Washington, DC

Through the sheets of rain, Bonnie Keating embraced the challenges that the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon dished out.

The distance wasn’t a problem, she could easily handle 26 miles, and she finished fifth among women. But while the sunny Southern California weather she has gotten used to over the last 13 years hasn’t necessarily made her soft, she does realize she’s missing a certain edge, something she wanted to regain before her second Olympic Marathon Trials.

“On one hand, you never have an excuse why you can’t go out and train, but you also don’t get things like really windy snow drifts to give you that grit,” she said.

Keating moved to San Diego after three years at Frostburg State University that culminated in a 21st place finish at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. That followed her time, as Bonnie Axman, playing soccer and running cross country at Robinson Secondary School in Virginia, forgoing soccer at the end of her senior year to run track.

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As her World Class Athlete Program team stood victorious in winning the 2015 Army Ten-Miler, Kelly Calway lowered her five-month-old daughter, Hattie, into the trophy. She fit perfectly. 

Four months later, when Calway came home from Los Angeles with a stress fracture, it was her eight-year-old, Hazel who told her, “Mom, I love you,” and helped ease Calway’s fears that she had let the family down when she dropped out of the 2016 Olympic Trials.

As Calway, of McLean, nears the 2020 Trials, she’s counting on pushes from her family to help her get closer to the 25th place finish she notched at the 2012 Trials or her 2013 Marine Corps Marathon title than to her injury-shortened 2016 race. 

“My dream is to get my whole family running together,” she said. 

She’s close to it. Her husband, Chris, is training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Half Marathon. Hazel, now 12, has been running 5ks since she was a four-year-old in Girls on the Run, and Hattie, now 4, has run a mile. The three set up water stops and cheering stations on her long runs as she puts the finishing touches on her training. 

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Kathy Newberry’s running career has spanned nearly 20 years and has included six trips to world championship races and thousands of training miles, starting when she ran at Lake Braddock Secondary School.

Her secret to such a long trip? The same as the transoceanic flights to those races — plenty of fuel.

“I get that the regular person on the street has to be mindful of their diet, but when you’re running 120 miles a week, I’m sorry, I’m going to have four Dr. Peppers along with my bacon cheeseburger,” she said. “And my salad.”

That’s a message she has lived throughout her racing career and preached as a coach in both formal and informal capacities. As she approaches the last month before her fourth Olympic Trials, and her second trip to the marathon Trials, Newberry is as dedicated to eating right as she is to mileage and workouts. Now a Wellesley, Mass. resident, she qualified at November’s Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis. 

“Your body needs fuel,” she said. “If you try to watch what you eat, it’s a gamble you’re eventually going to lose. That’s a lot of why I’ve stayed healthy all of these years.”

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As she cruised along the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon last December, Callie Betman had a leg up on the rest of the runners. 

She had the personal pacing help of a newly-minted Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier — her sister, Hannah Cocchiaro. Famous in their family, the Betman Racing Team, for her ability to keep an even pace, Hannah kept Callie steady on the course, not too far from the water that they would have been found in a few years before when they were primarily swimmers. 

“It was really awesome,” Betman said. “It was so nice to have her there the whole time. It was good sister bonding time.

“Having grown up together (the sisters are roughly a year apart) she knew me well enough to be able to tell when I needed some encouragement and when I didn’t want her to talk. She knew the right times in the last six miles to say something quick and motivating when I was really struggling.”

Three weeks before, the Betman Racing Team (which includes their sister Leah Williams) was in Richmond, cheering Cocchairo (pronounced Coke-E-R-O) on to a third-place finish in 2:40:08, well ahead well ahead of the 2:45 standard that got her into the Feb. 29 Trials in Atlanta.

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Frank Perna runs the 1991 George Washington’s Birthday Marathon. Photo: Courtesy of Frank Perna

Frank Perna remembers smiling a lot as he ran the Jacksonville Marathon earlier this month. 

The Bethesda man, 56, was aiming to finish in under three hours, making this his fifth straight decade of running sub-3 hour marathons. 

