Washington, DC
Shauneen Werlinger nears the end of the 2019 Marine Corps Historic Half. Photo: MarathonFoto

For Shauneen Werlinger, a trip to the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials figured to be the culmination of a long development that started at Thomas Jefferson High School, continued through a spectacular collegiate career and evolved to include her career and family.

But instead of competing in Atlanta, she’ll be following the race alongside her husband and children. Instead of growing the Trials field by one, she’s growing her family by one, with a son due in January.

The decision to pass on the race is one Werlinger, 34, said she did not take lightly.

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Daniel O’Brien leads Luke Tewalt and Albert Velikonja during the second mile of the DCXC Invitational senior race. Photo: Dustin Whitlow

There’s apparently a second layer to astrology that goes beyond newspaper horoscopes. According to my coworker, what time of day you were born adds a tint of good or bad fortune. For runners at the DCXC Invitational, what time of day they started their race made all the difference.  

That’s because cloud cover alternated from race to race, providing much-needed relief from heat that reached the upper 80s throughout the afternoon, while also surprising some runners when they got on the starting line, thinking the hot part of the day was behind them. Those varying conditions just hammered home that the races, divided among graduating class, existed separately of each other. The format also gives runners a chance to race against their peers only, offering each class a chance in the spotlight. That did some favors for the seniors, whose races had the most comfortable temperatures irrespective of cloud cover.

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Conroy Zien celebrates while crossing the finish line at the 2019 Erie Marathon. Photo: RunPhotos

Conroy Zien dropped everything he was carrying when he spotted his wife, Glenda Garcia, outside the finisher’s chute at the Erie Marathon earlier this month and began to cry. Garcia figured the worst. Not again, she thought. 

“I got really sad,” she said. “Like, how do we recover from this? I’m already thinking about how I can help him get over this.”

Since January, Zien had trained in ways he hadn’t done before. He ran hilly long runs in below-freezing temperature with the Broderick to Boston (B2B) group in Bethesda over the winter. He added miles to his mid-week runs, embraced speed workouts and changed his diet.

“I’ll be honest, I was pretty unpleasant for pretty much the whole year,” Zien said.

He did it all with the singular goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon with enough of a buffer that he wouldn’t be on the outside looking in. Garcia didn’t know how to handle another setback.

“It’s okay,” she told him. “You did great.”

A couple minutes passed before Garcia asked for Zien’s time. She started to cry too.

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John Champe senior Bethany Graham. Photo: Ed Lull

Bethany Graham has plenty of reasons to fuel her running with frustration.

Despite brilliant starts to the past two cross country seasons, she hasn’t made the state meet since her freshman year. Stress fractures in 2017 and a sprained ankle in 2018 have kept her out of postseason racing.

Yet, she falls back on positive thinking. Back to something she learned through Girls on the Run.

“You just take the negative plug out,” she said. “It sounds silly but it still works for me today. Mentality is a big part of racing. If you’re not mentally confident, you’re not going to do well. You won’t have the confidence to compete with the best.

“I had to work on that for a while, but now it’s one of my strongest points.”

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Albert Velikonja and Colin McCauley lead Sam Pritchard and Chris Weeks in mile two of the Monroe Parker Invitational. Photo: Charlie Ban

Now that a lot of the Fairfax County running gang was back together at the Monroe Parker Invitational, Albert Velikonja decided to see who had done their homework over the summer. 

A mile and a half in to Burke Lake’s 2.98-mile course, he surged, and looked around to see how it all shook out. 

“I wasn’t trying to run away with it, I just wanted to see if anyone would come with me,” he said. 

Herndon senior Colin McAuley and West Springfield seniors Chris Weeks and Sam Pritchard all joined him in the front.

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Alex Morris awards medals to a 2017 Clarendon Day 5k/10k double finisher. Photo: Charlie Ban

Bling on the Brain

A race medal is a symbol of achievement; a shiny token signifying a goal achieved. While these medals seem like a small part of an event, race teams put a lot of thought into them — everything from shape, design and ribbon color — to drive home the theme of the race and its significance in runners’ lives.

