Though she had kept a relatively low profile since winning the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon, Perry Shoemaker is back after qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials April 28 at the Eugene Marathon. Her 2:43:33 was a PR of more than eight minutes.
“I’m still shocked that I did it,” Perry said a little over a week after the race. “And of course I’m still very excited.”
For years, Perry, 48, has challenged the notion that results slow down with age. She says that qualifying for the Trials became a dream when she realized she could do it with the right conditions and without injuries. “Without injuries” turned out to be a key challenge.
Boston, New York, Marine Corps, Chicago. Getting into one of these marathons is half the battle. Year after year, missed qualifying times and bad luck with lotteries are the source of much heartache for runners. To some, racing on behalf of a charity offers a back door to the starting line when all else fails.
But these charity runners will tell you it’s not about the race bib.
Patuxent River Park in Upper Marlboro, Md. boasts more than 6,000 acres of nature trails and wildlife just ten miles off the Beltway.
What started as an innocent IKEA chair purchase in 2014 has turned into quite the display of race medals for Mike Katz of D.C.
His springy bentwood Poäng, which he pronounces POE-ayng, is adorned with 32 pieces of hardware from marathons, half marathons, relays, ten milers, and more. He layers them on with the completion of each race, hoping (with mixed success) they stay in chronological order.
His favorite? The 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll USA (now Rock ‘n’ Roll DC) Half Marathon medal has good aesthetics and was the first medal he draped onto the Poäng while unpacking in an otherwise unfurnished apartment in 2014.
Another notable design includes the 2015 Parks Half Marathon medal featuring a wine stopper welded onto the bottom.
His memento from the 2016 Santa Barbara Veterans Day Half Marathon is a round aluminum pendant that a friend hung on a candy necklace with “Good Job Running Boy” written on it in Sharpie.
The Poäng makes an appearance on Katz’s social media accounts from time to time, captioned with some variation of “Another medal for the Poäng!” and the occasional race report.
“I’m gonna need a new medal chair soon if I keep making these terrible choices,” he wrote in 2015.
If it gets to that point, he has his sights set on the children’s version of the Poäng as a contingency.
“If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen.” Runners and bicyclists frequently use this phrase, either jokingly or sincerely, to describe the fitness-tracker-turned-social-network.
Miles, splits, maps and sweaty selfies are all compiled into one social media experience. It may be your non-running friends’ nightmare, but it offers a unique opportunity to connect with both local and international athletes.
“I love running.”
Those three words by Perry Shoemaker explain a lot about her success at the age of 45. She’s won the .US National 12k master’s championship three years in a row. In 2016 she was one of the top 10 American women at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. In 2015 she was the second-place woman at the Army Ten-Miler and just missed the 1:15 qualifying time for the Olympic marathon trials with a 1:16:01 half marathon in Philadelphia.
“I love running,” she says. “It’s not a chore at all. It’s my peace.”
At the top of the local race results, she has become a bit of a local celebrity.
“Perry runs a lot of local races,” said Ray Pugsley, owner of Potomac River Running and a PRR DC Elite teammate. “To see Perry continue to improve and excel through her 40s is an inspiration to me and the Potomac River Running community.”
Shes somewhat legendary in local racing circles, as of late July third overall in the RunWashington rankings, behind only Olympic Trials marathoners Susanna Sullivan and Julia Roman–Duval.
Overheard by Roland Rust at a race: “I got second to Perry, but I don’t really count her.”
Up until five years ago, though, running took the backseat to her other athletic pursuits.
Her high school in Annapolis didn’t offer cross country or track, so she focused on field hockey, lacrosse, basketball and sailing. Throughout it all, running helped her stay in shape. But winning her age group at the Governor’s Bay Bridge 10K back then was an early sign of the success to come later in life.
She was a two-time All-American in sailing at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and coached lacrosse after graduation, but through it all she continued running. When she and her family lived in Pittsburgh, racing for Perry mostly consisted of small community 5ks through the neighborhood. It wasn’t until the Shoemakers moved to Vienna in 2011 that Perry began running competitively.
It started with a small 5k at her middle daughter’s high school, which she won. Then there was the Run with Santa 5k, which she won, followed by their New Year’s Day 5k, which — you guessed it — she won. It didn’t take long for the Shoemakers’ oldest daughter — “she’s the research girl,” according to Perry — to find the Potomac River racing team application online. The seventh grader encouraged her mother to fill it out. The race locations were convenient and the community was a great fit. By April 2012, Perry was on the team, complete with a pair of racing shoes, courtesy of her husband.
Perry trains on her own, averaging 45-70 miles per week on top of cross-training, core work, and strength training. She says the solo workouts suit her fine.
