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Robert McManmon runs the Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon with his wife, Mary. Photo: Bruce Buckley
Robert McManmon runs the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon with his wife, Mary. Photo: Bruce Buckley

Boston, New York, Marine Corps, Chicago. Getting into one of these marathons is half the battle. Year after year, missed qualifying times and bad luck with lotteries are the source of much heartache for runners. To some, racing on behalf of a charity offers a back door to the starting line when all else fails.

But these charity runners will tell you it’s not about the race bib.

Melissa Wilf, then of New York and now living in D.C., was willing to limp her way through the 2007 Rock n’ Roll Phoenix Marathon as a member of Team In Training (TNT), raising $6000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She was hoping to qualify for Boston — and her training suggested she would be able to — but a mysterious injury sent a shooting pain through her knee only two miles into the race.

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“I can’t come home without finishing this race,” she remembered thinking. She was determined to honor her friend with blood cancer and her TNT family. And even though it was a rare 30-degree day in Phoenix and the bands and crowds had left the course in the later stages of the race, Wilf finished with her teammates walking by her side.

For Adam Gutbezahl it all began with a finish. After crossing the line at the 2012 Marine Corps 10k, the D.C. resident was about to collapse. But take a look behind him in his race photos and you see a racer with a prosthetic leg.

“He looks completely fine,” Gutbezahl said. While he didn’t know if his anonymous idol was a veteran, it inspired him. “These people have served our country and have gone through so much and still keep pushing.”

His involvement in the Wounded Warrior Project is his way of showing appreciation for service members, and in 2013 he decided to become a 50-state marathoner and raise $50,000 for the charity, which supports injured service members and their families. It’s a long-term goal — he plans on running two to three marathons a year — but one that he said will hold himself accountable for his fundraising efforts.

Last April, he knocked one of his first states off his list with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and a new PR of 3:43:43. Severely dehydrated in the final miles, he stopped at a water station, where a volunteer took notice of his Wounded Warrior top.

“He told me, ‘Come on, Adam, you’re doing this for an awesome cause. I’m proud of you. Thank you for doing this.’ It was just the thing I needed at the moment,” Gutbezahl said.

He raised $1500 for his Oklahoma race, more than his $1000 goal. The support largely came from emails and social media posts that connected him with contacts from college, law school and work.

Eyes eastward, Elliot Norman tried to stay injury-free as he prepared for the London Marathon.

The former Londoner, now living in Vienna (Virginia, not Austria) was running on behalf of the UK’s World Jewish Relief, which raises funds to reduce worldwide poverty, an opportunity revealed in a chance conversation his mother had.

Although thousands of miles separated Norman from his team, he kept in touch through video conferences. He remembers the look the eight novice runners gave him when he listed his five marathon finishes since 2009. With a 3:42 marathon PR, his teammates across the pond sent him emails in the months before the race to ask him questions about training and race-day logistics, which Norman said motivated his training even on the worst days of winter. Though an injury kept him from running to his potential, he raised about $4,600, exceeding his goal by about $1,200. And it gave him a sense of unfinished business that he will take care of next year in England.

A little over half of his funds came from UK sponsors. A donation of more than $800 from a whiskey club across the globe fired Norman up enough to head out for a run in below-freezing temperatures.

“I need to run because these people clearly have some faith in me,” he remembered thinking. “That was a ‘screw the weather’ type day.” On days he didn’t run, Norman shoveled snow. That alone raised a couple hundred dollars.

The London marathon claims to be the largest annual fundraising event in the world, with one-third of this year’s 36,000 participants running for a charity. Historically, about one-fifth of Boston marathon participants are charity runners.

Meaghan, who asked that her last name not be used, first noticed a lump on her throat in August 2012, which turned out to be stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic and immune systems.

She underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy, which meant biweekly IV drips to kill the cancer. She was mentally ready for the fight, but worries lingered.

“I could wrap myself around the chemo, but I had a really hard time worrying that I wasn’t going to recognize myself,” she said, adding “I was nervous because I had no idea what my new normal was going to be.

“I didn’t want to be ‘Meaghan with cancer,’ I just wanted to be Meaghan!”

By 2013, she was a quarter of the way through her chemotherapy and relied on short-term disability leave from work. Her hair began to thin, and it took longer and longer to recover after each treatment.

In April, an unexpected package arrived. A young woman named Kristina, who had heard of Meaghan’s battle with cancer through family friends, wrote that Meaghan was her inspiration for running the inaugural Nike Women’s Half Marathon with TNT. Inside the package was a silver necklace in a Tiffany’s box, which Kristina had earned as a finisher.

“I wore that necklace every day,” Meaghan said.

She also joined TNT and registered for Nike’s 2014 half marathon.

“I chose to run because someone somewhere selflessly chose to run for me. The odds of me being here wouldn’t be what they were without people like Kristina whose run for complete strangers to make cures and breakthroughs.”

#TeamWorkBitch was born. Meaghan and her friends Kendall Semidey, Cassie Whiteside, Martina Payne, and Jenn Young raised nearly $11,000 for LLS. They relied on emails and social media to spread their message, asked for corporate donations, held happy hours, sold team shirts and used March Madness brackets to raise money.

TNT became another family for Meaghan: “They accepted me for who I was,” she said.

On the Friday before the race, Meaghan spoke at the VIP fundraising dinner for TNT. She said it was one of the best nights of her life.

Though she used to have trouble talking about her experience with cancer, she then felt entirely comfortable sharing her story with this group of strangers once TNT helped her find her voice.

“I’ve always wanted to talk, but I just had to wait until I was ready.”

#TeamWorkBitch finished the race together.

“Crossing the finish line with my teammates was the best feeling and natural high of my life. I was so proud of myself, not just for completing the race, but for what it symbolized. It was the ending I needed in this chapter of my life.” She calls it her “take that, cancer” moment.

Doctors have confirmed that Meaghan is in remission. Body scans since last July repeatedly reassured her that things were okay.

Over 100 organizations offer a guaranteed entry into the New York marathon, about 70 for Marine Corps, 30 for Boston and 10 for Chicago. But the world of running isn’t strictly divided into those who run for charity and those who don’t.

“Experiencing Boston as a charity runner motivated me to set a goal of qualifying in the next few years,” said Alexandrian Robert McManmon, adding that he’d like to fundraise again, too.

He grew up in Newton, Mass., not far from the race course. Every third Monday in April, the McManmons would watch runners tackle Heartbreak Hill, and McManmon said he always wanted to run the iconic marathon. In 2012 he did just that while raising about $5,000 for the American Liver Foundation’s Run for Research team, which supports research efforts for the prevention, treatment, and cure of liver disease. He was part of a team of about 150 runners, mostly based in the Boston area, who collectively raised more than a million dollars.

Temperatures in Boston that day reached the 90’s, which means charity runners starting at 11 a.m. battled the heat from start to finish. While McManmon said it was a very challenging course, the support from Boston crowds helped him get to the finish.

“So many people were out along the course the entire 26 miles and they just wouldn’t let you stop. As you’d start walking they really encouraged you to get going,” he said.

