Washington, DC
Roman Gurule. Photo: Niamh Brennan

As a gregarious extrovert, Roman Gurule met a number of his friends through happy hours and dinners during his time as a federal government employee. He joined his colleagues whenever they drank alcohol and Gurule went out about five times a week to relieve stress from work. It felt like a normal thing to do, even if he would wake up the next morning with a pounding headache and a scant memory of what happened the previous night.

He repeatedly told his friends he would cut back on his self-proclaimed “rockstar lifestyle” that he started after college, but then it would happen again the following weekend. And the next. “I think that nobody took me seriously,” Gurule says. 

Finally, he had enough. Drinking all week began to negatively affect all aspects of his life. 

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Name: Gregory Boutin

Self-described age group: 65-69

Residence: Burke, Va.

Occupation: Retired

Why you run: Started running for general health reasons.  This quickly morphed into: enjoyment of the quiet time running provides, the ability to push my limits in either a competitive or non-competitive way, and the feeling of accomplishment I get after finishing a hard workout or race.

When did you get started running: I started walking 4 – 4.5 miles a day when I was 50 years old and 35 pounds overweight.  After five or six months I transitioned to walking/jogging, and finally to just running.

Have you taken a break from running:  Yes, for about 4 years in my later-50’s.  At that point in my work career I had changed jobs and found that working much longer hours left little time for running.  Trying to make up for that by running on the weekends was not a good idea.

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Natalia demonstrates Knifehands form, supported by her teammates. Photo: Rich Woods

Covering 18 miles at once may not sound difficult to many runners, but it becomes far more difficult when those 18 miles are split up over the course of the three separate runs without proper recovery time in between, lack of sleep or square meals. Plus at least one of those legs takes place in the middle of the night.

Road relays like Ragnar or American Odyssey have become popular staples in the running world. These 24-hour, 12-person races involve runners taking turns running three legs of various lengths across 100+ mile distances across either road or trails. Some teams run short-handed for an extra challenge.

The idle runners follow their active runner in a van, and wait at an exchange zone until it is time to hand off the running responsibility.  Trail races, on the other hand, follow loop courses, with participants staying in a camp or village until it is time for their leg.

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Caroline Alcorta navigates the pack during the 10k at the 2019 NCAA Track and Field Championships. Photo: Mike Scott

Caroline Alcorta had an even bigger lead than anyone expected. She came into the 2013 Virginia AAA track championships with a 3200 season’s best more than 10 seconds faster than anyone else. And with a half mile to go, she had what West Springfield coach Chris Pellegrini estimated was a 20-second lead.

“I heard people around me saying she had it in the bag, but with that weather, I just wasn’t sure,” he said, more than six years later. 

That Newport News morning was humid, and he wasn’t sure how well any runner could get much into their system that early in the day. Having run a leg of the 4×800 relay the night before, his plan for Alcorta was an assertive but measured start to give her enough of a cushion to not have to kick for the win.

She came through the mile a little fast, but the plan seemed to be working. And then it didn’t. 

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Patrick Kuhlmann. Photo: Niamh Brennan

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.

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Miranda DiBiasio in July 2019. Photo: Niamh Brennan

Miranda DiBiasio fell in love with running while she was in high school, relieved to find an activity that was so personally rewarding. Running allowed her to breathe, calm her nerves and find peace.

She didn’t feel as seasoned as other runners her age, and she was drawn to George Washington University, which was also growing — the Colonials were debuting track teams when she would start school. She could grow as a runner alongside a new team.

Throughout her time at GW, DiBiasio learned a lot about being a competitive runner. The track program demanded more time and energy than she had ever experienced, but she took it in stride. She quickly learned that it was no longer just about showing up for runs, it was about putting in the work off the field too — a hard lesson for a lot of runners to learn. This required more work on flexibility and a ton of work on strength to correct her form. She watched her diet like it was a religion.

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Runners pass through Georgetown during the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon. Photo: Dustin Whitlow

Marathoning remains popular among D.C. area runners, but the number of domestic marathon finishes dropped 7.5 percent in 2018, down to 12,981 from 14,044 in 2017.

At the same time, the number of those marathons dropped to 686 in 2018 from 704 in 2017. As you would expect, the Marine Corps Marathon topped the list with 5,053 local finishers. On the other end, 400 races had no local runners, while 67 had just one. There were likely more, but 147 races did not report the residences of their finishers, many of which were smaller races far from the D.C. area.

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Kareen Lawson does a little coaching at a Burke Beasts training session at Robinson High School. Photo: Steven Pham

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.

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Spectators lined the infield during the D.C. Road Runners Track Championships, close enough to hear breathing as elite runners circled the track. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography

When I got to the D.C. Road Runners Track Championship at Dunbar High School, the final meet in the Eastern Track League series, the women’s masters mile was starting. 

As a high school runner, I race from September to June. These weeks in between seasons are for following dramatic professional races and the pursuit of record breaking performances. My morning routine now consists of checking Twitter to see which all-time mark went down or which finishing kick dazzled the day before.  

I have the entire world of track and field at my fingertips whenever I care to look, and that is exactly why I could not pass up the opportunity to drive an hour into D.C. to watch the this meet in person. I wanted to move beyond the times and splits on a static results page and the occasional suspense-free race video that broadcasts the winner and time in the title and instead experience track and field first hand.

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