Washington, DC

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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Emily Hart’s friends raved about how Marine Corps would be the best “first marathon” for her, with deafening crowds, thousands of volunteers, aid stations and the atmosphere of running through her home city.

When finally she ran it, her experience was completely different from what she’d heard about, but no less memorable. Like many of the D.C. area’s marathoners, she charted her own course for 26.2 miles in 2020 — straight up the W&OD Trail — one of hundreds whose options were only limited by their creativity and motivation. And, public health orders limiting gathering sizes.

With the November postponement of the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon, usually in March, and the undetermined rescheduling of the Boston Marathon, these will likely be the stories of more runners who feel the itch to go for a very long timed run though at least the first half of 2021. While a smattering of small marathons are being held in the D.C. area, with others tending larger in other parts of the country, fortune will favor the self-motivated. 

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When Gavin McElhennon decided on a college last year, he didn’t expect to spend his first semester thousands of miles away from Johns Hopkins University’s campus in Baltimore.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing classes online for his first semester, Gonzaga alumnus McElhennon and 13 of his first-year classmates took their academic flexibility to Flagstaff, Ariz. The Blue Jays weren’t alone — college runners from across the country, including many in and from the D.C. area, took a consolation prize from a deferred fall season and did some altitude training.

“We started texting pretty much as soon as we found out we wouldn’t have classes in person,” McElhennon said. “Within a few days we had a house that could fit all of us.”

Though some parents voice concerns about letting 14 college freshmen — six men and eight women — spend their first significant stretch away from home without resident advisors and meal plans, before long they figured out their independent living situations.

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Running Shorts

  • The Arlington Memorial Bridge has reopened after more than two years of rehabilitation that limited sidewalk access and prevented the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, Army Ten-Miler and the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. races from using the bridge for their courses.
  • Montgomery County Parks will not close Little Falls Parkway to traffic on weekends during the winter months, owing to the labor involved in setting up four roadblocks. Feedback can be sent to [email protected] or 301-495-2595.
  • The DCSAA is delaying the start of sports, with indoor track now scheduled to start practices Feb. 1 and cross country scheduled to begin March 8.
  • Jazmine Fray who runs for the District Track Club, was a guest on the Keeping Pace podcast.
  • The District Track Club recently redesigned its website, which includes a merchandise sale through Dec. 20 to help fund the middle distance team and free educational materials for runners.
  • Georgetown alumna Rachel Schneider ran 31:09.79 for 10k at the Sound Running Track Meet to meet the Olympic standard of 31:25.
  • Heritage alumna Weini Kelati, the defending NCAA cross country and 5k champion, left the University of New Mexico early to run professionally for Under Armour’s Dark Sky Distance team.
  • Georgetown alumnus and former coach Chris Miltenberg was a guest on the Morning Shakeout podcast.
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When I cobbled together a few routes for the DMV Distance Derby, I arbitrarily said it would last through the end of 2020. It makes a lot more sense to have the term of the challenge last for an entire year, so as of right now, let’s go through April 30, 2021. By then, if reports are to be believed, COVID-19 vaccines should be reaching wide circulation and the road racing industry will likely have a clearer path forward for resuming operations.  I may retire some underused segments at the end of the year, however, in favor of more popular or accessible routes.

View overall results for the first six months of the DMV Distance Derby here

The segment results are generally organized to fit compactly.

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Keira D’Amato has made her own fun the last nine months, refusing to let her momentum from the Olympic Marathon Trials go to waste, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the racing landscape. This morning, she made her own race, and came out of it with an American record for the women’s-only 10 mile in 51:23. Janet Bawcom had set the previous record, 52:12, at the 2104 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, which she watched up close, holding the finishing tape.

A Cherry Blossom-managed race in Anacostia Park in Washington, D.C., dubbed by D’Amato the “Updawg Ten Miler,” drew Olympic Marathoner Molly Seidel of Boston, locals Susanna Sullivan and Bethany Sachtleben (now of Boulder) and Flagstaff-based Emily Durgin. But D’Amato, an Oakton High School and American University alumna who lives near Richmond, was already two seconds ahead of Seidel roughly a quarter-mile into the race and wasn’t in jeopardy the rest of the way as she ran to a 2:13 margin.

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Photo: Members of the Georgetown Running Club warm up before a workout on the fields they know as the “cell tower field.” Photo: Charlie Ban

Tom Martin isn’t sure what he’d do without the towers field in Bethesda, Md. Maybe his cross country runners would have to do more workouts on the track, he says. Maybe he’d even think about retiring from coaching. That’s how important the roughly 1.25-mile, grass-and-dirt loop around the WMAL radio towers is to him. It’s more than just a 75-acre field nestled between two highways and not far from Walter Johnson High School, where Martin coaches. It’s a crucial piece of the local running culture in Montgomery County.

“For me, it’s almost as if, when that goes away, I might consider retiring,” Martin says. “It’s invaluable just to have… this nice open space where we can do all different kinds of workouts. It would be a tremendous loss to our program.”


WTOP caught the four towers fall Nov. 4 at 6:30 a.m.


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Though it hung around longer than usual this fall, the humidity seems to be receeding for the fall and winter, opening up conditions for some more pleasant attempts at the longer segments in the DMV Distance Derby.

Admittedly, last month’s addition of a 10k in the Arboteum was a little confusing – blame that on me making a wrong turn while putting the segment together. This month’s addition is simple – downhill on the Capital Crescent Trail, starting in Bethesda and finishing at the Key Bridge. It’s a few steps under 7.1 miles starting at Bethesda Avenue and ending under the Key Bridge. There are two things to keep in mind: the key bridge is under the Whitehurst Freeway past the trailhead gate and Little Falls Parkway is closed to traffic on the weekends, leaving one low-speed intersection- Dorset Ave, about a mile in, as the only major hazard.

View overall results for the first six months of the DMV Distance Derby here

The segment results are generally organized to fit compactly.

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The bats are silent in D.C. at a time when a year ago, the Nationals were winning their first World Series. Instead, Oakton native and American University alumna Keira D’Amato is standing at home plate, pointing to the Washington Monument and calling her shot — an attempt at the U.S. 10-mile record in less than a month.

Backed up by the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile team that she’s been working with for nearly a decade, D’Amato will run a small road race in the D.C. area Nov. 23 to try and top Janet Bawcom’s 52:12 time for a women-only 10-mile, which she set in 2014 at Cherry Blossom.

“It makes no sense, why I have the guts to go after it,” she said days prior. “But I’ve known since the spring I’m capable of running 52:12.”

D’Amato came close Oct. 28, splitting 52:37 en route to 1:08:57 at the Michigan Pro Half-Marathon, which she won. That performance made her the 10th fastest American woman at the half marathon.

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