Washington, DC

 

You’re at a picnic at a park, and so is another family nearby. Your uncle gets drunk and belligerent, wanders over to the other family, gets rude, starts taking food without asking.

If both families wanted the uncle to stop, who would he be more receptive to? 

“When we’re talking about violence against unarmed African Americans, whether by police or civilians, it’s largely been our family trying to get the drunk uncle to stop,” D.C.’s Fred Irby said.  “His family is looking at what’s happening, shaking their heads and saying ‘he doesn’t represent us as a family,’ but they haven’t done anything to pull him back.”

These days, Irby is applying that metaphor to the Feb. 23 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was running in a Glynn County, Ga. neighborhood. After more than two months with no action by local authorities, the Georgia Bureau of Investigated Gregory and Travis McMichael and charged them with murder and aggravated assault May 7. 

In an online movement, #IrunwithMaud, that gained momentum following the May 6 release of video footage of the incident and stoked in large part by New York-based activist Alison Désir, runners dedicated their runs on May 8, which would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday, with many running 2.23 miles, commemorating the date of his murder. While there’s no shortage of violent incidents, including deaths, of unarmed African Americans, this was the highest profile, if not the first, involving a victim reported to be exercising at the time, particularly running.

It caught on, with thousands of runners, unable to gather because of physical distancing orders, followed through on social media platforms. 

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Ashley Donovan is used to starting off her ultramarathons with a low-key command. “Go” usually suffices. But the start of her latest 24-hour run was accompanied by sirens. 

At 6:01 a.m. May 9, as she started on a day’s worth of solitary 0.2-mile loops around the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad building and parking lot, an ambulance rolled out on a call. That service, and her fundraising run, hammered home the 24-hour nature of emergency response and demonstrated why she was doing this. The secretary on BCCRS’ Board of Directors, Donovan, of Upper Northwest D.C., has been a volunteer EMT since 2015. 

“People have been surprised when they hear I’m still volunteering,” during the coronavirus pandemic, she said. “This was a fine opportunity to highlight the role of volunteers in our emergency response system.”

The fundraising effort around her feat totaled more than $11,000, which will be split between the rescue squad and Feed the Fight, a nonprofit that feeds emergency and healthcare workers meals from local restaurants and caterers. 

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As you may have noticed, we don’t have many races happening for a while. 

For the rest of 2020, RunWashington’s rankings are going to change to the next best thing – Strava segments. Since we can’t all get together in one place and go shoulder-to-shoulder, the next best thing will be to compare performances on the same turf at the DMV Distance Derby.

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I’m a road guy. 

I’ll get on trails pretty regularly, but I have the most fun when I can just run and not focus as much on where I am stepping or thinking about the last time I tripped and bruised my ribs. Once I realized just how many people were exploring narrow trails when they started getting out of the house more, the roads, particularly in residential neighborhoods became more and more my bread and butter. 

When the National Park Service granted Mayor Bower’s request to close Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park for more than half of April, I was thrilled, and I decided I was going to make the most of it.

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Ben Beach was actually happy for the reprieve.

The Bethesda man, who holds the record for most consecutive Boston Marathon finishes with 52, had every intention of running his 53rd, but with the race’s delay, he’s happy to sleep in on Patriots’ Day for the first time since he was in high school.

“I was relieved when they postponed it,” he said.  “I’ve been fighting a bad knee, my mileage was more pathetic than usual. Having a few more months to get ready is a break for me.”

Alexis Fairbanks, of D.C. also would have pushed through some discomfort to race, but has taken the break to recuperate. 

“So no fun Boston challenges for me, but the Olympic Channel (paying the past six marathon broadcasts) has been all day to relive the glory,” she said.

Beach and Fairbanks were two of 606 local runners registered for the race, many of whom are still signed up for the Sept. 14 makeup date, one that is obviously still in question. Many observed the day in one form or another.

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Running again took a lot of faith for Vicki McGorty. 

Despite a running career that went back 44 years and took her to the high school cross country championship and a collegiate career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as she launched herself in the air April 4, she wasn’t sure what would happen when she came back down.

“I was so excited but a little nervous,” she said. “When I go up in the air, is my leg going to catch me?”

It did.

She was nine months removed from a double knee replacement which repaired about seven years of damage that she pushed herself through. 

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When the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon, stripped of its permit in the face of D.C.’s state of emergency order, announced its postponement, it hit a lot of runners right as they were starting their tapers.

But not all were planning to wait for the Nov. 7 makeup date. They had a marathon on their calendars for March 28, and they were going to run a marathon on March 28.

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The response to COVID-19 has been wide reaching, affecting the lives of millions of Americans and shuttering businesses nationwide. The pandemic is affecting businesses in all sectors, and the running community is not exempt. D.C.-area specialty running stores are closing their sales floors, canceling events and working to find ways to virtually connect with patrons in an industry that thrives on face-to-face interactions.

Most specialty running stores rely on business in the spring to help set them up for a successful year. It’s when many runners hit the streets again and think of their apparel and footwear needs, said Potomac River Running Owner Ray Pugsley.

Most years his stores see an uptick in sales in March, and sales stay strong through the Marine Corps Marathon in October. However, the novel coronavirus has been a gut punch to his business and has him concerned about what the future could hold. Potomac River Running’s Virginia stores have reduced hours; the D.C. store closed last week after Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses.

“If businesses like us are shut down for two months, we can’t recover … It’s so grave I can’t even wrap my brain around it. I can’t even wrap my arms around how bad this can get so fast,” Pugsley said. “… As long as you’re selling stuff every day, it’s not a problem. But when you pull the sales out, everything stops. We can’t do anything; we’re paralized.”

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When Kerry O’Brien woke up on Friday, March 13, she hadn’t expected to have an entire day free, because she’d been planning to go in to school to teach her 6th grade special education class. When she got the memo that her school would be closed for at least the next several weeks due to COVID-19, she seized the opportunity to tackle her bucket list of local trails. O’Brien set a goal to run a new trail every weekday she is out of school, which Governor Northam just announced will now be until the end of the school year in June.

O’Brien has an inspirational notebook where she keeps lists of places she wants to travel, books she wants to read, and of course, trails she’d like to run. When she first moved to the DC area from upstate New York in 2012, she craved community, so she joined a Meet-Up group that met every Saturday morning at Teddy Roosevelt Island for long runs.

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