“I’m very much an introvert,” she said. “I don’t talk a lot when I run, I’m just kind of in my own space.”
“You’re not much fun to run with,” her husband once told her.
She keeps in touch with her Potomac River Running teammates over email during the week, offering words of encouragement and congratulations for weekend race results and warms up and cools down with them on race days.
“Conversations during those runs are usually about families and how other people are doing, other race plans, and injuries, but never about how Perry was beating everybody, and she’s always modest about anything she has done,” said teammate Steve Crago.
A preschool teacher during the day, Perry saves speedwork for her half-days, often running on the track at her middle daughter’s high school.
“I’m very competitive in my own person. I’m probably my worst and best competitor,” she said. That drive has helped her shave time off her Army Ten Miler finish year after year, culminating in an incredible 57:31 last year. She has finished second there in 2015 and 2016 and claimed four masters’ titles.
“That race let me know that she could rise to another level on occasion when there was top competition,” said Rust.
Perry and her husband talked about what could come next. They considered the Philadelphia Half Marathon the following month, where Perry would need to drop over seven minutes from her half marathon PR to get into the Olympic Marathon Trials in January.
“Is it really ridiculous if I think about trying to qualify for the Trials?” she remembers asking him. “It’s a big long shot,” he told her, “but let’s think of a plan. Let’s try to do it.” As with all her races, he designed a workout plan and coached her through the training. She missed the qualifying time by a minute, but has no regrets.
“We tried. We came close. Good experience and a lot of hard workouts. Glad I did it.”
Because of an injury, she spent the morning of the marathon trials watching the race on TV from a spin bike.
Some of her proudest races haven’t necessarily been her fastest. At this year’s Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, awful weather and a nagging injury left Perry questioning whether she’d even attempt the race. It would be her first run in two weeks.
“I was dreading it,” she said. “It was freezing cold, it was blowing head-on wind the last two miles of the race and I did it! I didn’t have the best time, but it was great. I’m very proud I did that race.”
While she trains alone, Perry often relies on her family and team to get her through tough races. At the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon, Perry heard her husband and her three daughters cheering five times along the course and ran with a Potomac River teammate for the last seven miles on her way to a 2:52:22 finish and fourth place. She calls it a “fulfilling day” that ended with a fifth birthday party for her youngest daughter.
All three of the Shoemaker daughters are now runners, with the oldest two running on their high school cross country and track teams and already wielding USATF National Junior Olympics XC and Track and Field Championship experience.
“Running’s always been part of our entire family,” she said. She brings her youngest daughter to the pool when she cross-trains; she texts her husband to let him know if a workout goes particularly well.
She even incorporates running into work. Recess at her preschool includes students racing around the playground and field and show-and-tell includes Perry’s race medals. Last October, her students barely stood taller than her Army Ten-Miler Master’s Trophy and thought it would make a good bowl to hand out candy in for Halloween later that month.
“Wow I love your jacket! Where did you get it?” one student exclaimed when he saw her brightly colored Boston marathon jacket one day. Perry spent the next few minutes explaining that running 26.2 miles would be like going back and forth to school about a hundred times.
Last year, Perry hit a PR at every distance she attempted, but remains humble in her accomplishments. Balancing family, her work, and her training has left her thankful to have the opportunity to compete. Looking ahead, she is open to whatever racing opportunities come up in the next few years, but she knows she’ll run Army Ten-Miler again because it has a special place in her heart.
“I start at the front so I get to see the marching in of the colors, see the singing of the national anthem, and watch the wounded warriors at their start. Inspiring,” she said. “The [Army Ten-Miler] is always a favorite for me.”
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of RunWashington.
Ibrahim Abu Asbeh was driving on a sunny day in Amman, Jordan, when he first saw Nina Brekelmans running.
“Wow, she is really good,” the running coach thought to himself. “I need to know her.”
Seeing a female runner in that country was rare, something Nina hoped to change.
She was in Jordan through the Center for Arabic Study Abroad while a graduate student at Georgetown and Abu Asbeh just happened to see her during one of her training runs along Amman’s Sport City trails. After picking up running at the insistence of a friend, she had competed for Dartmouth and kept it up after moving on to grad school.
As the General Secretary of the Jordan Athletics Federation, Abu Asbeh became a valuable resource for Nina when she looked to connect with the local running community, coaching her during her year abroad. She returned to D.C. in 2014 to finish her masters, but planned to work with her friends researching Jordanian women’s distance running under her Fulbright fellowship. Sadly, they never had the chance.
That excitement turned to grief when Brekelmans was killed in June 2015 in an electrical fire in her building near Dupont Circle.