About half of his donations came from fundraising events. Wherever he went, McManmon asked businesses if they would support his cause. That scored him a number of prizes, including a luxury wine tasting in Virginia, to raffle off at a happy hour.

“I was surprised by the generosity,” he said. Friends of friends arrived at a pub crawl he hosted in Old Town, which turned out to be his most successful event. He said he wanted these get-togethers to be an opportunity to support the American Liver Foundation–the second largest charitable organization at Boston–and to bring people together to learn more about the organization.

As part of the marathon training, one weekend, McManmon went up to Boston to join his team for its first 20-miler along the course.

“It was really inspirational to go up there and listen to some people who offered some stories about dealing with and living with liver diseases,” he said. “I also got to meet and run on behalf of a brave child that received a liver transplant at a young age. It really made it a more meaningful experience.”

For Max Lubarsky of Arlington, the courage of a young girl has inspired his training since 2011.

His sister Nicolet first ran the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon in 2010 because their grandmother was a regular supporter of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which funds the research and treatment of cancer and other life-threatening diseases. When his sister posted a message about her fundraising efforts on social media, she received a message from Leticia Ramirez, whose daughter Arianna was a St. Jude patient in Memphis. The two families became quick friends, forming Team Rae of Hope in honor of Arianna’s middle name, Rae.

After Arianna’s brain cancer diagnosis at three, doctors told her family that the prognosis was grim. “Princess Arianna,” as she became known in the halls of her hospital, recovered and relapsed, but kept a positive attitude through it all.

“It was really a roller-coaster,” Lubarsky said.

Last fall tumors appeared in her scans again, and the disease developed too quickly for her treatments to save her. She passed away before her eighth birthday in March.

“One of the things we did on her eighth birthday that I think we’ll continue doing is doing eight random acts of kindness,” Lubarsky said. Whether they left flowers for co-workers or picked up the tab for a stranger’s coffee, Arianna’s friends and family passed on cards with her story as a way to live out her legacy of kindness.

They chronicled the project on Twitter with the handle #RaeofHope.

A few days later, a barista paid for Arianna’s father’s coffee, not realizing that she was bringing the movement full circle until he explained how much it meant to him.

Last year, Team Rae of Sunshine raised close to $20,000 for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This year, Team Rae of Sunshine upped the ante to run the full marathon in Memphis and doubled their fundraising goals, which they hope to meet by selling team shirts, offering tickets to Nationals games, and hosting happy hours.

“Really, their family has become our family,” Lubarsky said.

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Runspringa: Race recovery, relaxation and reflection

 

 

 

 

Mike Mongtomery drowns his sorrows after tearing his meniscus during the 2014 Boston Marathon and Ken Trombatore celebrates a successful race. Photo: Courtesy of Trombatore
Mike Mongtomery drowns his sorrows after tearing his meniscus during the 2014 Boston Marathon and Ken Trombatore celebrates a successful race. Photo: Courtesy of Trombatore

Show us your Runspringa

In the days after Marine Corps, or any marathon really, share your post-race break activities on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #runspringa

 

The mylar blanket, the medal, even the shoes, they all come off. The painful shower, alerting you to chafing that went unnoticed in the heat of the race, washes away the last of the sweat that went into this whole enterprise.

It’s time for a break, either by choice — and in the name of good sense — or by necessity, because the thought of running again right now seems almost barbaric. If you don’t think so, just try walking down a flight of stairs.

Maybe it was a PR, a BQ or a OTQ. Maybe it was a disaster. Either way, it’s over and life is back to normal.

What will that life be?

The Amish have a tradition — Rumspringa — in which their teenagers live in the secular world to decide what life they want to lead, if they want to come back. Marathon runners do the same thing. They toss their training logs aside, stay out late, eschew the (sometimes) monastic life they’d built for themselves. And they figure out if it is really for them. It’s Runspringa.

D.C.’s Nick Geboy tries to take time off, but his Catholic guilt keeps pulling him back in.

“I feel lazy and gross when I don’t run,” he said. “I come back easy, but I go through the same routine as usual.” It’s back to the track on Wednesdays, but he limits his volume to about a mile and a half of hard running. He’ll take the opportunity to do more runs with his coworkers around the U.S. Geological Survey office in Reston.

“I’ll eat more meat than usual,” he allows. “I typically avoid it when I’m training, it makes me feel slow.”

Alissa McKaig is in the same boat.

“I’ll eat things I normally wouldn’t, like cupcakes or a big sandwich,” she said. She looks past her mild gluten allergy to enjoy herself.

McKaig, recent transplant to Washington, D.C., has gotten the hang of the distance in her four tries, including an eighth place finish at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012. But she has also mastered the aftermath.

“You worked really hard for one day, for the most part you kind of go under a rock for a while,” she said. “But you have to celebrate. Even if it didn’t go well, you’re happy to be done.”

Trips to see family in Indiana, or vacations in Florida, have taken McKaig away from the familiar settings, where training predominates. And immediately after the race, she makes it a point to go out and be sociable, which surprises friends who haven’t run a marathon.

“They ask how I’m not exhausted, but you find energy, just like you do during a race,” she said. “I’ll be back in by 11:30, which is when most people are usually leaving to go out, but before a race I don’t usually feel like talking, so after it’s over I can relax and be more social with people.”

Germantown resident Erica Greene feels her on that.

“When I register for a marathon, my friends know I’m not going to see them too much,” she said. “I don’t go out late on Friday and Saturday nights when I’m training, and I limit my alcohol intake, so after the race is over, I’m pretty eager to catch up with everyone and have a good time, get back to normal.”

Normal, the common refrain. As nebulous as that could be, normal typically means some flexibility that returns when at least an hour that was otherwise spent running, stretching or taking an extra shower comes back into the day. It could mean the chance to sleep in, which Greene relishes, or time after work to do with as you please. Almost a month after her spring 2014 marathon, a D.C. resident who didn’t want to be identified for fear of reprisal because she criticized her job’s workload, didn’t feel like she had enjoyed a Runspringa.

“Not really, because I’ve been working until at least 7:30 every night and happy hour is over,” she said.  “You have to go to a few happy hours and do the hard drinking before you go back to the hard training.”

But just like the Amish, who may lose up to 20 percent of their communities after Rumspringa, some marathoners don’t come back.

Chevy Chase’s Jeff Mehr just finished Boston a few weeks ago, and he doesn’t see himself running a marathon anytime soon. It’s worth noting that Boston was his 25th, well beyond the one he wanted to finish years ago. And that means it’s different for him because this is breaking a cycle that has continued for a while.

“Most people I know are signing up for another one within three days of finishing,” he said. “They’re living off that high, whether it comes from a fast time, or a fun weekend with friends. Some people don’t know what to do if they’re not training for a marathon.”

He’s seen other runners start to consider time off, and said even before he decided on his hiatus, doing what his body told him was trending in that direction.

“I feel like every spring, the two or three weeks I have planned to take up gets longer and longer,” he said. “Sometimes it gets up to four weeks, five weeks, and I groan, thinking about getting back to the track to do speed work or getting up for a 20 miler. If there’s no offseason, then there’s no ‘onseason.'”

