Washington, DC
Erika Fields with her cousin

Name: Erika Fields

Self-described age group: 40-45

Residence: NE D.C.

Occupation: Operations Manager for Circa Lighting

Why you run: Fresh air and exercise cures most woes.

When did you get started running:  I remember joining my dad for Turkey Trot 5K when was around 10 years old.

Have you taken a break from running: I take breaks all the time.  I’m currently trying to get back into a running routine after a break.

Training shoe: Running in Brooks Ghosts right now.  I don’t have loyalty to a specific brand or style.  Every time I need a new shoe, I get a fresh assessment at a local running store and try something new.

Coach or training group: I’m not part of a running group but would like to be!

The hardest race you’ve ever run: High Country Half Marathon in Boone, NC (Aug 2018)

Most adventurous decision you’ve made with your running: solo trail running in Shenandoah.  The ankle hazards abound.

Running mentors: My dad

My favorite place to run in the D.C. area is:  Anacostia Riverwalk Trail when running from home, C & O Canal Towpath when running from work

Favorite local trail:  same as above

My best race was: One year the Army Ten-Miler was on my birthday.  Running it was a great way to celebrate with 20,000 new friends!

Favorite local race: Cap Hill Classic

Ideal post-run meal: eggs and IPA

Favorite flavor of gel, gu, etc: I don’t touch the stuff!

Pet peeve: bottlenecks on narrow race courses

Goals:  Break two hours in half marathon

Your advice for a new runner:  Don’t overthink it.  Just start.

Favorite running book:  I don’t read many running books, but I love several books about hiking.  Recent fave is Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail.

Song in your head during a run: Bombs over Baghdad (Outkast)

Have you dealt with a major injury: just minor injuries – shin splints, broken toes, minor sprains, etc.

Running quote: “If you are in a bad mood go for a walk. If you are still in a bad mood go for another walk.” – Hippocrates

Why is the D.C. area a great place to be a runner:  Want to run on a track or a trail? Hard top or bare earth? Hills or flat? Cityscape or among the trees? Alone or with a group?  Whatever your running preferences, DC’s got options for you.

I’m currently being inspired by #runstreak on Instagram.  It’s a great reminder for me to hit the trail even when I just have time to run 1 or 2 miles.  Every little bit counts.

Montgomery Village native Aileen Barry runs in New York’s Central Park Photo: Jody Bailey

When Aileen Barry was a lacrosse player for Watkins Mills High School in Gaithersburg, she knew she was quick on her feet. 

If she got the ball, “no one could catch me,” Barry remembered.  

It was the first sign that the Montgomery Village native, now 37, had a hidden talent for running. But it wasn’t something she paid much attention to back then, instead concentrating on ballet and field hockey in addition to lacrosse. 

Fast forward to 2018, when Barry punched her ticket to the 2020 Olympic Trials at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. She finished in 2:44:49, 11 seconds under the 2:45 standard for women (her gun time was 2:44:51, which is what U.S.A. Track and Field accepts for its qualifying standards.) 

“It was close,” said Barry, who now lives in Manhasset, N.Y. on Long Island. “Grandma’s was an amazing experience. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. At mile 24, would I totally blow up?”

Instead, she passed two other women in the last mile.

Barry’s OTQ came as little surprise to her coach, Devon Martin, who has been working with Barry since she joined the Central Park Track Club in 2006. 

“Six weeks before the marathon, I knew she was ready,” Martin said. 

Though Grandma’s was Barry’s first attempt at the OTQ, it wasn’t her first marathon. That was  actually back in 2003, when she was in college. She ran the Marine Corps Marathon with her father, Chuck, and a group of friends, finishing in around five hours and 20 minutes. 

She didn’t start to realize her full potential until after she graduated from Fordham University and was living in New York. Barry traveled to Nashville in 2006 for the Country Music Half Marathon, and won it in 1:25. 

The friends she ran with encouraged her to look into competitive running, and she found CPTC. But at first, she wasn’t necessarily interested in getting faster.

“I joined the team really for the social outlet,” she said. 

Martin, though, said she knew Barry was “a diamond in the rough.” 

“From the start, she was just very committed,” Martin said. “Some of it is talent, but a big part of it is hard work and passion.” 

Kate Pfeffer, Barry’s friend and fellow CPTC runner, said Barry was quickly placing among the top five runners in the track club’s races. 

“And over the next two years, she improved dramatically,” Pfeffer said. “The thing about Aileen is she didn’t run in high school or college, so she kind of had to learn all about track and pacing, not going out too fast and how to run efficiently on the track. There was a little bit of a learning curve there.” 

Aileen Barry is greeted at the finish line at the 2018 Grandma’s Marathon. Photo: MarathonFoto

When Barry joined CPTC, she was running 10Ks in the 39-minute range, Martin said. She eventually decreased her time to 33 minutes, and within a few years, had qualified for the USATF Indoor National Championships in the 3K and for the USATF Outdoor National Championships in the 10K. 

Even though she was competing against athletes who had been running competitively for years, Barry was always unafraid of taking risks, Pfeffer said. 

“She’s a pretty fearless person.”

Though it had been years since she’d run a marathon, Barry’s times on the track indicated that an OTQ was within her reach. After the birth of her third son in 2017, she told Martin she wanted to go for it. 

