trail out of Damascus. This connected them to the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail and followed the Potomac River at “Riley’s Lock.”

[button-red url=”http://results.active.com/events/seneca-greenway-trail-race/trail-marathon/expanded” target=”_self” position=”left”] Marathon Results [/button-red]“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Alex Roederer, 15 of Bethesda, Md., as he tried to refuel his body with fluids just moments after the race.

Roederer made Seneca Greenway Trail Race history as the youngest marathon winner to-date. With a time of 4:19:27, Roederer ran with the leading pack for most of the race until the 50k and marathon courses split. Before today, his longest race-distance had only [button-red url=”http://results.active.com/events/seneca-greenway-trail-race/seneca-greenway-50k/expanded” target=”_self” position=”left”] 50k Results [/button-red]been 13 miles. That’s the same point in the race at which Roederer said he “stopped thinking.”

Training for the high school track season ahead, Roederer is just getting started. He said he plans to do more marathons in the future.

Finishing close behind Roederer and leading the 50k race pack were brothers Tyler Burke, 27 of Washington and Shaun Burke, 25 of Chicago. Tyler, who had completed three 50ks before the Seneca Greenway Trail Race, was just seconds ahead of his brother with a time of 04:27:11. Shaun, with a finishing time of 4:27:44, said he enjoyed the break from running in the windy city.

“Being from Chicago, it was a nice change of pace being in the foothills and mountains,” Shaun said.

Shaun began running shortly after college where he needed a change in lifestyle.

“When I had five math classes, nothing but frozen pizzas and lots of beer, I decided I needed to do something, so running was the way to go,” he said.

After experiencing the Seneca Greenway Trail course, Shaun said he plans to take a break from triathlons and focus solely on running.

“For a $70 pair of shoes and $20 pair of shorts, I can go out and have fun,” he said.

Both of the brothers plan on competing in the North Face 50 Miler in June.

Though racing in beautiful foothills and mountains was rewarding for most runners, planning for the race was no easy task. Race Director Harvey Sugar of Montgomery County Road Runners Club insisted that nobody take photos of him—he hadn’t had any time to shave in two days and had been up since 4 a.m. preparing for the race. With nearly 270 runners competing, Sugar said runners come out for the course and for the “spirit of the race.”

“We try to keep it low key and down to the basics–trail runners like that,” Sugar said. “We’ll have people do this race over and over again.”

Sugar thanked the hard-working volunteers from the Montgomery Road Runners Club and the Virginia happy trails running club. In total more than 100 volunteers helped run the race. He also said the race would not have been possible without Ed Schultze, who passed the torch on to Sugar and had directed it for the past 10 years.

Clemence Vauzelle, 24 of Annadale and originally from France was the first-place marathon female finisher with a time of 4:55:16. She described the course as “playful.”

“This is really my favorite type of trail,” Vauzelle said. “It’s a little rocky, muddy and had some roots, but you can still go fast.”

The course was familiar for Vauzelle who runs these trails every Sunday morning and usually sees foxes and deer and hears birds chirp.. She has been training with the Montgomery County Winter Trail Running Club in preparation for the race. Not expecting to win, Vauzelle was told at the aide station at the 30-mile mark, she was the first woman to come by.

For David Welch, 44 of Frederick Md., the Seneca Greenway Trail was his first long trail race. Welch, who crossed the finish line with his young son who ran with him the last 100 yards of the race, explained why his shoes looked the way they did at the end of the race.

“I fell in the stream,” Welch said. “But it at least got my shoes clean.”

Close to the finish, runners crossed a cold and rocky creek. Runners had the option of using a rope to help them cross, but some didn’t need it.

“I took a little ice bath in between,” said Cori Brindle, 31 of Mechanicsburg, Pa., who kneeled in the creek to cool off her leg.

Brindle won the 50k female division with a time of 4:59:05. The Seneca Greenway Trail was only Brindle’s second trail race. She is headed to the Boston Marathon in April.

“I was planning on doing the marathon distance but a woman at the water station convinced me I’d feel better at the end if I did the 50k, so I sucked it up,” Brindle said.

Most runners had to follow suit and “suck it up” to finish the two courses that ended up being a longer distance than they had planned for. But this is part of the trade-off to compete on smooth, scenic paths through the woods.

Men representing a variety of teams lead the charge at the RRCA Club Challenge.                                                              Photo by Chris Farmer
Men representing a variety of teams lead the charge at the RRCA Club Challenge. Photo by Chris Farmer

In 1980, Dave Tripp, then Howard County Striders’ president, was out for a Sunday morning run near the Howard Community College when he spotted dozens of runners. Shocked to see a race he didn’t know about on Howard County Strider turf, Tripp went to investigate. It turned out that the Baltimore Road Runners Club and DC Road Runners Club were competing in a challenge race [button-red url=”http://www.striders.net/races/rrca/2013″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]located halfway between Baltimore and Washington.

“I went up to the president and said, ‘look, if you’re going to come out here and run, you have to let us run,’” Tripp said.

In exchange for a promise to host the race, the Howard County Striders were allowed to compete the following year. Thirty-three years later, the RRCA Ten Mile Challenge is now open to several Maryland-based running clubs and the DC Road Runners Club.