Even for professionals like McKaig, or even more so, because their livelihood depends on it, taking time off is crucial.

“There’s a lot of temptation to get back to running too soon,” she said. “You can be pumped up by a great time and want to keep things going, or you want to redeem yourself, but you definitely need time off. After the trials I wanted to keep going and roll into a good track season, but that wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t take care of myself. A marathon takes a lot out of you, and not taking that time off can put you in a hole that could cost you that track season, or even the next marathon.”

You can also take it too easy, as Justin Schappe found out. He made a quick approach to the marathon, roughly 18 months after starting running. His run up to the Chicago Marathon in 2011 was guided by a strict regimen. In addition to his running and cross training, he was pitching in more around the house to help his pregnant wife, and he planned the family’s move to Rockville from St. Louis.

“It was a pretty strict life,” he said. “I was looking forward to the race, but also to getting back to everything else.”

The race itself melted in the back half of a sunny day.

Afterward he sought out Giordino’s pizza and a lot of beer, and took a few weeks off of running, and cross training. A few months later, his brother recruited him for the St. Louis Marathon, and during a training run, Schappe felt his knee give way. He spent more than a year recovering from runner’s knee, which he attributed to a lax cross-training schedule.

He’s back in action and his eyes are on this fall’s Marine Corps Marathon. And he has two definite plans for Runspringa.

“I’m going to have some great pizza afterward and I am not going to stop cross training,” he said.

Many runners shared the advice that a marathoner needs someone to keep them accountable, not for their training, but for their recovery.

“Even if you’re not a professional, you need someone to advise you on when it’s okay to come back,” McKaig said. “It’s easy to think you’re fine and can start running but it will set you back if you do it wrong.”

At least one, certainly more, Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon runners did it right. The race is typically the Saturday of St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

“I pretty much started drinking right after the race and didn’t stop,” she said.

After that, what choice is there but to take time off?

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2014 RunWashington.

Members of the MCRRC team celebrate after the 2014 Boston Marathon. Photo: Courtesy of Ken Trombatore
Members of the MCRRC team celebrate after the 2014 Boston Marathon. Photo: Courtesy of Ken Trombatore
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First-timer surprises veteran runners at Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

Sam Doud breaks the tape at the Rock 'n' Roll D.C. Marathon. Photo: courtesy of Rock 'n'
Sam Doud breaks the tape at the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon. Photo: courtesy of Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.

For a year and a half, Sam Doud didn’t race.

After he walked away from collegiate running at American University, he just logged his miles, enjoyed the sport and bided his time until he was ready to race truly long distances.

“I’ve never been one of the fast guys, I never broke 4:20 for the mile,” he said. “A marathon seemed pretty natural for me.”

Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon

March 11, 2017 – Washington, D.C.

Results
Photos by Cheryl Young

In February, he started getting itch to see what he could do — he was running fast and ready for the challenge. The Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon started a few miles away from his Glover Park home, what better place to see what he could do? Ended up being a good move.

In winning the race Saturday morning, he blazed the fastest time (2:26:57) since the course was beefed up two years prior, and left two solid marathoners in his wake in 2013 Marine Corps Marathon Champion Girma Bedada and six-time Rock ‘n’ Roll/National Marathon winner Michael Wardian.

Doud, 21, showed up with his roommate and put on his bib — number 31616 — and saw Wardian (bib number 1) and Bedada (bib number 2) near the starting line.

“I has no idea who they were, but they looked fast and people were taking a lot of pictures with Wardian,” Doud said. “My main plan was to not blow up, so I wasn’t going to go with them. I’d let them do their things.”

But he ended up catching them both, running with Wardian between miles 11 and 17, then reeling in Bedada with a mile and a half to go before putting three minutes on him.

Though the back half of the race is always lonely, marathoners usually have the half runners to keep them company through 12 miles. This year the marathoners started an hour and a half before the half. With Metro’s Safetrack restrictions keeping race organizers from opening the system early, they started marathoners early and allowed the more than 13,000 half runners take the trains into the city. The marathon’s 2,373 finishers were on their own to get to the start. That meant empty streets for Doud and his competitors, with few spectators braving the cold, though he got a boost from passing the statue of Simón Bolívar near the first mile mark.

When Doud crammed for the race with a few marathon-pace workouts, he targeted 5:50 miles. On race day, he averaged 5:36 per mile, and only his cautious first mile was slower than his initial goal pace.

“This has me wondering what I could do if I seriously train for a marathon,” he said a day after the race.

Despite his early success, he has a lot to learn. For instance, Wardian remarked to him after the race that he hadn’t seen Doud eat anything during the race.

“I told him I didn’t see any food,” he said, at the time unaware of the bevy of running gels and calorie-replacement options available to runners, including at one water stop.  

Still, he never hit the wall, and felt comfortable throughout the race, even in the latter stages. He remarked that the climbs around Fort Dupont Park were far more difficult than out of Rock Creek Park on Shoreham Drive.

Doud, a Bloomington, Ill. native, has less than a year until he graduates with majors in math and computer science, and is tossing around the possibility of running the Marine Corps Marathon.

There, he’ll likely face warmer weather than the mid-20s that greeted him on race morning.

On Saturday, he played it safe, wearing extra layers, including two hats, for his first marathon.

“I don’t want to be the guy wearing shorts and a singlet and freezing,” he said. “I thought I might look a little dumb in the race photos, but it’s better than being cold for two-and-a-half hours.”

He took time after the race to find out a little bit more about the marathoning world from Wardian, particularly how he should expect to feel in the morning.

“He told me I should run the next day,” Doud said. “I woke up feeling like I had put on about 30 years, but I got out there.”

And ran 13 miles, a little faster than 7:20 per mile.

Christie Wetzel, of Falls Church, won the women’s marathon in 3:04:01, two years after running 3:58 in her first marathon here. She ran the race with her husband, Rodrigo Garcia, pulling ahead of him near the finish. Ithaca, N.Y. resident Sabine Fischer-Daly was second in 3:08:41 and Hyattsville’s Angela Hartman was third in 3:10:07.

In the half marathon, Mizael Carrera (Addison, Ill.)1:05:51 defended his 2016 title, Austin Whitelaw (Johnson City, Tenn.) was second in 1:07:59 D.C.’s Paul Thistle, recovered from a long foot injury, was third in 1:08:27. D.C.’s Kerry Allen (1:19:20) won the half after finishing second in 2014 and 2016. This title comes three weeks after she won the Dahlgren Heritage Trail Half Marathon in Virginia. Jenny Mendez Suanca, the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon champion, was second in 1:21:37 and Fairfax’s Sarah Bishop was third in 1:22:02.