She ran her first 5K after her pregnancy at 6:02/mile pace. She needed to run at a 6:18/mile pace in the marathon to OTQ, Martin said. 

“She had a long way to go,” Martin said. “But she just trusted the process and everything just started to fall into place.” 

Barry, who’s now a mom of four — Jack, 7, Charlie, 5, Brendan, 2, and Declan, three months — joked that her first order of business was getting to the start line in one piece. She continued to work out with CPTC, logging around 65 to 70 miles a week. She also leaned on her husband, Jay, a former collegiate runner whom she met through CPTC, to pace her through her long runs every weekend. 

Her close friend and running partner, Theresa McCabe, praised Barry’s tenacity when it comes to her training. 

“She’ll be like, I’m hurting a little, and then she just picks it up,” McCabe said. “She just has that mindset. I’ve never seen her quit a workout, ever.” 

The two met shortly after they both moved to Manhasset. Barry had moved to the town about eight months before McCabe, who mentioned to her real estate agent that she was excited about running the Long Island Half Marathon. 

“She said, oh, I just sold a house to Aileen and Jay Barry. They’re runners. You should meet them,” McCabe recalled. 

The names were familiar to her, as she’d recently run a race that the couple had won. 

When she later met them at a gathering that the real estate agent hosted, McCabe was admittedly nervous when Barry wanted to run with her. Now, the friends run together daily and McCabe credits Barry with helping her shave nearly an hour off her marathon PR. She ran a 2:49 at the California International Marathon last year. 

“She paces me a lot,” McCabe said. “We run for different teams, but we always try to make it work.” 

They traveled to Grandma’s together and on that day, celebrated two major running milestones: Barry’s OTQ and McCabe’s first sub-three hour finish. 

“I started crying. It was just …. All the feels,” McCabe said. “I’m very excited to see what she can do [in the Trials.]”

McCabe added Barry has helped spread her passion for running throughout their town. 

“She’s a big inspiration to a lot of women,” McCabe said. 

Pfeffer, who was also supposed to be at Grandma’s that day but had to bow out due to an injury, said she was on the edge of her seat as she tracked her friend.

“As we all know, marathons are tricky, but I was sure she would do it,” Pfeffer said. 

Barry’s primary goal for Atlanta remains the same as her goal for Grandma’s. 

“Just get to the start line healthy,” she said. 

Martin said she’d love to see Barry break 2:40.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that she can,” she said.  

With four young boys, Barry says she does a lot of juggling, but cherishes running because it’s her time to herself.   

“I try to do everything in moderation,” said Barry, adding it’s sometimes easier to prioritize and be more productive when you have less time. “Be flexible, and don’t stress about the small stuff.” 

Barry trains through her recent pregnancy. Her fourth child, Declan, is now three months old. Photo: Jody Bailey
Pictured with Tracey Dahl is Furbutt, the VHTRC mascot, who she bought for the 25th Women’s Half Marathon in 2017.

Putting on a race is no small task.

Race directing usually involves hours (and hours) of prep work to scout course routes, secure permits, find and order materials on time, and coordinate an army of volunteers. Not to mention scrambling to make last-minute adjustments for terrible weather or missing volunteers.

Even with all the logistical gymnastics and giant drains on free time, most race directors certainly arent in the game to make money.

We talked with four local trail RDs about how they got started with their events, why they keep at it, and how every single one believes race directing is a team sport.

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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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Runners, parents and coaches await the start of the 2019 preseason pep rally. Photo: Charlie Ban

RunWashington, along with Pacers Running and New Balance, will be celebrating the start of the 2019 cross country season Aug. 25 by recognizing 62 of the most promising young cross country runners in the D.C. area.

A preseason pep rally, held at the Pacers Running pop-up at 600 H Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, will open at 5:30 p.m. and start up at 6 p.m.

It’s a chance to mix with the people you’ll be running into on race courses throughout the fall while you’re not trying to grind each other into the grass, hear from a Foot Locker Cross Country champion and get excited for the upcoming season. Wear your team’s t-shirt to show off [insert mascot’s name here] pride, intimidate your rivals by telling them how much you ran during your vacation at altitude, show off your watch tan lines … it’s going to be great!

Michael Ogunsalu leads a pack of his teammates in the first mile. Photo: Charlie Ban

The Bowie State football team, following its first CIAA title last fall, took a break from preseason practice for its inaugural 5k. Senior safety John Johnson IV, 21, demonstrated that he hadn’t been slacking off on days he hadn’t made practice by winning the race around the campus in 19:49. Reston’s Robyn Kenul, 32, a recent transplant from Long Island, won the women’s race in 21:08.

Check out photos from the race here


Name:  Laura Povlich

Self-described age group: 35-39

Residence: D.C.

Occupation: Program Director at NIH

Volunteer roles in the running world: Event Coordinator for my local triathlon club, District Multisport

Why you run: My motivation for running has changed throughout the years, but I’m currently motivated to get outside, see new and beautiful places, and spend some miles with running friends.

When did you get started running: I started running about 12 years ago to try to get into shape after undergrad. I spent most of my younger years dancing and running seemed like a logical hobby to pick up. My husband also started racing triathlons around that time and I was inspired by the variety of athletes that competed.

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