The Parks Half Marathon uses its medal as a marketing and branding opportunity, said Race Director Don Shulman. The Montgomery County race is often the first half marathon for a lot of its participants, so Shulman said the medal is vital because of the pride finishers have for it.

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A little more than half of the 2019 All-RunWashington team. First row: Sean Stuck, Gavin McElhennon, Sam Pritchard. Second row: Ellie Desmond, Zoe Edelman, Piper Dean, Jenna Goldberg, Jenny Schilling. Third row: Luke Tewalt, Garrett Suhr, Albert Velikonja Photo: Ed Lull

For the sixth year, RunWashington’s coaches panel has chosen 62 of the most promising cross country runners in the Washington, D.C. area, naming them to our preseason honor teams.

The panel prized cross country achievements from  last fall, but took into account improvement during the track season when selecting the teams. The top 10 boys and top 10 girls, regardless of geography, assemble the All-RunWashington team. Coaches also selected an additional team for Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland.

On Wednesdays this season, RunWashington will publish profiles of the All-RunWashington team members, starting Aug. 28 and running for 10 weeks. Check them out and get to know some of the best this sport has to offer!

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Roman Gurule. Photo: Niamh Brennan

As a gregarious extrovert, Roman Gurule met a number of his friends through happy hours and dinners during his time as a federal government employee. He joined his colleagues whenever they drank alcohol and Gurule went out about five times a week to relieve stress from work. It felt like a normal thing to do, even if he would wake up the next morning with a pounding headache and a scant memory of what happened the previous night.

He repeatedly told his friends he would cut back on his self-proclaimed “rockstar lifestyle” that he started after college, but then it would happen again the following weekend. And the next. “I think that nobody took me seriously,” Gurule says. 

Finally, he had enough. Drinking all week began to negatively affect all aspects of his life. 

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Natalie Bardach, her iron levels back to normal, raced well at the Third Battle Invitational in 2018. Photo: Charlie Ban

It was seven months.

Seven months of torturous unknowing. Seven months of never-ending fatigue and sluggishness for George C. Marshall High School alumna Natalie Bardach. Seven months of doubt and disappointment. Seven months of just surviving a sport she had once thrived in, helping to win team conference, regional and even state titles.

For a high school athlete with only four years — twelve total seasons — of running available to them, seven months is 20 percent of their career. It feels like an eternity.

“I [didn’t] even know what to do anymore,” Bardach said. “I [was] training so hard and working so hard and I [was] not feeling any better. I was telling myself that it was my fault.”

For Robinson Secondary School alumna Seneca Willen, it was three months. A three month long agonizing descent from a freshman phenom who was running at the front of the pack to a slumping sophomore languishing in the back. Three months of “it’s all in your head” and wondering if freshman year was her peak.

“It was very sad,” Willen said. “I thought it was all mental and just thought, ‘I’m never going to get any better.'”

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Bethany Sachtleben tightens her watch band before the 2019 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography

Spot her two letters and Fairfax’s Bethany Sachtleben can rearrange her name to spell “schedule.”

Her daily routine dictates how she fits in her 100+ mile weeks around her full-time work and coaching, but even farther removed from that, she was trying to figure out where all those miles were going. Yes, the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials Feb. 29, but more immediately, she was supposed to race a marathon on July 27. For Team USA.

But less than a week before she was due in Lima, Peru, she wasn’t so sure. Told in early June that she was on the Pan American Games team, she was now apparently off. She found out on Friday; Her flight was the next Wednesday.

“I heard, ‘we’re offering your spot to everyone on the 2019 (performance) list,'” Sachtleben said. Her last marathon was a month before 2019 started. Everyone else would have to decline, including runners whose times were slower. “Then I started getting calls from friends saying they had been offered my spot and they turned it down. I felt awkward and uncomfortable for everybody because it’s a huge opportunity, but nobody is going to decide to jump into a marathon the week before.”

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