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Weather redeems itself at Rock ‘n’ Roll races

Half marathoners Pedro Aponte and Mark Drosky climb Harvard Street in Columbia Heights as half marathoner Marcello Mannino and marathoners Jason Apple and Rob Halliday give chase. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography
Half marathoners Pedro Aponte and Mark Drosky climb Harvard Street in Columbia Heights as half marathoner Marcello Mannino and marathoners Jason Apple and Rob Halliday give chase. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography

See results at http://www.runrocknroll.com/finisher-zone/search-and-results/?eventid=13

Mother Nature must have been feeling merciful. A radiant sunrise turned to overcast skies, 50-degree temperatures and a slight breeze, providing ideal conditions for over 19,000 racers at the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. marathon and half marathon.

Runners at the starting line were happy to avoid a repeat of last year’s cold rain.

“Perfect. This is perfect,” said Alex Smith, who flew in from Milwaukee for the race. He chose Rock n’ Roll because it was the closest big marathon that would motivate him to keep training in Wisconsin’s harsh winter.

Vincent Reddish and Joshua Cowan said they were excited, nervous, and ready to start. Cowan was one of 518 runners at today’s race running on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; the team raised over $200,000 for the charity.

Martha Nelson, though, missed the rain. The defending champion said last year was the smoothest marathon she’s ever run whereas this year proved to be more of a mental challenge.

“Getting the F1 [bib number] puts a lot of pressure on. I knew as much as I told myself you don’t have to win, you’re always going to have that defending champion bullseye on your back.”

Nelson, who lives in D.C., relaxed by helping pace a friend to a sub-3:00 finish and taking advantage of her hometown advantage. “It’s a fun race for me because I get to see a lot of friends along the course, she said.

Nelson reeled in the eventual runner-up, Lori Nedescu (2:59:55), on the big hill in Fort Dupont Park near mile 21. “I felt if I could pass her going up the hill, that meant that I had more strength. It’s a hard thing to take the lead when you’re that exhausted.”

She struggled in the final miles, but gutted it out to finish in 2:58:02. Katie Moran (3:04:33) finished in third.

Bethany Sachtleben on her way to the Rock 'n' Roll D.C. Half Marathon title. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography
Bethany Sachtleben on her way to the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Half Marathon title. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography

The closest 1-2 finish of the day came during the women’s half marathon. Bethany Sachtleben (1:19:43) and Kerry Allen (1:20:07) raced together for the first half,  with Laurel Le Moigne joining for part of the Rock Creek Parkway portion, but Sachtleben pulled away around mile eight and never gave up the lead.

“It was fun to have our little pack for a while,” Sachtleben said. Today’s race helped her prepare for the U.S. half marathon championships in late April.

Hannah Eckstein (1:19:24) finished third in her first half marathon.

Both men’s races were blowouts. Mizael Carrera (1:06:16) went in knowing he could be the top finisher and left no doubt as he led from the gun, two minutes under his PR and over a minute-and-a-half ahead of his nearest competitor.

He slowed from his goal pace of 5-minute miles as he got into the race. “I didn’t look at the course elevation, so I didn’t know there were hills. I kind of backed it off because I didn’t want to hit the wall.”

Carrera is training through this race to prepare for an April marathon in Germany, where he hopes to qualify for Puerto Rico’s Olympic team.

D.C.’s Carlos Jamieson edged out Bethesda’s Andrew Brodeur for second place. At the awards ceremony, Brodeur said “the wheels just came off” in his final ten steps. Jamieson won last year’s race and later qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, but a hot day in Los Angeles forced him to drop out halfway through. He wore his old high school uniform, that of North Rockland, N.Y., which saw its girls distance medley relay team with the New Balance Nationals Indoor title the day before, in a national record time.

Alfredo Arevalo Reyes, who signed up for the marathon this week, ran a lonely 2:30:04 to win by over four minutes. Even with the commanding lead, the two-time Olympian glanced over his shoulder throughout the race to make sure no one would catch up to him. To his surprise, no one ever did.

Reyes, 40, was excited to win a marathon on U.S. soil, even if he didn’t get his qualifying time for the 2016 Olympics. At the finish, he hoisted the flag from his home of Guatemala, one of 47 countries represented by Rock n’ Roll racers this morning.

Steve Chu (2:34:09) finished in second while Dirian Bonilla (2:37:25) finished third.

Dickson Mercer (16:10) and Kendahl Melvin (20:54) each took first place in the 5k. Guler Koca (2:16:38) and Salomon Vazquez (3:34:39) won the marathon’s wheelchair division; Daniel Hagarty (2:12:15) was the top wheelchair finisher for the half marathon; Amanda Strite (33:23) and Erin Kelman (26:45) won the wheelchair 5k.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”5″ gal_title=”Rock n]

D.C.’s weather also made an impact on the finish area this year. Race organizers added changing tents after soggy runners went home shivering in 2015 and moved the finish line because the original spot was still covered in stubborn snow piles.

Aimee Price of Williamsport, Md., said the mild winter this year made training for the half marathon a little easer. She and Tamara Krumm both loved the course. “It’s always good. You can see all of Washington,” Krumm said.

Brigitte Todd said her half marathon time wasn’t her best because she’s coming back from injury. “I took it easy, I stopped a couple times, I drank champagne and margaritas on the way” courtesy of some roadside fans in the middle of the race.

“I wasn’t taking it very seriously,” she said with a laugh.

Neither was the runner dressed as a slice of pizza.
Wheeled marathon winner Darrin Snyder checks out his competition. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography
Wheeled marathon winner Darrin Snyder checks out his competition. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography
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D.C. area puts four women in top 20 at Olympic Marathon Trials

Maegan Krifchin. Photo: Cheryl Young
Seventh place finisher Maegan Krifchin, of Silver Spring. Photo: Cheryl Young

Correction: On subsequent inspection, several other competitors ran personal bests in the race.


Maegan Krifchin might not have made the U.S. Olympic team for the marathon, but she got something out of Saturday’s Olympic Trials in Los Angeles that nearly as rare: a personal record.

[button-red url=”http://www.usatf.org/Events—Calendar/2016/U-S–Olympic-Team-Trials—Marathon/Results.aspx” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]She was one of as few as six finishers in men’s and women’s races, 254 in total, who improved on a previous marathon best. 

“Obviously the main goal was to make the team, but I came a little shy of that,” Krifchin said. “Being in the top 10 was a good thing to accomplish.”

She was one of four D.C. area women to finish in the top 25. Krifchin and Lindsay Flanagan, who finished 14th, live in Silver Spring and train with Stafford resident Serena Burla, who finished in eighth place. The trio are sponsored by Mizuno. Susanna Sullivan, of Falls Church and Capital Area Runners, finished 20th.

The feat was remarkable because of both the heat and amount of sunlight that baked the course after a late-morning start, taking temperatures to the high 70s, and because the championship setting, with the top three making the Olympic team, made the race tactical.

“They went out pretty conservatively, but they stuck their noses in there. Maegan had the confidence to do that even though it’s just her second marathon,” said Isaya Okwiya, the Mizuno women’s coach. “Time is out the window and you’re just racing people.

“There are a lot of variables in the marathon even in good weather. You don’t know how much your body can handle, so it’s very difficult under these conditions to know where your red line is.”

