In any other year, a chilly Thursday morning would see a group of D.C. Road Runners gather in the pre-dawn hours at the Yorktown High School track. Paul Ryan would show up clad in his decades-old puffy U.S. Naval Academy warmup suit.
“Everyone else would be wearing tights, but Paul has this almost-plastic coat,” Rich Mendelowitz said. “It works for him, it’s all kind of old school and it fits his personality.”
Ryan, an Arlingtonian who recently turned 70, has been choosing his running partners carefully during the pandemic, waits for the days when he can get together with people to race again, or just hang out.
“I look forward to being with fellow runners again and feeling good about that bond with fellow runners because right now except for running with one or two different people, it’s been a very solitary existence,” he said. “I avoid crowds, I avoid places where other people are, so running has become what I do when I want to get out of the house and go do something.”
It’s a cool spring day as Vienna’s Ken Quincy finishes his 10 mile run on the WO&D Trail. There is no one around him on the trail, but that’s how he the 82-year-old likes it. The conditions are somewhat of a miracle, given how many runners and walkers have made use of the trail for exercise and a break from staying at home.
As he submits his time for this year’s virtual Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, he proves that age won’t stop him from running. Last year, among many, many races, he finished the Lucky Leprechaun 5k in 31:42
Having lived in Vienna since 1972, Quincy has been a noteworthy presence in the running community for decades. Originally from Colorado, he moved to the area to work for the FDIC after, as Quincy puts it, “[they] made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
He did not start running regularly until his mid-40s after a few unsuccessful attempts at getting introduced to the sport.
Vienna’s Pat Welch, 75, usually has the mornings to herself. She doesn’t have to go into work until 1:00 at her job at a chiropractic’ office, which means she uses the morning to run.
“I love a crisp cold sunny morning,” she said. “The colder the better.”
Welch first tried running back when she lived in Massachusetts, but it didn’t stick.
“I started running around the pond by the house,” she said. “Then I decided that’s not far enough, so I ran around it two times, and that was the last time I ran for years.”
In 1981, Welch moved to Vienna from her home in Massachusetts. Here, she was struck by the vibrant running community.
Tysons’s Chris Gellene, 58, spent his Easter Sunday differently than most. While families around the country were asleep in bed, Gellene was finishing up a 100-mile run sometime between 3:30 and 4 in the morning. But after some rest and a good night’s sleep, he says, “I got up the next day, it was Easter morning. I got and went about my Sunday.”
Originally signed up to run the Pistol 100-Miler in Tennessee, Gellene was worried when he learned that he would not be able to run the race. Gellene is no stranger to the 100-mile distance. The Pistol 100-Miler would have been his 12th.
“I trained for it and I was in shape and I’d run a lot of mileage,” he said.
Dani Micsan’s name may sound familiar to local runners in the female 60-64 age group.
Micsan, who lives in Reston, turned 60 in early 2019 and won her age group at the Reston 10 Miler on March 3 that year. The next Sunday, she won her age group again at the Pot O’Gold 10K. One week later, she placed second in her age group at the Lucky Leprechaun 5K.
And plenty more age group honors followed.
“Last year, all I did was train for different races,” said Micsan, who is now 61.
And, she got faster, too.
Alex Taylor crossed the finish line of the 2018 California International Marathon just a few seconds too late.
Finishing with a gun time of 2:19:12, he missed an Olympic Team Trials marathon qualifying time by 12 seconds.
“I think I was the first one to finish and not qualify,” he said with a laugh.
While it was disappointing at the time, Taylor, a Woodbridge native, now sees that race in a different light.
Last June, he finished Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. with a gun time of 2:17:08, clinching that OTQ and achieving a goal that was a decade in the making.
Five days after having pacemaker surgery, DC Road Runners Club President Ben Richter was running the streets of Columbia at the Maryland-District of Columbia RRCA 10 Mile Club Challenge.
The Capitol Hill resident had been given some restrictions, but running wasn’t among them.
“They hadn’t told me not to, so let’s go out and test out the new equipment and see how the toys work,” said Richter, now 63.
That was in 2019, after a trip to the doctor led to a same-day surgery to have the pacemaker put into his body.
At the 2019 Road Runners Club of America Club Challenge, Richter decided to call it a day and head back to Howard Community College after a little more than four miles because of the bad weather.
But this year at the race, which was Feb. 23, he finished in a chip time of 1:49:25 — five seconds faster than his 2018 time on the hilly Club Challenge course.
When Richter’s doctor told him he needed a pacemaker, his reaction was “What?”
Grace Landau knew how to cry. As a toddler, she wouldn’t nap, and it was driving her mother, Kate, a little nuts.
“I’d have to lie down with her if she was going to nap,” she said. “I couldn’t lie down all day, but she was a really colicky baby. Nothing else seemed to make her happy”
Grace would, however, sleep in the stroller. It was a revelation that gave her single mother options, and brought her back to a sport that once defined her life, for the good and the bad.
It had been 14 years since Landau, finishing her fifth year at Georgetown, stopped running in the middle of a long struggle with various eating disorders that she had only recently coped with. Since then, she’s run 2:31 for the marathon and is heading to her second Olympic Trials, her first since 1996.
Frank Perna remembers smiling a lot as he ran the Jacksonville Marathon earlier this month.
The Bethesda man, 56, was aiming to finish in under three hours, making this his fifth straight decade of running sub-3 hour marathons.
He crossed the finish line in 2:53:17, overcoming a chronic hamstring injury that he’d initially worried would derail his race.
“I knew I was going to hit my time, and I was just taking it all in,” said Perna, a member of the Montgomery County Road Runners and sports psychologist and program director at the National Cancer Institute. “It felt very satisfying to execute a race and just do it.”
If David Sullivan meets someone and tells them he’s a runner, they invariably ask him if he does marathons.
“To them it’s like nothing else exists,” he said. “But I get it.”
Not so for Sullivan and the members of his Athletics East Track Club who will race at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships this Saturday at Lehigh University.
Of the 16 masters runners who will compete for the club’s teams, 14 are D.C.-area locals, and Sullivan, of Kingstowne, hopes to keep giving runners over 40 a life beyond the marathon grind.
He found West Springfield resident Bob Briggs at Burke Lake one weekend earlier this year, during the club’s weekly Saturday run.
“David came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you look like a pretty fast old guy – want to run with us?'” Briggs said. Briggs is 62 and shooting for a sub-3 at the Houston Marathon in January. Soon enough, Briggs became a member of Athletics East, which Sullivan managed and coached while living in his native Boston, then revived in 2018.