The Falls Road Running team scored a narrow victory over the Howard County Striders, 557-559. The Falls Road duo ofMelissa Majumdar and Christine Ramsey helped the Baltimore-based club prevail over the strong lead the host men’s team scored with four of the top five men’s spots, lead by Ellicott City native Brian Harvey‘s 51:00 victory.

Harvey lives in Boston, following a stellar career at Carnegie Mellon University, but has been a Striders member since he was four.

“My mom still runs for the club and she  and other members encouraged me to come home and race this with them,” he said. “It was overall a fun experience and cool to catch up with a lot of people.”

Harvey took the race out in 4:50 and went through 2.5 miles with teammate Kyle Stanton and Falls Road’s Dave Berdan before breaking away on a long downhill. After averaging five minutes per mile for the first half, he slowed to 26 minutes in the hillier second half.

“You couldn’t have asked for better running weather,” said Trish Cunningham, 49 of Annapolis, Md. “It’s not cold and it’s not hot.”

Though it was Cunningham’s first time competing in the RRCA Ten Mile Club Challenge, she competes in several Annapolis Striders events every year—and she doesn’t compete alone.

She inspired her daughter, Avery, 14, and son Ben, 17, to also get involved with the Annapolis Striders Club and compete in this race. The three of them waited together at the finish line for Cunningham’s husband who wasn’t far behind.

With a 40-degree temperature, clear blue sky and plenty of sunshine to go around, the RRCA Ten Mile Challenge was not only a sneak preview of spring weather but also of spring season competition.

“This club challenge is a good warm-up race for April competition,” said James Blackwood, 28 of Ellicott City, Md. “We’re six weeks out from Cherry Blossom, I know where I’m at now and can set a reasonable goal.”

A long-time member of the Howard County Striders, this year marked Blackwood’s 10th RRCA Ten Mile Club Challenge.

“There were good vibes all around,” said Nicole Deziel, 36 of Columbia, Md. “The local clubs keep coming back because it’s a good tune-up for the season.”

After five years of competing in the RRCA Ten Mile Club Challenge with the Montgomery County Road Runners Club, Deziel said it’s her favorite race.

“There are hills, a bunch of twists and turns,” Deziel said. “The course makes for great racing.”

After eight years of competing in the RRCA Ten Mile Club Challenge, Kimberly Price, 40 of Gaithersburg, Md. enjoyed the healthy competition between all of the teams.

“The Howard County Strider volunteers cheered for everyone,” Price said. “They were very supportive.”

With nearly 1,000 runners competing in 17 clubs, it’s a good thing Tripp stumbled on a race that went on to become one of the largest club competitions in Maryland and one that leaves many runners with an optimistic view of the season ahead.


Winds up to 30 miles per hour, snow flurries in 30 degrees, rolling hills and plenty of warm chili — it’s all in preparation for springtime races and a long-time tradition for the DC Road Runners Club. At the 52nd annual Washington’s Birthday Marathon and Relay, the club brought in more than 500 runners to race on some of Greenbelt’s most challenging roads in an effort to get the athletes primed for the season ahead.

“You don’t get the intensity if you train on your own that you do in a race,” said overall marathon winner Miles Aitken, 29, of Washington D.C.

Aitken, who won with a time of 3:08:43, said he planned to come back next year. “It was a great course and well organized,” he said. Though his specialty race is 5K, Aitken was using the DCRRC GW Marathon to train for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon USA in March.

Aitken wasn’t alone. Many runners who braved the gusts of wind and rolling hills were getting ramped up for springtime races.

Not all runners had to complete the entire 26.2 miles to lace up their racing shoes. In addition to the full marathon competition, the DCRRC also hosted a relay for runners who wanted to race a shorter distance. With more than 100 relay teams, Ben Richter, vice president of races for the DCRRC, said the relay teams made-up roughly half of the race participants. Richter said the relays tend to get more people involved.

Emily Buzzell, 27 of Washington, was the first of three runners to compete in the co-ed “Team Dojo” squad. Her team finished first in the co-ed relay series with a time of 2:52:20. Buzzell said the relay gave her something to run for.

“I turned a corner after the fifth mile mark and ran into a 30-mile-per-hour wind,” Buzzell said. “I was exhausted and everything hurt but didn’t want to slow down because my team was counting on me.”

Buzzell’s other motivating factor to race in mid-February is the Boston Marathon. “Everything’s geared toward Boston,” she said.

“Relays are good activities to help you be accountable for other bigger goals,” said Buzzell’s teammate, Kit Wells, 36 of Damascus, Md.

In addition to appreciating the atmosphere of teamwork, Wells enjoyed the course, which passed a federal agricultural research facility. One of the Greenbelt country streets was even named “Poultry Road.”

“It’s the closest thing I’ve come to experiencing anything dealing with poultry research,” Wells said. “It’s nice that the same footprint can be used for healthful recreational. That’s a good mix,” Wells said.

