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.
Last month, exactly 2:34:25 after the starting gun shot into the clear morning sky along Lake Superior, Patrick (“Pat”) Kuhlmann crossed the finish line in Duluth, Minn. to complete his first Grandma’s Marathon ahead of all but three of the master’s division athletes.
The race, famous for its cool late-June weather, fast times, and enthusiastic (and very nice) midwestern hospitality, was run by 6,367 marathoners from all 50 states and 46 countries. Of those, Kuhlmann beat out over 96% of his competitors in the overall men’s division, placing 118th. And in the men’s master’s field–at the age of 48 he is an experienced competitor–he crossed the line 4th out of 289 male masters athletes.
“I’m starting to get to a point where I don’t have any PRs left in me,” Kuhlmann noted. “But I ran a solid race. I was pleased.” Though marathons are his distance of choice, this year’s Grandma’s marked his first attempt back at the 26.2-mile distance after a 2-year hiatus due to scheduling challenges. “Don’t have a lot of speed and I’m not getting any faster as I get older, so the marathon is in my comfort zone,” he explained.
Her athletes are not making headlines or standing on any podiums, but that doesn’t stop Burke’s Kareen Lawson from coaching. With dozens of athletes in the Potomac River Running “Burke Beasts” group under her wing, Lawson is making a difference for athletes of all ages and abilities, with an affinity for the over-40 crowd.
Unlike a lot of runners who started running in high school, Lawson started running as a way to meet friends in her 30s. Until that point, she knew most of her friends through her kids. But when her youngest kid left for college in 2012, she found herself wondering how to make new friends. When a Facebook connection referred her to a training program, Lawson decided that joining the program was a perfect way to make new friends while also losing some weight at the same time.
Springfield resident Roy Englert, 96, ran 42:20.33 to shatter the 5k world record for men 95-99 at the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships July 11 in Ames, Iowa. The previous record was 50:10.56.
This article was initially published in June 2018.
At age 95, Roy Englert may not have competition in his age group. But he does have the clock.
“I was running against time, actually,” Englert said of his recent performance at the USATF Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships, where he broke three age group world records.
It may be older than the Marine Corps Marathon, but the Tidal Basin Runs might be the best kept secret in Washington’s running community — and its tight-knit group of members seems to like it that way.
Every month since April 1974, the club has met for what can only be described as the most covert race you’ve probably never seen or heard of. Yet the meticulously kept race results date back over 15 years and some runners have been participating for over 30.
There’s no entry fee (other than the club’s $10 annual membership fee), no bibs, no timing chips or race clock, no awards, and no commemorative t-shirts. In fact, there’s barely a start line — just a faint white line drawn across Ohio Drive SW that’s been slowly erased over the years by the elements and countless runners, cyclists, and vehicles that have made their way around the tip of Hains Point.