Washington, DC

The response to COVID-19 has been wide reaching, affecting the lives of millions of Americans and shuttering businesses nationwide. The pandemic is affecting businesses in all sectors, and the running community is not exempt. D.C.-area specialty running stores are closing their sales floors, canceling events and working to find ways to virtually connect with patrons in an industry that thrives on face-to-face interactions.

Most specialty running stores rely on business in the spring to help set them up for a successful year. It’s when many runners hit the streets again and think of their apparel and footwear needs, said Potomac River Running Owner Ray Pugsley.

Most years his stores see an uptick in sales in March, and sales stay strong through the Marine Corps Marathon in October. However, the novel coronavirus has been a gut punch to his business and has him concerned about what the future could hold. Potomac River Running’s Virginia stores have reduced hours; the D.C. store closed last week after Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses.

“If businesses like us are shut down for two months, we can’t recover … It’s so grave I can’t even wrap my brain around it. I can’t even wrap my arms around how bad this can get so fast,” Pugsley said. “… As long as you’re selling stuff every day, it’s not a problem. But when you pull the sales out, everything stops. We can’t do anything; we’re paralized.”

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It’s that time of year — when stuffy noses, sore throats and congestion abound. During cold and flu season it can be tempting to ignore symptoms to get in a run or a workout as spring race season approaches, but it begs the question: when is it OK to run when you have a cold, and when should you take a break?

It all boils down to how severe your symptoms are and how your body is feeling, said Dr. Glenn Wortmann, director of infectious diseases at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and an avid runner himself for about 20 years.

“Everybody is a little bit different, but if you’re so congested you’re having trouble breathing, then you should take the day off,” Wortmann said.

There’s some good news though: if cold symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, slight body aches, headaches and sneezing aren’t too severe, it’s fine for runners to power through them to get a workout in, Wortmann said. Over the course of the winter, people may get the cold several times and if they feel up to it, they can run, he added.

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Zach Hine runs mile 22 of the California International Marathon. Photo: FlashFrame

Zach Hine has been running for more than 15 years and has accomplished something few runners can boast: he’s never been injured. And, oh yeah, he’s qualified for the Olympic trials in the marathon three separate times.

“I’ve been able to do the distance training without any serious injuries so that’s why I’ve been able to move up and do a lot of races,” said Hine, a 32-year-old who recently moved to the D.C. area from Colorado.

While the no-injuries thing doesn’t hurt (pardon the pun), Hine boasts an impressive running resume that takes more than just “listening to your body” to achieve. He placed 10th in the Boston Marathon in 2016, has won numerous races around the country and is set to run his third consecutive Olympic Marathon Trials this coming February in Atlanta.

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Formula Running Center class participants listen for instructions. Photo: Dustin Whitlow

Rob McAnnally has checked some running feats off his to-do list over the last few years: he’s run a few half marathons and 10-mile races. But this 49-year-old Arlington resident is starting to get hungry for more. He’s looking to be more a more efficient and effective runner and shave off some time during his races. He also wants to run his first marathon when he turns 50 next year.

To help in his quest, McAnnally turned to Formula Running Center, a new facility geared toward helping runners excel, recover and learn with guidance from a staff of runners, physical therapists, nutritionists and coaches.

“I think [Formula Running Center] can help me learn from professionals and coaches that really know running and can help me achieve even more than I could on my own,” said McAnnally, who has already attended a running class and signed up for a membership at the facility.

Formula Running Center, or FRC, opened in Clarendon earlier this month, billing itself as “a complete training experience for runners and endurance athletes.”

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The final straightaway of the 1500m at Outdoor ACCs during Pocratsky’s senior year. She went on to win the race. Photo: Courtesy of Rachel Pocratsky

Rachel Pocratsky isn’t your normal 22-year-old. The Gaithersburg, Md. native has set numerous middle-distance track records at Virginia Tech, achieved first-team status in the NCAA All-American indoor and outdoor track teams, and finished several events in times that rank among some of the fastest in NCAA track history. Oh, and she’s just a few months away from beginning her professional running career in the D.C. area.