Among other relay teams and running clubs competing throughout the race, the American Hispanic Running Club had a strong showing in support at the finish. When talking about their favorite part of the course, many of the club’s runners said the finish. The club, which is trying to bring more Hispanic members to the running community, took first in the Masters Male Relay team with a time of 3:15:35. The group is preparing for the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon in March and the Parks Half Marathon in September.

For Jane Lanford, 47 of Fairbanks, Alaska, the course was a refreshing way to experience the east coast.

“I have this impression of the east coast as entirely built up,” Lanford said as she tried to warm her hands—even after she had been inside for an hour.  “It was very nice to be out in the country. I really enjoyed that.”

Lanford traveled all the way from Fairbanks, Alaska, where she trains outside all year long. She finished first in the woman’s masters at 3:54:04 and hit her goal: to break four hours. The Washington’s Birthday Marathon marked the 15th race in which Lanford broke four hours. This is part of her goal to run 50 marathons in less than four hours.

“I’m not getting any younger so I might as well do them now the best I can,” Lanford said.

Amanda An, 25 of Ellicott City, touted her Howard County roots and said she liked the hills.

“I actually like them better than the flat courses,” An said. An was the first female finisher with a time of 3:35:02. She got her start in 2008 when she ran her first marathon. The  race marked An’s 17th marathon.

“Once you get mixed up in the running community and get talking to other runners and their achievements—then you start questioning your own abilities and what you can give,” An said. “It really motivates you to try to push your own limits.”

An ran the marathon in preparation for her second 100-miler, the Boston Marathon and brought her one step closer to reaching her goal of completing at least 50 races a year—part of the 50-plus group.

It seemed that most runners had used the Washington Marathon as a training ground for their big up-and-coming race, but it was also clear this race was just as important as the big ones. Whether it was one more race closer to the 50 mark or another race allowing teammates to grow stronger, the Washington’s Birthday Marathon allowed many runners to get back in the groove of racing and dust off their racing flats.


Carlton Conant of Kensington grins while climbing a hill during the Country Roads Run Five Mile. Photo by Ken Trombatore
Carlton Conant of Kensington grins while climbing a hill during the Country Roads Run Five Mile. Photo by Ken Trombatore

Getting up on a chilly, Sunday morning in February is no challenge for Cindy Conant, 51 of Kensington.

In fact, the Country Road Run Five Mile in Olney, she won in 32:30, was really just a warm-up. She still had an additional 15 miles planned for the day and Conant planned on suckering a few of her friends into training with her. After 23 years of racing — including a number of Boston Marathons — Conant hasn’t skipped a beat.

“I just love running,” Conant said. “When I turned 50, I had my fastest races.”

Conant was one of 300 in the second leg of the MCRRC championship series, and started from Brook Manor Park near the Olney Swim Center, where runners stood to stay warm before the start of the race..

Michele Parks of Rockville didn’t mind the cold, though. She eagerly waited for her six-year-old son, Jason Parks, to finish the 1-mile fun run (he won). Jason started with the RockvilleTrack Club one year ago and recently finished his first 5K.

“He really loves it,” Michele Parks said. “He asked to compete in the full race.”

The overall first-place finisher, Joe “the Twinbrook Kid” Wiegner, 30, of Germantown, won in 27:25. After a long layoff from racing in 2012, with a few summer track meets, he’s back to training for the spring track season.

“I am focusing more on middle distance,” Wiegner said. He trains with the GeorgetownRunning Club and is excited for 2013.

The quiet out-and-back course through Olney didn’t lack hills. Near the finish, Janeth Scott, 50, Columbia, admitted the hills were not easy. “You wouldn’t want a 50 year-old to beat you,” Scott shouted at a younger man as she passed him up a hill near the finish. Scott got her start with the Howard County Striders. She ran her first 5K to lose weight and maintain her fitness.

“I looked at the other runners and said I wanted to be like them one day,” Scott said.

Scott is currently training for a 10-mile race and has competed in the Boston Marathon.

“It’s a great venue,” explained Olney resident race announcer and Marc Wolfson, 62. As competitors crossed the finish line, Wolfson passionately cheered them on. Though he was not competing himself, he is an avid runner. Wolfson was recently featured in Runner’s World’s bodies issue that examined how sweat, blisters, hours and miles have physically shaped runners. Wolfson said that one goal for the championship series was to get more runners out to race during the winter months. “It’s a tough time of year for races,” he said.

Willie Flowers, 41, Ellicott City, also mentioned the grueling hills. Flowers has been running for seven years and got his start while he was in charge of a health alliance.

“I wanted to be an example,” Flowers said.

Flowers has competed in seven marathons.

Race organizer Cathie Rosenfeld said the goal of the race was to give the Montgomery County Road Runners a venue to run together as group. This was her fifth and final time organizing the race. She recently moved to Delaware and came back one last time for this race.

“These people are like family to me,” Rosenfeld said.

Though it’s not easy to part with the MCRRC, Rosenfeld plans to get involved with a local running club in Delaware.

February may not be the easiest month to get runners to compete, but Rosenfeld still got to spend her last race in Montgomery County with hundreds of fellow club members willing to conquer the cold. Runners were rewarded with spending the rest of their Sunday morning together in a warm room full of fruit and bagels.


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