Krifchin spent most of the race on her own after the lead pack broke during mile 12, but she felt like she made the right move holding back, especially because even then she didn’t feel “safe.”

“I think if I had gone with the lead group, I probably would have fallen off earlier,” she said. “It was really lonely out there, that was even worse than the heat for me, but I feel happy with how I ran.”

The conditions were improved from her win at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon last July, with added high humidity to race temperatures that topped LA’s.

Krifchin, Burla and Flanagan spent a few months prior to the trials training in Albuquerque, which forced the trio to train in layers to help them acclimate to a hot race day.

Burla came into the race with the fifth-fastest seed time, but her training leading up to the race left her worried.

“I think I prayed from the very start to the very end,” she said. “That, and just putting one foot in front of the other was the only way I was going to finish. It hurt every step of the way.”

Despite that difficulty, and with her 2012 trials dropout still haunting her, Burla was determined to race.

“I had to adjust and just try to put myself in a good position and make gradual moves,” she said. “I wasn’t going to be able to make surges so I sought consistency. There wasn’t a whole lot of movement, or other people out there, so I spent a lot of the race thankful for the chance to be out there.”

Burla finished in 2:34:22.

Flanagan did try to cover the lead pack’s move in mile 12, but learned quickly it was a little too much for her.

“I took too big of a chance by surging with the lead pack,” she said. “It hit me really soon, within a mile, and I knew I was in for a rough ending.”

She was able to pick off a pair of runners in the closing miles to rebound a little to finish in 2:39:42.

“It was pretty brutal. It took a lot to finish, and I’m proud that I competed and finished, because it got pretty tough.”

 

Susanna Sullivan. Photo: Cheryl Young
Susanna Sullivan. Photo: Cheryl Young

Sullivan finished 20th in her first trials, running 2:41:18.

“It was kind of a bloodbath out there, I just had to keep it in my head that I could keep going,” she said. “I used the cooling stations, took a lot of gels, drank a lot of water, but my quads were just shot. I never thought I wouldn’t finish the race because I ran out of energy, but I might have had trouble just because my legs didn’t work.”

But she held on, which is more than 49 of 198 who started could say. Sullivan was ranked 32nd among full marathon time qualifiers coming into the race.

“In one stretch, I went from 25th to 19th, but it was because people were dropping out,” she said. “I knew I could make it to the finish line, but I wasn’t sure if it would be walking.”

“I knew I wasn’t going to feel the way I did at Grandma’s (her first marathon, in June 2015),” she said, “but with nine miles to go, I felt worse than I did at any point during Grandma’s.”

“Who would have guessed 2:41 would get 20th,” said Sullivan’s coach, George Buckheit. “She’ll be back, she’s only 25. She did everything she could have done, and she did pretty well.”

She joined Buckheit and several teammates in Virginia Beach during Snowzilla to keep her training going during the blizzard.

Teal Burrell races with Molly Friel during the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Photo: Charlie Ban
Teal Burrell races with Molly Friel during the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Photo: Charlie Ban

Teal Burrell, on the other hand, was stuck in D.C. as the blizzard approached and fretted about what to do for her last long run. She moved it up a day until Friday, when Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park would not be closed to traffic, and switched the venue to a windy and demoralizing few laps of Hains Point in East Potomac Park. It left her wounded three weeks from the race, but not dead.

The race was the culmination of a dream old enough to be in third grade. Her chiseling and hacking away from a 4:07 debut marathon down to to a 2:42:13 at the California International Marathon to qualify for the trials, along with the openness and vulnerability that were hallmarks of her blog, made her a role model to many.

And even though her race didn’t have the absolutely storybook ending she set out for once she wrote her ticket, she wound up in the top half finishers on a day that could have been a nightmare for her. As much as Krifchin can adapt to the heat, Burrell can struggle in it.

“I wanted to get a PR, that’s what I trained for, but the weather wasn’t cooperating,” she said, following her 2:50:35 finish for 72nd out of 149. “My goal was going to have to be to enjoy the race, and I was at peace with that for about two laps.”

Actually, at mile 10, she was on pace to break her personal record.

“But the next mile I was way off, so I didn’t even look at the clock until I had a mile to go,” she said. “Usually I’m super upset when I don’t get a PR and I kind of act like a brat, but I feel a lot better today. I think I’m more mature about it.”

Toss in the fact that her time was her second-fastest marathon, she has to be happy about that. Aside from the weather, the race was a dream.

“I was so excited to have my name on my bib,” she said. “People I didn’t know were cheering for me and that really drove home how different this race was. Everyone was so supporting, they told me to keep picking people off. By that point, I was just putting one foot in front of another.”

The cooling stations, which included sponges and wet towels soaked in ice water, became something to look forward to.

“The had it set up so you went by it twice on every lap,” she said. “I was putting the towels around my neck like I was in an Ironman.”

She also got a boost from her 20 family members and friends who traveled to watch the race.

Jerry Alexander, coach of the Pacers/Georgetown Running Club New Balance team Burrell joined in 2012, said her 72nd finish, after being seeded 117th among marathoners, was a testament to her arrival on the scene.

“When we look at all of the people Teal beat today, people who have run much faster, on a day that was not at all suited to her strengths, she’s going to be very excited about where she’s come.”

Emily Potter, of Alexandria, a recent addition to the Pacers/GRC New Balance team, finished 102nd in her third Olympic Marathon Trials, running 2:55:10. Though far from her goal, Potter tried to make the most of the race.

“I’d look around when the lead packs would come and hope I’d at least wind up on the tv broadcast,” she said.

Alexander could see from the start Potter wasn’t comfortable.

“She didn’t give up, though,” he said. “By the third and fourth laps, she was actually looking better than a lot of people.”

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Late Entry: Roman-Duval is in

Julia Roman-Duval Photo: Swim Bike Run Photography
Julia Roman-Duval Photo: Swim Bike Run Photography

Limbo Relief for one runner

Our soon-to-be-released spring magazine notes that 10 local athletes will compete in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. It also mentions that one runner’s entry was still in limbo.

Julia Roman-Duval, 33, of Columbia, Md., had run a personal best and trials-qualifying 2:40:55 at the California International Marathon — but as we went to press, she was still waiting to hear whether or not she would be allowed to compete.

Good news: Roman-Duval is in.

The backstory is that Roman-Duval, native to France and a permanent United States resident for five years, needed one of two things to happen to compete in the trials. She either had to gain citizenship before the race or the USATF had to be satisfied that her citizenship would be granted before the Olympics in August.

At this point it looks like Roman-Duval will have both scenarios working in her favor, though it was a long, tense ride to get there. She had applied for citizenship in July and, through her own homework, determined that the United States Citizenship and Services’ office in Baltimore would not process her application until March. Too late.

Next she turned to the USATF. But as of last week, no decision had been made, and Roman-Duval said that a USATF staff member had cautioned her not to get her hopes up. It was not likely she would be allowed to compete, she said she was told, unless her naturalization interview was scheduled before the trials.

“Hope started to fade at that point,” she said, “and I started to prepare myself for the idea that I would not be at the trials.”