He crossed the finish line in 2:53:17, overcoming a chronic hamstring injury that he’d initially worried would derail his race.

“I knew I was going to hit my time, and I was just taking it all in,” said Perna, a member of the Montgomery County Road Runners and sports psychologist and program director at the National Cancer Institute. “It felt very satisfying to execute a race and just do it.” 

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Sarah Anyan’s feet hurt, and her shoes weren’t going to make things much better. But as much as she and Tyler loved running, they weren’t going to walk down the aisle in cushioned trainers. 

So, months of plantar pain be damned, she danced and had a great time at her wedding. And when she woke up, she felt…better. 

It was a little more than three months until the California International Marathon. 

“I felt like I could for a run and it didn’t hurt all the time, something changed,” she said. “I can at least run through whatever I felt — before it hurt to walk.”

When the couple got back to their Arlington home, Sarah joined Tyler for their family goal of qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials. 

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When Arlington’s Elizabeth Briones crosses the Frosty 5K finish line, her time is nowhere close to what she ran in college. She has a smile on her face, though. As far as the last few years are concerned, it’s a personal best by well over a minute.

What matters is that she’s out there again.

Almost 18 years ago, she was about to leave on a physical and emotional journey that just recording a number of miles wouldn’t begin to document.

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Do you want want to start 2020 with a race? Establish a standard for running for the new year? Lean into the punch after a New Year’s Eve party? Want to enjoy some unseaonable warmth? Do you just want to run with some other people? A variety of races and running events are yours for the striding, and three – The New Year’s Day 5k in Reston, the New Year’s Day 5k in Gaithersburg and the Predicitions and Resolutions 5k – are among RunWashington’s 2020 ranked races.

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Jenna Goldberg leads the senior race at the DCXC Invitational. Photo: Dustin Whitlow

With two 10th place teams at Nike Cross Nationals, another individual qualifier and two girls in the top 20 at Foot Locker, the annual report for the D.C. area’s cross country circuit was quite strong. Loudoun Valley’s girls return much of their team, as do Lake Braddock’s girls, Oakton’s boys, Walter Johnson’s girls and St. John’s boys and girls. The season lacked 2018’s rain-related meet cancellations, and on a personal note, I was pleased to have state meets on three consecutive weekends, rather than two in one day.

Their pant cuffs still soaked with mud from a season that barely gave them time to dry off, our coaches panel of John Ausema Jim Ehrenhaft, Emily Farrar, Kevin Hughes, Mike Mangan, Kellie Redmond,  Giovanni Reumante, Chris Pellegrini, Chad Young all had input into the selection of post-season honors for 62 of the D.C. area’s top cross country runners. While races at the end of the season held the most weight, the coaches did not discount mid-season achievements.

They chose the top 10 boys and girls overall, along with second teams — seven each from — Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. and the Maryland suburbs.

I’ve begun moving our photos from cross country races (there are a few college and open races in there too) and road races to a SmugMug page – you can see them here. You can also read all of this season’s cross country coverage here.

See all the post-season picks for  Maryland   Washington, D.C.   Northern Virginia

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Steve Martin, Chris Johnston and Bob Briggs prep at Burke Lake for the USATF Club Cross Country Championships. Photo: Ed Lull

If David Sullivan meets someone and tells them he’s a runner, they invariably ask him if he does marathons. 

He blanches.

“To them it’s like nothing else exists,” he said. “But I get it.”

Not so for Sullivan and the members of his Athletics East Track Club who will race at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships this Saturday at Lehigh University. 

Of the 16 masters runners who will compete for the club’s teams, 14 are D.C.-area locals, and Sullivan, of Kingstowne, hopes to keep giving runners over 40 a life beyond the marathon grind.

He found West Springfield resident Bob Briggs at Burke Lake one weekend earlier this year, during the club’s weekly Saturday run.

“David came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you look like a pretty fast old guy – want to run with us?'” Briggs said. Briggs is 62 and shooting for a sub-3 at the Houston Marathon in January. Soon enough, Briggs became a member of Athletics East, which Sullivan managed and coached while living in his native Boston, then revived in 2018. 

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