But her work is still far from complete.
See results at http://www.runrocknroll.com/finisher-zone/search-and-results/?eventid=13
Mother Nature must have been feeling merciful. A radiant sunrise turned to overcast skies, 50-degree temperatures and a slight breeze, providing ideal conditions for over 19,000 racers at the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. marathon and half marathon.
Runners at the starting line were happy to avoid a repeat of last year’s cold rain.
“Perfect. This is perfect,” said Alex Smith, who flew in from Milwaukee for the race. He chose Rock n’ Roll because it was the closest big marathon that would motivate him to keep training in Wisconsin’s harsh winter.
Vincent Reddish and Joshua Cowan said they were excited, nervous, and ready to start. Cowan was one of 518 runners at today’s race running on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; the team raised over $200,000 for the charity.
Martha Nelson, though, missed the rain. The defending champion said last year was the smoothest marathon she’s ever run whereas this year proved to be more of a mental challenge.
“Getting the F1 [bib number] puts a lot of pressure on. I knew as much as I told myself you don’t have to win, you’re always going to have that defending champion bullseye on your back.”
Nelson, who lives in D.C., relaxed by helping pace a friend to a sub-3:00 finish and taking advantage of her hometown advantage. “It’s a fun race for me because I get to see a lot of friends along the course,” she said.
Nelson reeled in the eventual runner-up, Lori Nedescu (2:59:55), on the big hill in Fort Dupont Park near mile 21. “I felt if I could pass her going up the hill, that meant that I had more strength. It’s a hard thing to take the lead when you’re that exhausted.”
She struggled in the final miles, but gutted it out to finish in 2:58:02. Katie Moran (3:04:33) finished in third.
The closest 1-2 finish of the day came during the women’s half marathon. Bethany Sachtleben (1:19:43) and Kerry Allen (1:20:07) raced together for the first half, with Laurel Le Moigne joining for part of the Rock Creek Parkway portion, but Sachtleben pulled away around mile eight and never gave up the lead.
“It was fun to have our little pack for a while,” Sachtleben said. Today’s race helped her prepare for the U.S. half marathon championships in late April.
Hannah Eckstein (1:19:24) finished third in her first half marathon.
Both men’s races were blowouts. Mizael Carrera (1:06:16) went in knowing he could be the top finisher and left no doubt as he led from the gun, two minutes under his PR and over a minute-and-a-half ahead of his nearest competitor.
He slowed from his goal pace of 5-minute miles as he got into the race. “I didn’t look at the course elevation, so I didn’t know there were hills. I kind of backed it off because I didn’t want to hit the wall.”
Carrera is training through this race to prepare for an April marathon in Germany, where he hopes to qualify for Puerto Rico’s Olympic team.
D.C.’s Carlos Jamieson edged out Bethesda’s Andrew Brodeur for second place. At the awards ceremony, Brodeur said “the wheels just came off” in his final ten steps. Jamieson won last year’s race and later qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, but a hot day in Los Angeles forced him to drop out halfway through. He wore his old high school uniform, that of North Rockland, N.Y., which saw its girls distance medley relay team with the New Balance Nationals Indoor title the day before, in a national record time.
Alfredo Arevalo Reyes, who signed up for the marathon this week, ran a lonely 2:30:04 to win by over four minutes. Even with the commanding lead, the two-time Olympian glanced over his shoulder throughout the race to make sure no one would catch up to him. To his surprise, no one ever did.
Reyes, 40, was excited to win a marathon on U.S. soil, even if he didn’t get his qualifying time for the 2016 Olympics. At the finish, he hoisted the flag from his home of Guatemala, one of 47 countries represented by Rock n’ Roll racers this morning.
Steve Chu (2:34:09) finished in second while Dirian Bonilla (2:37:25) finished third.
Dickson Mercer (16:10) and Kendahl Melvin (20:54) each took first place in the 5k. Guler Koca (2:16:38) and Salomon Vazquez (3:34:39) won the marathon’s wheelchair division; Daniel Hagarty (2:12:15) was the top wheelchair finisher for the half marathon; Amanda Strite (33:23) and Erin Kelman (26:45) won the wheelchair 5k.
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D.C.’s weather also made an impact on the finish area this year. Race organizers added changing tents after soggy runners went home shivering in 2015 and moved the finish line because the original spot was still covered in stubborn snow piles.
Aimee Price of Williamsport, Md., said the mild winter this year made training for the half marathon a little easer. She and Tamara Krumm both loved the course. “It’s always good. You can see all of Washington,” Krumm said.
Brigitte Todd said her half marathon time wasn’t her best because she’s coming back from injury. “I took it easy, I stopped a couple times, I drank champagne and margaritas on the way” courtesy of some roadside fans in the middle of the race.
