The Powerline Trail as it is best enjoyed, under cloudy skies, shortly after opening in October 2018. Photo: Charlie Ban

After years of dedicated planning and construction, Montgomery Parks opened the Powerline Trail, also known as the Pepco Trail, in October 2018.

The 6.8-mile trail, which kicks off from South Germantown Recreational Park in Germantown, Md. and terminates at North Potomac’s Muddy Branch Stream Park, marked the first use of power corridors for recreational use in Montgomery County. In my final days before shipping out for my freshman year of college, I decided to hit the trail to see if it would live up to the hype. 

The origins of the trail date back to 2015, when power companies Pepco and Exelon were nearing a merger. Dave Magill, the Maryland advocacy director for MORE (Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts), remembers first hearing of the possibility of including the construction of a trail as a condition in the merger.

“A bike advocate, whose name I cannot remember, was chatting with me and said, “you know, Pepco hasn’t been very good with allowing trails of any kind, whether bike or hikers, either on or even across their power lines. Maybe to get an approval, they’ll have to go before the public utility commission (PUC). This is an opportunity to intervene in the merger and ask for them to change their policy about trails. That idea really resonated with me.”

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Mark Leininger runs the 2019 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography

Mark Leininger did a lot while in D.C., including breaking the American University 10,000-meter record. But running off the track, at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, spurred him to greater heights and longer distances. 

“I didn’t really think about [competing post-collegiately on the roads] too much,” Leininger said. “I wanted to still run faster on the track.”

What made me consider it was when I ran Cherry Blossom right after college and I ran 49:08, and that’s on pace if I were to continue for a half marathon to qualify. After I did that, I thought about running a half-marathon to qualify [for the Trials]. [Cherry Blossom] was my longest race just coming out of college, and it made me realize I could probably run a pretty fast half-marathon.”

Since his breakout performance, Leininger has expanded his range and competed in the marathon in the 2016 Olympic Trials. And thanks to a career-best performance of 2:17:51 at the California International Marathon last December and a 2:18:00 six months later at Grandma’s Marathon, Leininger is headed back once again to American running’s biggest stage, where he hopes to build off his past Trials experience and surpass the competition.

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Willy Fink closes in on the first sub-four-minute mile run in Washington, D.C. at the 2019 DC Road Runners Track Championship at Dunbar High School. He ran 3:58.84. Photo by Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography

Willy Fink came into Saturday’s D.C. Road Runners Track Championship wanting to accomplish something great. He accomplished something monumental.

Competing in a heat with nine runners who had previously broken the four minute mile barrier, Fink led from wire to wire at D.C.’s Dunbar High School and ran the first sub-four minute track mile recorded on D.C. soil (3:58.84). The race had its share of drama, however. Instead of the quick pace many spectators and athletes anticipated, the field started off conservatively and kept the audience in suspense as to whether the four-minute barrier would actually be broken.

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John Riker

John Riker, who recently graduated from T.S. Wootton High School, started writing for RunWashington in 2018 and is now a student at Northwestern University. He recently wrote about the new power line trail in Montgomery CountyRead more of his writing here.

Name: John Riker

Self-described age group: 18-34

Residence: Northwestern University

Occupation: Student/Journalist

Volunteer roles in the running world: None

Why you run: I run because I enjoy it and hope to use my talents to make a positive impact on others.

When did you get started running: Seventh grade, to condition for basketball tryouts

Have you taken a break from running:  Not yet!

Training shoe: Brooks

Coach or training group: Northwestern Club Running

The hardest race you’ve ever run: Nike Cross Southeast Regionals 2018, because of the muddy, chilly conditions and the talented competition.

Most adventurous decision you’ve made with your running: Long runs in rural Romania

Running mentors: High School coaches Kellie Redmond, Jacob Buxton, and Matthew Davis

My favorite place to run in the D.C. area is:  Bohrer Park/Gaithersburg High School

Favorite local trail: C&O Canal

My best race was: The 3200-meter run at the 2019 Maryland State Track and Field Championships. The race was my best performance physically and mentally, and it ended my high school career on a high note.

Favorite local race: Devil Run at Cougar Relays, both as a competitor and spectator

Ideal post-run meal: Italian Ice, as a reward

Favorite flavor of gel, gu, etc: None

Pet peeve: Wet socks

Goals: To keep enjoying running and meet more people!

Your advice for a new runner: Go for it. Always put yourself in a position to compete to reach your goal, whether that’s place, time, or strategy. Even if you fail, you’ll have done it the right way.

Favorite running book: Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong

Song in your head during a run: Oh We Rollin by Wootton XC

Have you dealt with a major injury: No, thankfully

Running quote: “You can run up the hill, but the team takes you up the mountain.” -Peyton Eppard

Why is the D.C. area a great place to be a runner: I love D.C.’s combination of beautiful running paths and areas and the passionate running community.

T.S. Wootton runners put in some miles as part of their summer training. Photo: John Riker

For most high school students, summer is a time to kick back, relax and finally turn off that annoying alarm clock. But for runners on the Northwest cross country team in Germantown, the summer season is when they set the alarm clock even earlier. The team holds summer practices on weekdays at 5:30 a.m., just before sunrise.

“At the beginning it’s so difficult,” senior Marissa Branham admitted. “You know that it’s supposed to be summer and here I am waking up earlier for practice than I do for school. I wake up around 5 to get ready and when I drive to school it’s literally still dark out. But by the time I warm up and stretch, I’m pretty much awake and ready to run so it’s not that bad. At the beginning it’s hard, but you get used to it after a few weeks of waking up at 5 a.m.”

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