Imagine training your heart out for a dream race that might not happen. On Saturday morning, Roman-Duval, physically able but mentally exhausted from all of the uncertainty, set out for her last long run still wondering if it was all for naught. That afternoon, though, she went to the mailbox one more time and found her answer. It was none other than a letter from U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) containing the good word that his staff had successfully expedited her naturalization interview.

The interview will happen this Friday, eight days before the trials. Thus, on Friday, Roman-Duval expects to both gain her citizenship and, at the very least, could present impending proof of citizenship to USATF. With that, early this week, Roman-Duval heard from USATF’s Jim Estes that she was in.

Roman-Duval has resided in the United States since 2006. She and her husband, who is a U.S. citizen, have three children, and as an astrophysicist, Roman-Duval is part of a team that contributes to the success of the Hubble Space Telescope. A triathlete who did not run in high school or college, she achieved solid marathon results off running just 12 miles a week. Based on that, her Howard County Striders teammates convinced her to gradually increase her mileage and intensity so she could take a shot at the trials standard.

“I still can’t believe it,” she said. “It has been such a long and hard struggle to make this dream come true before the deadline,” from trimming 20 minutes off her marathon personal best to finally gaining eligibility.

“My family” — including her husband, Miguel Roman — “is very excited and proud,” she said. When she told her youngest children, 3 and 4, about the news, they “listened, nodded, and moved on with their activities.” Her oldest, who is six, is anxious knowing she will be away from home for a few days, but has nonetheless been sharing the news at school.

Her Striders teammates are relieved too.

“Julia is a fantastic runner,” said masters runner Mick Slonaker. “She trained very smartly to get her trials qualifying time. We are very happy for her and proud of her.”

In 2000, McLean resident and fellow native of France Philipe Rolly was not as lucky. As a permanent resident, he was forced to sit out of that year’s trials and never ran the standard again.

But Roman-Duval will get her shot, and though she is not sure if another miracle is on the horizon, she is ready, for now, to relax and enjoy the taper. “I am also starting to think about the future,” she said, “and how this milestone will help me take my running to the next level.”

The Baltimore running scene will also be represented by Andy Weaver and former resident Christine Ramsey.

 

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Ten locals to race in U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

For running fans, the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are like a cult classic on a four-year loop. Every time the races are upon us, it feels as if we just saw the last ones yesterday. We again wonder: who will break through to the Olympics, who could surprise us, and who among our local running scene will be there.

Photo: Dustin Whitlow/ DWhit Photography
Chris Kwiatkowski, Emily Potter, Tyler Andrews, Susanna Sullivan, Carlos Jamieson, Teal Burrell, Kieran O’Connor. All photos: Dustin Whitlow/ DWhit Photography

 

Meanwhile, outside the circle of hardcore running fans, there is some confusion about what the marathon trials even are. We saw this in 2003. Alexandria’s Heather Hanscom won the Marine Corps Marathon, her debut, fast enough to qualify for the trials and was interviewed by Andrea Koppell on CNN. Koppell asked if Hanscom’s goal had been to make the Olympic team; Hanscom explained she had only qualified for the trials; and Koppell ended the segment by wishing Hanscom luck … in the 2004 Olympics.

Follow the race

The race will be broadcast at 1 p.m. eastern on NBC and will stream on NBC Sports Live Extra, Saturday Feb. 13. You can download the app here.

The men’s race will begin at 1:06 and the women will start at 1:22.

RunWashington will be at the race posting updates about local athletes to Facebook and Twitter (@RunWashington) and Instagram (also@RunWashington)

So, what are the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, exactly?

The trials — first contested by men in 1968 and by women in 1984 – are both the inspiration and culmination of dreams. There is no qualifying race for the Olympics in which the door is open wider to amateur athletes. They just have to climb a mountain to go through it.

To qualify for the 2016 marathon trials in Los Angeles, men had to run a marathon faster than 2:19 or a half marathon faster than 1:05, while women had to go under either 2:45 or 1:15. (In December, both marathon standards were softened slightly — by a minute for men, two minutes for women — but they are still tougher than they have been historically.)

For D.C. runner Jim Hage, the marathon trials was a force that pushed him to go all in. Before his second trials, in 1992, he quit his job to train full time and went on to finish inside the top 10. His eighth place finish in fact matched his prediction for himself in a prerace trials pool with friends — “but that was based on a best-case scenario,” he says, “and I was ecstatic with the finish.”

For Landover legend Darrell General, the trials fueled consistency. He is among a rare few to run in five trials.

And for Hanscom, a physician assistant in Arlington, the trials was an opportunity to put her best fitness on the line and see where it would take her. Coached by Matt Centrowitz, the 2004 race was only her second marathon, and she knew it would be much dfferent than her first, which she won by more than 20 minutes.

As she steeled herself for the next challenge of going toe to toe with the nation’s best, Hanscom’s mantra became: “to be able to walk away from a race, or any experience, and know that I did my best.” She remembers seeing her family members and friends who traveled to St. Louis to support her. She remembers feeling the whole time like she would “implode” and the way everything hurt, especially her blistering feet. And as she crossed the line, and as her sixth place, 2:31:53 performance — a seven-minute personal best — came into focus, Hanscom could see that “anything was possible” and, almost immediately, started looking towards the future.

The marathon trials, seen from a national perspective, trace the history of modern road racing: boom after boom after boom. And as we head into the 2016 trials, in Los Angeles, and look at this from a local perspective, we can see our own boom: our running scene has never had more representation.

By our count, ten athletes residing in either D.C. or Northern Virginia will be on the starting line Feb. 13. In the Baltimore area, Andy Weaver has qualified, too.

Here are some of the storylines we’re following.

 

The contenders

IMG_1104
Maegan Krifchin, Serena Burla, Lindsay Flanagan and Yihunlish Bekele . Photo courtesy of Flanagan

In the women’s race, Shalane Flanagan is the clear favorite. But take note, we have our own Flanagan to cheer for: Lindsay, an Illinois native and recent University of Washington graduate. She moved to Silver Spring last year to join a Mizuno-sponsored training group with Maegan Krifchin and Serena Burla.

Flanagan’s 2:33:12 debut in Houston seeds her at 19th heading into the trials, but her second marathon, though slower, was even more impressive. At last summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto, Flanagan went out with the lead pack and persisted through humid, brutal conditions to earn a bronze medal in 2:36:30. An American woman had not medaled in the event in 20 years.

As of December, when we reached out to their coach, Flanagan and her training partners were out in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In a RunWashington story last fall, though, Flanagan talked about their routine when training in Silver Spring. The trio would meet for workouts at 7 a.m. and in the late afternoon, with Burla commuting in from her home in Stafford.

At the last trials in Houston, Burla, now 33, was in the mix at the front of the pack, but collapsed at 18 miles due to hypoglycemia. Burla, however, had already conquered tougher setbacks. In 2010, for instance, after finishing second at the USA Half Marathon Championships, she scheduled some tests to figure out why her hamstring was hurting. Turns out, the pain had been stemming from a malignant soft-tissue tumor that required a radical surgery. Her surgeon was concerned that Burla would never run again.