“I wasn’t taking it very seriously,” she said with a laugh.
Freedom Plaza was a sea of purple June 14 for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Purple Strides 5k. With little humidity and a light breeze, the weather was perfect for thousands of runners and walkers to make their way down Pennsylvania Avenue.
[button-red url=”http://www.zippyraceresults.com/search.php?ID=4043″ target=”_self” position=”left”] 5k Results [/button-red]Griffin Mackey, 16, of Pittsburgh easily won the race, crossing the finish line in under 17 minutes. Just coming off his track season at Sewickley Academy, Mackey broke away from the field after the first mile and ran unchallenged for the rest of the race. Brian Mahoney of Washington, D.C. finished second.
The women’s race also featured a landslide victory, as Cindy Conant of Kensington pulled away from her competitors after a first mile of 6:04. Michaela Peterson of Bethesda-Chevy Chase didn’t meet her goal of beating her time from last year (19:25), but still placed second.
As runners filtered through the finish area, the crowd was full of support and celebration. Purple tutus, purple wigs, even purple viking horns decorated participants’ outfits. One finisher was ambushed by friends with purple silly string.
Everywhere you looked, signs declared the event’s call to “Know It. Fight It. Beat It.” Saturday’s race raised over $680,000 for pancreatic cancer research and patient support.
Susana Berger was the top fundraiser, raising nearly $30,000 as one of about 60 members of teamBERGER, which raised over $60,000 as the top fundraising group. Camille McIntosh, a survivor and the second top individual fundraiser, raised over $10,000 as a member of JIMBO’s BIMBOS.
According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a severe lack of funding for pancreatic cancer research has limited advancement in detection and treatment of this disease, which is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the US with a five-year relative survival rate of six percent. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network estimates there’s a new diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in the U.S. every 12 minutes.
With Father’s Day the following day, the weekend was particularly emotional for families celebrating survivors or honoring those who have passed away. Bernard Beidel of Centreville beat cancer a few years ago, and walked today’s course holding a large sign with his team, Bern’s Whipple Walkers.
“You don’t get this far without your family,” he said.
Nick (Washington, D.C.) and Rick (New York, N.Y.) Desloge signed up with family and friends in honor of their father, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2012 a year after his diagnosis. Their team raised over $2500 simply through corporate and individual donations.
Tori Selimis of Woodbine, Md., a breast cancer survivor, recalled undergoing treatment with her father, who had a recurrence of breast cancer last year. She called it a “very bizarre daddy-daughter date.”
Selimis says she had wanted to be healthier to reduce the chance of a recurrence of her breast cancer, so she signed up for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adult’s Cancer to 5k program with the encouragement of her friends.
“Since I was 37 when I was diagnosed with a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old I had no choice but to try anything that can help increase my survival rate.”
Saturday’s date marked the one-year anniversary of the funeral for Craig Irving’s sister, Viola, who passed away within five months of her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at age 53. Viola had wanted to participate in the Purple Stride 5k last year, so this year her family traveled from Mississippi and Tennessee to honor her as Team Vi’s Victory. Irving, who lives in Alexandria, has learned a lot about pancreatic cancer since last year.
“Getting information is important,” he said. “The first few weeks is when a family needs the most support. Those are precious days, hours, and minutes.”
Irving and Margie Nides, who walked the race in honor of her sister Anne, agreed that meeting other families was one of the most inspirational parts of the day.
“When you look around, you see different stories,” Nides said. Anne Nides showed no symptoms and had no family history of the disease before her diagnosis. Her other sister, Jane, said it was great to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, “targeting the bodies in there who can get the funding” for pancreatic cancer, she said, pointing to the Capitol.
The Desloge brothers said their dad wished for better testing for early detection of pancreatic cancer while he was undergoing treatment. It’s a critical solution that would improve the chances for patients with the deadly disease and their families to know it, fight it, and beat it.
Carl Klein woke up one night to a police officer knocking on the window of his Ford Explorer. He was parked in a lot right off the highway, and the officer told him he couldn’t sleep there. Carl started his car, drove to another location and fell asleep again.
He was 17 years old.
It was an unusual high school experience, one that running helped him endure. Now in his first year as an assistant track and field coach at Annandale High School, Klein’s love of athletics is still strong.
Klein was born and raised in Perry, Mich., a small town northwest of Detroit with a little over 2,000 residents. Klein excelled in soccer, wrestling and track at a high school where each graduating class had about 30 students.
“I just fell in love with running,” he said, although he didn’t always feel that way. “I was honestly only doing it to keep in shape for other sports.”