Pocratsky is a student athlete at Virginia Tech poised to graduate in May 2020 with a degree in civil engineer … and scores of running awards and accolades under her belt. She recently signed with the District Track Club, an Under Armour-supported post collegiate track club in the D.C. area — where she will begin her professional running career in the spring.

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Shauneen Werlinger nears the end of the 2019 Marine Corps Historic Half. Photo: MarathonFoto

For Shauneen Werlinger, a trip to the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials figured to be the culmination of a long development that started at Thomas Jefferson High School, continued through a spectacular collegiate career and evolved to include her career and family.

But instead of competing in Atlanta, she’ll be following the race alongside her husband and children. Instead of growing the Trials field by one, she’s growing her family by one, with a son due in January.

The decision to pass on the race is one Werlinger, 34, said she did not take lightly.

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Alex Morris awards medals to a 2017 Clarendon Day 5k/10k double finisher. Photo: Charlie Ban

Bling on the Brain

A race medal is a symbol of achievement; a shiny token signifying a goal achieved. While these medals seem like a small part of an event, race teams put a lot of thought into them — everything from shape, design and ribbon color — to drive home the theme of the race and its significance in runners’ lives.

The Parks Half Marathon uses its medal as a marketing and branding opportunity, said Race Director Don Shulman. The Montgomery County race is often the first half marathon for a lot of its participants, so Shulman said the medal is vital because of the pride finishers have for it.

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Marc Goldman makes announcements ahead of the Marine Corps Marathon start. Photo: Courtesy of Marc Goldman

You can hear it bellowing from speakers as soon as you arrive at a race: directions to gear check, instructions to get into corrals and details about the race course. And when you finish: encouragement, commentary and pleas to keep moving beyond the finish line.

Race announcers play a huge role in running events — from keeping the race-day timeline to interacting with spectators and informing and encouraging participants. And there are scores of D.C.-area announcers who dedicate their weekends to help make races run smoothly and see that runners have fun and feel a sense of accomplishment no matter their finish time.

Creigh Kelley’s voice may sound familiar if you’ve run one of the more than 20 races he has announced for around the country, including the Chicago Marathon, the Walt Disney World Marathon or many in the popular Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon and half marathon series. In the D.C. area, he serves as the announcer for the D.C. Rock ‘n’ Roll races as well as the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race.

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Wendy Martinez running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego. Photo courtesy of the Wendy Martinez Legacy Project

Everyone knew Wendy Martinez as a runner. It was a huge part of her identity. So much so that when she wanted to meet her friends at a trendy brunch spot in D.C., she would run to the restaurant “and show up all sweaty. She didn’t want to miss a run,” said her best friend Kristina Moore.

“I think through running she found power and strength and serenity — it showed her dedication and mental strength, and so it was an integral core of her life,” Moore said.

Running fulfilled Martinez; she also died while running. Last September, a stranger fatally stabbed the 35-year-old while she was out for a run in D.C.’s Logan Circle neighborhood. It was a tragic act of violence that rocked her friends, family and the running community.

After her death, her friends and family founded the Wendy Martinez Legacy Project — an initiative that invests in the causes Wendy cared about most: empowering women in technology, supporting women’s entrepreneurship and connecting with others through running.

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Alexandria’s Patrick Murray takes a gulp of water during the Marine Corps Marathon. Photo: Dustin Whitlow

The days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer — which can mean one big thing for the running community: more runners are taking to the region’s sidewalks, paths and trails.

As more runners ditch the treadmill in favor of running outside, there are health and safety reminders to consider. Chief among them is knowing the correlation between warmer temperatures and running risk, said Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, the medical director of MedStar Sports Medicine for the Washington region. Spring can yield some warm-but-not-too-warm running conditions, but “just because the air feels [cooler], you have to be careful,” he said.

Temperatures can feel comfortable and quickly get dangerous as you exercise, he said. Runners need to be careful with outdoor exercise when temperatures are between 73 and 82 degrees, but with higher humidity levels — a foregone conclusion in the D.C. area — temperatures as low as 73 can be high risk, Dr. Douoguih said.

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