Burla not only ran again – she qualified for the marathon trials, and after dropping out, came back in her next marathon to chop her personal best down to 2:28:27. She has since chiseled her personal best down to 2:28:01, giving her the 5th seed heading into Los Angeles. In 2014, she triumphed at the USA Half Marathon Championships. And last year, a month after Flanagan’s result in Toronto, Burla finished 10th in the marathon at the world championships in Beijing.

Krifchin, too, could factor in the race to make an Olympic team. The New York native and Syracuse graduate’s marathon debut of 2:33, run last year at the Hamburg Marathon, seeds her two spots behind Lindsay Flanagan. In October, though, Krifchin, a part-time occupational therapist, also won the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in 1:09:50, giving her a faster half marathon than Burla. Even professionals often approach their debut marathon more conservatively to gain experience, and Krifchin’s was  described as a controlled effort (she ran even splits). What’s in store, then, for the 27-year-old’s second attempt at the distance in Los Angeles?

 

The dreamers

Teal Burrell
Teal Burrell

Eight years ago, at the women’s marathon trials in Boston, Teal Burrell and her sister hatched an experiment while they were watching from the sidelines. How long, they wondered, could they keep up with America’s best? When one pack came along, they took off sprinting, and just as quickly fell behind.

Some time before this, Burrell had run a marathon in 4:07 and checked the goal off her list of things to accomplish. For a few years, that was enough. But that day in Boston, Burrell was in the early stages of plotting a comeback. She recalled this memory in 2012 in launching her blog, “Miles to the Trials,” to chronicle her seemingly improbable goal to reach the marathon standard. By then, Burrell had gone from being a recreational runner to sub-3, but she was still a long way from running under 2:45.

Burrell signed off the post, as she typically does, by saying “Dream Big” – and that is exactly what she did, even at times when those dreams seemed unrealistic. Like in 2014 at the California International Marathon, when she lined up with the goal of dipping under the then-trials standards of 2:43. Had Burrell put her recent half marathon best, 1:19:28, into a race predictor calculator, the computation would have read: don’t even think about it. Instead, after running 16 miles at goal pace in practice, she pressed forward, and believed, and crossed the line in 2:42:13.

Now that moon-shot race is here, and Burrell, who is coming off a half marathon PR that still not does compute to sub 2:43, has yet again attached herself to what she describes as another unrealistic goal. Like usual, the pure marathoner is operating on a combination of confidence and fear.

potter
Emily Potter

“I’d say I’m more confident in my abilities since CIM, but I certainly still have many, many moments of self doubt. I think that’s the same it’s been in my entire progression as a runner — with every new PR I think I can keep getting faster … but I also have days when my new goals seem crazy, and it’s hard to believe I ever ran 2:42.”

Meanwhile, one of Burrell’s teammates on the Pacers Running//GRC New Balance team, Emily Potter, of Alexandria, has qualified for her third trials, but this was one was perhaps the least probable.

The 36-year-old had the will to train and get in races to advance her preparation. But Potter also had more on her plate – namely, raising two young daughters, Evelyn, 3, and Adelaide, 1. Potter, frankly, was not sure if she could find the time to train like she has in the past, and she hasn’t trained the same way. To make it work, Potter has been bringing Evelyn and Adelaide along for the ride, logging the vast majority of her miles while pushing them in a jogging stroller

In August, with qualifying time running out, Potter headed up to the Edmonton Marathon and covered the course in 2:42:56, just under the standard yet 18 minutes ahead of second place. She set a course record, too.

Since qualifying for the trials, Potter has been trying to make sure she at least gets to run solo for a weekly workout and long run. Otherwise, not much has changed.

“Training wise, I’m just trying to fit in as much running as my kids will tolerate. So it’s less mileage and quality work than I did before previous trials, and practically zero recovery time, but that’s life as a mom.”

 

The debutants

carlos
Carlos Jamieson

As the Jan. 17 qualifying deadline for the trials approached, runners needing the standard flocked to fast half marathons, including the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on Halloween. For those who succeeded, oftentimes the next question became: “Do I really want to run my first marathon at the trials?” Carlos Jamieson, who qualified in Philadelphia, and Chris Kwiatkowski, who notched his second sub-1:05 half marathon there, decided the timing was right.

In Philadelphia, Jamieson, 28, a physical education teacher in D.C., qualified by running a three-minute personal best, 1:04:27. The American University graduate had been making a gradual shift up to longer distances, starting with a win at the D.C. Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in March, while he was training for track races. Last spring, he ran 13:50 for 5,000 meters, a personal best.

chris k
Chris Kwiatkowski

After track season, Jamieson upped his mileage and lengthened his intervals to gain the strength he needed for longer races. But even after qualifying, Jamieson says he had his doubts about whether it was wise to make his marathon debut in such a high stakes, competitive race.

To gain clarity the self-coached Jamieson consulted with his “advisors.” College teammate Dustin Emrani, a half-miler and member of Israel’s Olympic team, told him: if he was going to do it, make it count. Colin Eustis, who has the school record in the indoor 5,000, urged him to take advantage of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So Jamieson again increased his mileage— he’s up as high as 105 miles per week, all in single runs. He says his goal is “to compete to the best of my ability” and meet what he describes as an “ambitious goal.”

Kwiatkowski, an American University assistant coach, competed for the University of Oregon but was limited by a series of injuries. Since settling in Arlington, though, Kwiatkowski has established himself as the top runner in the area, most notably with his fourth place, 48:17 finish at the Army Ten- Miler in 2013. Kwiatkowski says his decision to make the leap up in distance came down to wanting to take advantage of a great opportunity. “I had a small debate about whether to run or not, but I decided pretty quickly to compete. You only get the opportunity every four years, and I felt like it would be a shame not to compete.”

Over the holidays, Kwiatkowski, coached by Matt Centrowitz, returned to his hometown in Bellingham, Wash., maintaining weekly mileage north of 100 miles. “I’ve been feeling good. … I am definitely a little scared of the marathon distance, but I have been approaching it the same as any race: preparing the best I can to get to the starting line healthy and excited to compete,” he says.

 

The rising star

RunWashington_OTQ_Web-40
Susanna Sullivan

You may recognize me

Some runners with local connections will racing in L.A.
Sara Bard
former Leesburg resident and
Capital Area Runners member
Anna Corrigan
Lake Braddock High School
Ricky Flynn
Damascus High School
Everett Hackett
George Mason University
Mark Leininger
American University
Matt Llano
Broadneck High School
Christine Ramsey
former Baltimore resident who raced here often
Julia Roman-Duval
Columbia resident with an interesting story
Katie Sheedy
former D.C. resident and Capital Area Runners member
Andy Weaver
Baltimore resident who won the 2015 Parks Half Marathon
Hiruni Wijayaratne
Herndon High School

Like Kwiatkowski, Susanna Sullivan was a strong prep runner whose progress in college was slowed by injuries. Sullivan, of Falls Church, ran at George Mason High School and continued at Notre Dame, but has seen her best success on the local roads and at major races around the country. She trains with Capital Area Runners.

