John Brittain is not a quitter. The 68-year-old tenured law professor at the University of the District of Columbia and Alexandria resident could not run for the latter six months of 2012, cordoned to the sidelines with a pulled muscle in his groin and hip flexor. Despite only returning to running in December, the 35-year-competitive running veteran joined 230 other people in Arlington for the Predictions and Resolutions 5k, out and back along the Potomac River, finishing 3rd in his age group. It’s a race Mr. Brittain would never miss.
[button-red url=”http://www.dcroadrunners.org/races/race-results/2013-results/1926-2013-predictions-and-resolutions-5k.html” target=”_self” position=”left”] 5k Results [/button-red]
“It’s a symbolic start of the racing year for me,” he said, beaming. “I feel cured.”
While many people use New Years as a jump start for new resolutions, Brittain sees it as the first opportunity to resume his training regimen with the D.C. Road Runners and Potomac Valley Track Club, in preparation for races in the 800 meters, mile, and 5k.
“When you think about the New Year, you think about kicking out the old and bringing in the new,” he said, “so 2013 will usher in a bright, new, and healthy year for me with running.
The race began at noon in Rosslyn’s Gateway Park, following the Mount Vernon trail, and giving full view to the monuments and landmarks that define Washington DC. It’s an optimal choice and healthy alternative for DC area residents looking to continue an intense training regimen or work off holiday impropriety.
“Its very accessible,” said race director Ben Richter, “It starts late, so people have an opportunity to sleep off last night’s indiscretions. We don’t check for BAC. In the past some people have been on the verge of spontaneous human combustion.”
If people were using the race as an excuse to exercise a hangover and feed it with free bagels, it didn’t show. After the race, the occasional horn or clapper could be heard, but before the race, the runners were all business. Funneled between a crumbling fence on one side and makeshift homeless shelter lashed together with hundreds of sticks on the other, they waited in droves along the Mount Vernon trail,
negotiating the occasional group of impatient bikers who weaved their way through the masses.
Richter acted his part, standing on a chair and shouting directions to the runners. The front line charged forward when Richter shouted, “Go!” signaling the start. Running beneath a grey sky and a blanket of clouds that seemed to hearten the temperature to the mid-40’s, Richter mentioned that it was a “Perfect day and perfect course for a PR.”
Seventeen minutes and 52 seconds later, Darnell Almanzar, 25, crested the hill to the finish as the overall winner. Relaxing in Nike sweats with a cup of water in hand, demeanor as smooth as his stride, Almanzar, explained that he is using the 5k distance to build his strength for outdoor track. A History teacher at the E.L. Haynes charter school and a graduate student at Howard University, Almanzar is hoping to compete in mile, and is looking for a club to help bring down his personal record of 4:40, a time he says was the resut of “Not excellent training,” alluding to the speedwork in college that constituted most of his running. Running more mileage now, to include 10-mile runs and two runs day, “We’ll see what happens,” he says.
The other winner of the day was Arlington’s Alison Smith, 25, who won the female division in a time of 20:21. She was elusive following the race, running an extended cool down with her competitors. After returning to the start area, her sequined shirt and a single flower tucked into her hair separated her from the other celebratory garb.
A software engineer in Crystal City, Smith is resuming training after running the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon, qualifying for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:25:49. She attributes her time to joining the D.C. Road Runners a little over year ago, which came after taking a “long break” from running after college, with the occasional game of ultimate Frisbee thrown in. She plans on running the Boston Marathon in 2014, so what about her goals for the new year?
“Everyone’s setting all these goals and how far they want to run, but I don’t want to let myself down if I get an injury or something, so I just want to try to run the whole year without getting injured,” she said. “A nice fresh start.”
She was optimistic about her running in 2012, but thinks that her training will be better in 2013 due to consistent and increased mileage.
Smith’s view of continued consistency was a continued theme among the race’s competitors: more of the same instead of bring in the new. The runners here were not looking to the new year as an opportunity to wipe clean the slate of past transgressions, but rather, a chance to improve upon an already solid base,
or an opportunity to get back to the runner they were in months and years past.
Resurrection instead of redemption
Isaac Matthews, 27, D.C. native and Boston resident, is starting a tradition of running the Predictions and Resolutions 5k in preparation for the Kona Marathon in Hawaii on June 23.
“I’m trying to go from zero to 60, literally. 0 miles a week to 60 miles a week,” he said.
Matthews is a former competitor and graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County where he ran a personal record of 4:09 in the 1500 meters, but it’s been 3 years since he has ran consistently.
“I’m a washed up runner,” he said, but after “looking in the mirror” he realized the importance running played in his life.
We all run for different reasons. If you make New Years resolutions, or even if you don’t, running can play in living a balanced life. Even though he sometimes works in a “high competitive” work environment, Brittain stresses the importance of running, from one year to the next,
“I run to compete,” he said. “I run for health. I run to release stress. I think running is the key to staying healthy in life.”