Washington, DC
Twelve pairs of running shoes, on their way to a donation bin. Photo: Charlie Ban

Spring is here along with signs of the season: blooming flowers, warmer temperatures and dwellings yearning to be cleaned.

Spring cleaning is an opportunity to purge and get organized, and runners may too find themselves trying to clear their homes of unneeded items such as old shoes, ill-fitting race shirts or shabby shorts. Some area organizations and business can help runners get rid of mementos gathering dust and help others in the process. Read More

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I thought I had been fooled.

No, I must have gotten something wrong. Turning out of Morven Park, the famed Old Waterford Road, which I found on Loudoun County’s map of unpaved roads, was most certainly paved!

Well, I was already out in Leesburg, I might as well keep going. I started climbing the hill (that will happen a lot on this route) and a while before I realized it, the road had indeed switched to rocky dirt, just as advertised.

I picked the road from the county’s new map, which is suited for mobile use, but found some supporting endorsement from the Loudoun Road Runners, who make the road a staple of their routine.

Before too long, I realized why. By the time I hit the intersection with Nestlewood Road, I was used to the climbing and the traffic, light as it was, was down to almost nothing. There are a few tricky curves, so you have to approach them with caution, but before long the road stretches out ahead of you with plenty of visibility.

I like rolling hills, so it was right up my alley – the climbing peaks before 2.5 miles on the way out, though 1.5 to 2.3 on Old Waterford climbs 267 feet. I’m mildly terrified of horses, and I passed a few, but they didn’t threaten me and everyone stayed cool.

Five miles in, you reach the end of Old Waterford, but if you’re willing to navigate 0.1 mile of pavement on a sweeping curve, Browns Lane gives you an extra 1.9 miles of dirt road – I initially missed it and ran too far on Loyalty, as you’ll see on the map. If 14 miles of mostly-dirt road isn’t enough, you can add on plenty on Morven Park, which is also a great place to park (or watch a cross country race).

I loved it on a day I was being pelted in the face by sleet. Chances are you’ll like it, too.

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Check out a food site and chances are the first thing you’ll hit is a story, rambling about who knows what, forcing you to scroll through narrative to… just give me the recipe already!

Trust me, this story is worth it, and it will make the recipe even better. I’m sure they all say that, but this time, it’s true. 

There are any number of factors that have made Charlotte Turesson one of the best runners in Maryland. The one she’s most excited about sharing recently has been her menu.

If there’s anything she gained from more time at home during her junior and senior years at Richard Montgomery, it’s been more time in the kitchen and over the grill as she refines her mastery of different cooking styles.

“A lot of it came from my investment in being the best runner I can be,” she said. “I’ve always been pretty passionate about eating healthy, trying to optimize my performance.  Once quarantine hit, it elevated my interest in cooking, trying new recipes.” 

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Once in a while during the D.C. summers, you get a cool, dry day that makes you forget all of those squishy shoes and the necessity of pre-dawn long runs.

I got one in late July 2017, the same morning as I drove out to western Loudoun County to meet up with Ed Lull to shoot our magazine cover – the Loudoun Valley boys’ cross country team. Looking for a rolling dirt road, Joan Hunter pointed us to Yellow Schoolhouse Road, near Bluemont. It did the trick alright. We only drove about a mile out, but I liked what I saw. I also knew it was an hourlong drive for me from D.C., so I had better make sure it was going to be worth my time to go out there.

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When Kristen Serafin felt like a failure, running helped come back. Twice.

The first time, it was on a monthlong road trip with her now-fiancé Erin Kelman. The second time, when it was even more complicated, it gave her insight and an incentive to share her experience and strive to come out of it more motivated.

Back in September, recovering in Garfield Memorial Hospital in Utah, Serafin asked her attending doctor what would sound like an insane question: Could she run Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim? A 47.5-mile run though the Grand Canyon and back, 10 days after losing a pregnancy she only learned about two weeks prior. To her surprise, she got the go-ahead to accompany Erin.

“He was practical about it, he told me ‘you’re going to be tired, you lost a lot of blood, but I think you can do it if you want to give it a shot,'” she said, “He told me I might need to bail, but there’s nowhere really to bail.

“When I felt like I was a failure because I couldn’t do this thing my body was supposed to be able to do, I still wanted to do something amazing.”

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It started as a game — run a mile a day until things went back to normal.

