Washington, DC

In a moment, Ava Gordon knew something was wrong.

While training over the summer, she took a breath and realized things weren’t quite right, which lead to a positive COVID-19 test and a few weeks off of running while she recovered.

In another moment, she knew things would be alright. That was while she was trailing Herndon’s Gillian Bushee in the second half of the Third Battle Invitational. She felt raindrops, and knew her fortunes were turning.

“I just love running in the rain, and I started feeling really good,” Gordon said. “I figured out I had COVID because I could only run about 10:00 pace.”

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  • A total of 346 local runners finished the Boston Marathon.
  • Reston’s Susanna Sullivan finished as the fourth American at the Boston Marathon, running 2:33:22.
  • D.C.’s Nathan Bickell, an Annapolis native, was the fastest local runner in 2:29:54.
  • Silver Spring’s Jordan Tropf, who won the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon, finished his third marathon in three days, running 2:27:22 at the Baltimore Marathon, 2:31:54 at the Chicago Marathon and 2:32:13 in Boston, after driving to Detroit from Chicago after his first flight to Boston was canceled.
  • Bethesda’s Ben Beach extended his Boston Marathon record for consecutive finishes at 54.
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It may have taken nearly 18 months, but marathon runners are returning to Boston this weekend for the delayed 125th Boston Marathon, including upwards of 417 local runners.

The elite field will include two locals and three others who have been among RunWashington’s Trials Fever marathoners who ran in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials and have ties to D.C. area. Woodbridge native Alex Taylor, University of Maryland alumnus Patrick Reaves and Howard County native Brian Harvey are in the men’s elite field Reston’s Susanna Sullivan, fresh off a 1:10:50 half marathon in late September looks to lead the local women, with Alexandria’s Bethany Sachtleben and Arlington’s Nina Zarina also in the race

“I’ve always wanted to run Boston, and I wanted to do it when I could be part of the elite field. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon,” Sullivan said. “It’s not nessarily a PR course, but I think with my fitness right now, it’s realistic to expect that if I execute well, I should PR.”

Sullivan had considered the New York City Marathon, but thought an early November race would extend her season beyond her comfort level.

“I was eager to get going this spring, so I’ve been training for a while,” she said.

And running for a while. In her previous marathon buildups, she had only recorded two 100-mile weeks. This time, she’s done at least eight.

“I’ve been racing on somewhat-tired legs all year, so I’m not sure how to approach my taper,” she said. “I thrive when I stick to a routine.”

Sullivan ran 2:33:27 at the Marathon Project last December in Arizona, and also set PRs in the track 10k (32:42.28), road 10k (33:02) and 10 miles (54:22) since working with George Mason University coach Andrew Gerard a year ago.

Here’s who else is registered for Boston, though not everyone will race:

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More than 600,000 white flags have filled part of the Washington Monument lawn in late September, a temporary art installation memorializing and visualizing the American death toll from COVID-19. Anyone practicing the 18th mile of the Marine Corps Marathon course run nearby, and the juxtaposition became unavoidable when the race announced its second straight cancelation.

Citing safety and security precautions, Marine Corps canceled the Oct. 31 in-person marathon, 50k and 10k on Sept. 24, 11 days after the Army Ten-Miler canceled its Oct. 10 race. After the Army cancelation, Marine Corps race director Rick Nealis said he felt good about his race’s logistics to reduce crowding by runners before, during and after the race, including a vaccination requirement, but the linchpin was the support staff’s availability. Nealis had been confident enough in the race’s outlook that he had executed nonrefundable supply contracts for the race.

“It came down to the federal workforce and the national priority of defeating COVID-19,” Nealis said. “I draw my workforce from the Marine bases in the National Capital Region, and we’ve had some uptick in case positivity recently. Looking out 30 days, the feeling was that we probably aren’t going in the right direction.”

The U.S. Marine Corps is working toward a Nov. 28 deadline for COVID vaccinations, and Nealis said earlier in September that the availability of Marines to work the race was a significant variable, but one he hoped would be mollified by vaccination efforts.

In addition, conducting the race requires hundreds of law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, and Nealis said it was a tough sell to divert them to support the race and potentially expose them to the coronavirus.

“Everybody has their own opinion or definitely of ‘safe,’ but in the end, the Marine Corps Marathon has to look at the debate over keeping 9,000 runners safe, the Marines safe and the support staff safe,” Nealis said.

The race will offer full refunds, deferrals to the 2022 race and cover any price increase or a transfer to the virtual race and a refund for the difference.

A 2013 study by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute charted the race’s economic impact at $88 million throughout the Washington, D.C. area, with $59.7 million spent in Arlington County. The 2021 race was planned to be much smaller, with roughly 9,000 runners entered among three races, compared to nearly 31,000 finishers in 2013’s marathon and 10k.

D.C.’s John Camarillo was left looking for a contingency marathon after running his first effort virtually in the 2020 Marine Corps Marathon. He completed his run in heavy rains on Oct. 25, running solo around the National Mall and Mount Vernon Trail, with fluid and vocal support from his wife.

