Washington, DC

George Alexander was somewhere new, all alone in front of a cross country race. He pulled away from the rest of the field in the red race at the Virginia Elite Invitational at Hanover County’s Pole Green Park, and he alone fought the wind that picked up throughout the day. He surged as he approached the three mile mark as the clock neared his PR of 15:52, crossing the line, flexing and expecting his time to be just under 15:50. The problem was, the was 5k.

“I guess I was mentally checked out,” he said. “I was ready for it to be over, and I was wondering why people were yelling at me to keep going.”

Alexander recovered and won in 16:16 with a 14-second margin over second place.

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Looking east on Switchboard Road, near the eastern boundary of the refuge. Photo: Charlie Ban

If it wasn’t for the eastern screech owl with one bad eye, I might still be unaware of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge’s North Tract and its many miles of undulating dirt roads, a mere 25 minutes south of my home in Baltimore. An unseasonably hot and humid day in October 2017 resulted in a shortened run at Greenbelt Park. My wife and I had driven south on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway intent on logging 90-minute runs on Greenbelt’s principal loop and adjacent athletic fields, but the conditions exacerbated our training fatigue. We decided to cut our losses make the most of the afternoon by exploring the area.

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A former West Point classmate needed a new kidney, and Dave Ashley did a blood test to see if he was a match.

After further testing, it turned out he was. But when he tried to research whether he’d be able to keep doing endurance sports, which helped him with anxiety issues resulting from deployment, he wasn’t able to find answers.

“So I really had to make this decision kind of blindly, hoping that on the other end I’d still be able to do at least some of the activities that I’m really passionate about and are therapeutic for me,” said Ashley, now 46, who lives in Arlington.

This coming January will mark four years since the now-retired U.S. Air Force colonel donated his kidney — and he’s showing that living with one kidney isn’t stopping him as he completes athletic feats, from ultramarathons to bike rides.

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Tristan Forsythe didn’t like what he was reading.

It wasn’t that there wasn’t enough writing about running out there, it just didn’t speak to him in a voice he recognized.

“The stuff that I enjoyed reading was personal stories from people inside the sport, rather than results, statistics and rankings,” he said.

Even when he got those stories, they were watered down, lost in translation.

In April, when he was home in Pittsburgh, his sophomore year at Georgetown interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, he was bored and contemplating the worst: starting another running blog. But instead of focusing on his own running, he decided to make what he always wanted to see — a window into the lives of other runners.

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I’m sure in a few weeks, a lot of runners will be wishing for the kind of weather the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon had – heavy rains punctuated by muggy pauses. But we’ve had six months to bemoan the loss of most marathons this year. This is a chance to look back at where we ran in 2019.

The number of domestic marathon finishes by D.C.-area runners fell slightly, with at least 12,939 different finishes in 294 of 697 U.S. races, down from 12,981 finishes in 278 races. Some individual runners doubled, tripled, quadrupled and more, but they all added up to 12,932 finishes and 339,001.8 miles, not counting the extra miles they logged because they couldn’t run the tangents.

Of the 697 total domestic marathons, 177 did not detail finisher residences, and that surely undercuts the total count, which likely exceeds 13,000 finishes. None of this analysis would be possible without MarathonGuide.

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Of all the things we do at RunWashington, one of my favorites is our Monumental Runner series. When I cold call someone and ask them if they’d like to be featured, most of them usually answer “why me?” That tells me that they probably have a lot more to say about their lives as runners than they thought, and I wind up really enjoying getting to know them (especially if they really are a stranger). Here are a few recent Monumental Runners from D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

You can see the whole series here

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Bowen Shuttleworth left for Williamsburg last month, eager to join the dozens of young men from Northern Virginia who, over the years, made their academic and athletic marks while running for the College of William and Mary.  

Last Thursday, he skipped a physics lab to make a mandatory track team meeting. There, Athletic Director Samanta Huge told the men’s indoor and outdoor track athletes that their teams, along with men’s and women’s swimming and gymnastics and women’s volleyball teams, would be cut at the end of the school year, attributing the decision to budget pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Huge abruptly hung up the video call, Shuttleworth said, taking no questions.

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Things cooled down a little in August, but the season break in humidity didn’t happen. As a result, there weren’t too many changes at the top of most of the DMV Distance Derby segments.

Overall results

You can switch among the months using the tabs at the bottom of the screen. The segments are generally organized to fit compactly.

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The weight of the ink on her cross country uniform was almost imperceptible, but it dragged Julia Clark down when she raced. 

For three years, since the first time she walked into her high school as a freshman, the building taunted her. J.E.B. Stuart High School, named for a Confederate general. 

But as a senior, wearing the simple J of the renamed Justice High School Wolves, she felt something she hadn’t for her entire track and cross country career up to that point – unmitigated pride. 

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Chantilly Coach Matt Gilchrist offers his thoughts on the nascent club cross country movement. This is a good reminder that RunWashington welcomes input on issues related to Washington, D.C.-area running on all levels, and if you have thoughts to share, contact Charlie Ban at charlie(at) runwashington (dot) com.


The sun rises over Burke Lake and it’s 7 a.m. on an August morning.  We’re the first ones there, the first Monday of a new cross country season, with all the promise and potential that lies ahead.  We are brimming with enthusiasm and filled with confidence and energy that is gained by a full summer of group conditioning, motivated for another successful fall season.  This has been the same ritual that we’ve practiced year in and year out, but this year when August came, we stayed home.  For the first time in my 25 years of coaching, there have been no practices at Burke Lake.  Instead of heading to Lost River, W.Wa. for our annual team camp, we all stayed home.  The motivation hasn’t changed and the hunger to run and to compete is still there, but in the world dealing with COVID-19, these annual rites of passages are chief on a list of things that we are missing out on.

There is no denying that our student-athletes miss sports.  There is no questioning the benefit to them participating, just as we have debated over the best ways to re-open schools this fall.  Running cross country (or participating in any sport) is beneficial to our emotional and mental health, our physical development, and being amongst teammates is a vital link to some level of socialization that many of us have missed over the last six months.

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