For Pat Early and his children, it was a way to keep their heads up as the world reacted to the novel coronavirus, as they adjusted to school at home and a suddenly changed world. Then things didn’t go back to normal.

“We thought it would be a couple of weeks, maybe a month,” Pat said. “Now we’re a week away from a year and they’re still doing it.”

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In any other year, a chilly Thursday morning would see a group of D.C. Road Runners gather in the pre-dawn hours at the Yorktown High School track. Paul Ryan would show up clad in his decades-old puffy U.S. Naval Academy warmup suit.

“Everyone else would be wearing tights, but Paul has this almost-plastic coat,” Rich Mendelowitz said. “It works for him, it’s all kind of old school and it fits his personality.”

Ryan, an Arlingtonian who recently turned 70, has been choosing his running partners carefully during the pandemic, waits for the days when he can get together with people to race again, or just hang out.

“I look forward to being with fellow runners again and feeling good about that bond with fellow runners because right now except for running with one or two different people, it’s been a very solitary existence,” he said. “I avoid crowds, I avoid places where other people are, so running has become what I do when I want to get out of the house and go do something.”

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The Powerline Trail as it is best enjoyed, under cloudy skies, shortly after opening in October 2018. Photo: Charlie Ban

After years of dedicated planning and construction, Montgomery Parks opened the Powerline Trail, also known as the Pepco Trail, in October 2018.

The 6.8-mile trail, which kicks off from South Germantown Recreational Park in Germantown, Md. and terminates at North Potomac’s Muddy Branch Stream Park, marked the first use of power corridors for recreational use in Montgomery County. In my final days before shipping out for my freshman year of college, I decided to hit the trail to see if it would live up to the hype. 

The origins of the trail date back to 2015, when power companies Pepco and Exelon were nearing a merger. Dave Magill, the Maryland advocacy director for MORE (Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts), remembers first hearing of the possibility of including the construction of a trail as a condition in the merger.

“A bike advocate, whose name I cannot remember, was chatting with me and said, “you know, Pepco hasn’t been very good with allowing trails of any kind, whether bike or hikers, either on or even across their power lines. Maybe to get an approval, they’ll have to go before the public utility commission (PUC). This is an opportunity to intervene in the merger and ask for them to change their policy about trails. That idea really resonated with me.”

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Running Shorts

  • Plans to repave and add a pedestrian bridge to the Rock Creek Park path will go forward starting in late February, after DDOT awarded a construction contract. Details include:
    • A pedestrian bridge to the south of the tunnel
    • Reconstruction of the “zoo loop” that had eroded into the creek several years ago
    • Repair of the retaining wall along Piney Branch Parkway
    • Various trail closures
  • Laurel resident Juliette Whittaker, who is a junior at Mount de Sales Academy, qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in the 800 meters, running 2:02.7 at the Virginia Showcase last weekend, the third fastest time for a woman under 20 and a junior class record. She was also a member of the 4×800 meter relay team that set an under-20 world record 8:37.20 the next day.
  • The Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation is putting together a Bike and Pedestrian Network Plan to prioritize resources for bike and pedestrian improvements over the next five years. Comments, which you can make on the map, will be accepted until Jan. 22.
  • You know the drill about Keira D’Amato by now, she was a guest on the Six Minute Mile podcast.
  • Georgetown alumna Rachel Schneider and Heritage High School alumna Weini Kelati were guests on the 2 Black Runners podcast.
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Boyds native Andrew Lent runs the Appalachian Trail section of the 2020 JFK 50 Mile. Photo: H3 Photography

Time moves differently now for Andrew Lent. 

Part of it is his age — he’s 21, and a minute, an hour, even a month exists on a broader scale than it did a few years before. 

But he’s also made new choices. Since he finished his high school career at Poolesville with a state runner-up finish in the 3,200 meters behind teammate Ryan Lockett, he’s now competing in situations where those same 3,200 meters can include two walking breaks, even on his way to a top-10 finish at the storied JFK 50 Miler.

“You can get a real second wind in ultra running,” he said. “It could take hours, but at some point, you usually come back around. 

“It amuses me that it can happen. You come from track and cross country where your race is about 15 minutes and if things feel bad, it’s not going to get much better. Now I’m in situations where an hour ago, you couldn’t fathom taking another step and all of a second you’re running even better than you had been.”

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