“I was really hoping it would go off as planned,” he said. “I was really looking forward to running an actual time,” with a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Camarillo soon found the Mayflower Wind Cape Cod Marathon, also scheduled for Oct. 31, which will allow him to stay on his training schedule.

Arlington’s Emily Hart, who also ran her first marathon virtually in 2020, is deciding between running her race Oct. 16 or just running 26.2 miles tomorrow in lieu of her planned 20-mile training run.

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Update: The Marine Corps Marathon races were canceled on Sept. 24.


Despite last week’s cancelation of the Army Ten-Miler’s Oct. 10 in-person race, Marine Corps Marathon race director Rick Nealis believes his Oct. 31 race is ready to go off as planned. 

The key to Nealis’ hopes is a waiver from the Department of Defense that will allow the race to assemble groups of 250, 10 times more than current COVID-19 mitigation policy on the Pentagon grounds. The race uses the Pentagon as a staging area and “runners’ village” before moving to the start on Virginia’s Route 110. There, the race will be free to arrange runners in whatever size starting wave it wishes.

“I think the measures we provided met the spirit of covid mitigation safety,” he said. “We did our homework for this back in May based on Arlington County’s guidance at the time, and I think the whole process has been pretty reasonable.”

Though Nealis acknowledged that canceling the pre-race expo and pasta dinner would detract somewhat from the race weekend experience and camaraderie, it would be a small price to pay.

“If we had to give up indoor events to keep the race, that’s an easy decision,” he said. “We’ll mail everything out in early October, well before anyone starts driving or gets on a plane to come to the race.”

The smaller in-person field size, with roughly 9,000 entrants, will also be a price to pay for having a race at all.

“We knew we couldn’t have 30,000 person race, but we didn’t want a 30,000 person race,” Nealis said. “This makes it all feasible.”

The race will require masks while on Pentagon grounds and before the start, but new masks will be supplied at the finish line and required at the US Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington and will be suggested in Rosslyn 

Nealis did not expect much resistance to the race’s vaccination requirement, but said any objectors will be free to choose a deferral to 2023– when he anticipated not needing vaccine requirement–the virtual race or a refund.

“If you love the sport, you’ll know it’s time to follow the rules,” he said.  “Take it easy on race management, we’re trying to make things happen, here.”

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Nell Rojas (52:13) held off Jenny Simpson (52:16) in a kick to the finish between the two Boulder, Colo. residents racing their first Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, which doubled as the USATF 10 Mile Championships. Both athletes competed in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in June, as did Sara Hall of Flagstaff, Ariz. who finished fourth for American women today in 52:43. Kenya’s Antonina Kwambai (52:23) and Caroline Rotich (52:25) placed third and fourth overall, respectively.

Simpson’s entry into the race marked the long distance road racing debut for the three-time Olympian and three-time World Championship medalist.

“This isn’t a permanent career pivot, I’m just taking advantage of this little window of freedom I’ve had to train for something different and fun,” she wrote on Instagram in late August.

The biggest difference between her 1500m specialty on the track and ten miles on the road? “You have a lot of time to think” she told reporters after the finish. “In a 1500, by the time it gets hard you’re almost done.” She said she still had 30 minutes to go when the ten miler started to feel hard.

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It takes a few glances to notice what’s different about this year’s Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile t-shirt.

There’s no date to be found. Just recognition that it’s the race’s 48th running.

“We were looking for ways that we could avoid waste if the race got canceled,” said race director Phil Stewart. “The medals are dateless, too, but we’re including a little plastic strip you can add that says Sept. 12, 2021.”

Up until a few weeks ago, Stewart was still a little unsure the race would happen as the Delta variant’s progress soured national optimism for the COVID-19 pandemic to wane. But with a few alterations, Cherry Blossom will serve as “opening day” for the fall road racing season this Sunday.

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You may recognize Courtney Carter. Perhaps you’ve seen her running around the Anacostia Trail or the National Mall — two of her favorite local running routes; you may know her from Instagram, where her handle @eatprayrundc has more than 11,500 followers; or you may know her through her work with diversity, equity and inclusion and her posts about it on sites like Women’s Running, Oiselle’s blog or her own website.

She’s using her social media presence to show runners and people of color that they can accomplish amazing things. And Carter, who lives in D.C.’s Trinidad neighborhood, also wants the D.C.-area running community to do better when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion.

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It may not be the Appalachian Trail, but to some local runners, traveling the length of the W&OD Trail is a goal worth pursuing.

The Washington and Old Dominion Trail stretches 45 miles through Northern Virginia between Purcellville and Shirlington. The asphalt path is beloved by cyclists and runners alike, but running the entire trail in one day is an uncommon feat. 

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The D.C. area is at the heart of some of the most beautiful and dynamic running routes in the country. The DMV is surrounded by scenic paths, urban gems, woodland trails, historical parks, lakes, and sprawling fields. But despite all that the area has to offer, many runners will time and time again repeat the same set of loops from their front door.

Vivian Smith is a cybersecurity consultant in Manassas. She does not want to fit the trend of running from home or work each day. She travels somewhere to run at least four days a week, even if that means driving only a minute or so to get there. “I’ll drive half a mile to a park so that I can enjoy more of my run in the park than on the shoulder-less road on the way to the park,” she said.

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