Sullivan’s stock shot up in 2014 with a fourth place finish in the national 10 mile championships (none other than the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run) and a nation-leading 26:51 at the St. Patrick’s Day 8k. A month out from the trials, Sullivan, not yet in taper mode, lowered her half marathon personal best to 1:12:56.

The ride hasn’t always been smooth. Sullivan, roughly a year ago, did experience some of her first injuries since college. But the 25-year-old school teacher bided her time, completing tough pool workouts and shifting her marathon debut to last year’s Grandma’s Marathon in June.

Her goal was to achieve the trials “A” standard time of sub-2:37, for which athletes get their race expenses covered, and Sullivan says she was surprised by how controlled the pace felt in running 2:35:37. “I was hesitant to make any moves or press too much because I was just focused on finishing. I wanted to get to the finish line with something still in the tank so that I could be excited to really race my next marathon.”

 

The hard training

tyler
Tyler Andrews

Our trials qualifiers did not get a respite from training during the holiday season. Instead of happy hours and cookies and leisurely mornings, they turned to grueling workouts and two-a-days.

On Christmas morning, Tyler Andrews woke up early and set forth on one of his staple marathon workouts: a continuous effort covering the full marathon distance. He did seven 5k reps at goal marathon pace separated by 1k intervals at a more moderate pace (around 6:00 per mile). The total workout gave the 25-year-old Alexandria resident a full marathon in 2:18, only two minutes slower than his personal best.

There must be a thread on some running message board devoted to the pitfalls of such workouts. But for Andrews, it is clear that  workouts like these, and 160-mile training weeks, have led to a transformation: the Tufts graduate, who was never a Division III All-American, is now a 2:16 marathoner poised to go further in the trials.

“It’s all relative, and it has never been about big jumps [in training], just finding what works for me and focusing on increasing that specific stimulus from season to season and year to year,” says Andrews, who is sponsored by Hoka One One and works for Strive  Trips, which organizes student service trips. On one hand, Andrews represents a sea change in marathon training, a new generation of marathoners inspired by new, more intense, more hyper-specific training methods espoused by coaches like Renato Canova.

But perhaps it’s simpler than that. Perhaps it goes back to the dream. Consider Kieran O’Connor, who probably doesn’t know who Canova is.

rube
Kieran O’Connor

A couple summers ago, he showed up to a Pacers Running//GRC New Balance practice having dabbled in running in high school and having skipped collegiate competition. He had picked running back up after college and, unbelievably, was the 8th American at the brutally hot 2012 Boston Marathon. Except O’Connor had then spent a brutally hot year in Egypt, for graduate school. And there he was, new in town, doing a track workout in basketball shorts and training shoes.

It soon became clear that O’Connor only had one pair of real running shorts. Prior to joining the club, he raced shirtless. At the Leesburg 20k, he had to be shown how to look up his race bib number and then got caught in the bathroom line. His teammates still do call him “the rube.”

But with each race, and each workout, O’Connor crept closer and closer to where he was before Egypt. Then he surpassed that level, and surpassed more levels. After lowering his marathon personal best to 2:20 at Grandma’s in June, O’Connor finished a bit behind Jamieson in Philadelphia to punch his ticket to the trials. One Saturday morning at the track recently, O’Connor set out on a 10-mile tempo with the goal of going under 50 minutes, his teammates flowing in out and out — two laps, three laps, a mile, as far as they could go. O’Connor was rolling.

And it was all part of the plan. “Even when I was a 2:30 marathoner, I was pretty sure that I could get to the trials, which, I don’t  now, maybe that’s crazy,” he says. “Now that I’ve reached this level, I have the same certainty that … I can do more and get better.”

With O’Connor, and all of our qualifiers, at the trials, the bar will be set even higher. And when the gun goes off, the dream chasing will continue.


Limbo Relief for one runner

Our soon-to-be-released spring magazine notes that 10 local athletes will compete in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. It also mentions that one runner’s entry was still in limbo.

Julia Roman-Duval, 33, of Columbia, Md., had run a personal best and trials-qualifying 2:40:55 at the California International Marathon — but as we went to press, she was still waiting to hear whether or not she would be allowed to compete.

Good news: Roman-Duval is in.

Photo: Swim Bike Run Photography
Photo: Swim Bike Run Photography

The backstory is that Roman-Duval, native to France and a permanent United States resident for five years, needed one of two things to happen to compete in the trials. She either had to gain citizenship before the race or the USATF had to be satisfied that her citizenship would be granted before the Olympics in August.

At this point it looks like Roman-Duval will have both scenarios working in her favor, though it was a long, tense ride to get there. She had applied for citizenship in July and, through her own homework, determined that the United States Citizenship and Services’ office in Baltimore would not process her application until March. Too late.

Next she turned to the USATF. But as of last week, no decision had been made, and Roman-Duval said that a USATF staff member had cautioned her not to get her hopes up. It was not likely she would be allowed to compete, she said she was told, unless her naturalization interview was scheduled before the trials.

“Hope started to fade at that point,” she said, “and I started to prepare myself for the idea that I would not be at the trials.”

Imagine training your heart out for a dream race that might not happen. On Saturday morning, Roman-Duval, physically able but mentally exhausted from all of the uncertainty, set out for her last long run still wondering if it was all for naught. That afternoon, though, she went to the mailbox one more time and found her answer. It was none other than a letter from U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) containing the good word that his staff had successfully expedited her naturalization interview.

The interview will happen this Friday, eight days before the trials. Thus, on Friday, Roman-Duval expects to both gain her citizenship and, at the very least, could present impending proof of citizenship to USATF. With that, early this week, Roman-Duval heard from USATF’s Jim Estes that she was in.

Roman-Duval has resided in the United States since 2006. She and her husband, who is a U.S. citizen, have three children, and as an astrophysicist, Roman-Duval is part of a team that contributes to the success of the Hubble Space Telescope. A triathlete who did not run in high school or college, she achieved solid marathon results off running just 12 miles a week. Based on that, her Howard County Striders teammates convinced her to gradually increase her mileage and intensity so she could take a shot at the trials standard.

“I still can’t believe it,” she said. “It has been such a long and hard struggle to make this dream come true before the deadline,” from trimming 20 minutes off her marathon personal best to finally gaining eligibility.

“My family” — including her husband, Miguel Roman — “is very excited and proud,” she said. When she told her youngest children, 3 and 4, about the news, they “listened, nodded, and moved on with their activities.” Her oldest, who is six, is anxious knowing she will be away from home for a few days, but has nonetheless been sharing the news at school.

Her Striders teammates are relieved too.

“Julia is a fantastic runner,” said masters runner Mick Slonaker. “She trained very smartly to get her trials qualifying time. We are very happy for her and proud of her.”

In 2000, McLean resident and fellow native of France Philipe Rolly was not as lucky. As a permanent resident, he was forced to sit out of that year’s trials and never ran the standard again.

But Roman-Duval will get her shot, and though she is not sure if another miracle is on the horizon, she is ready, for now, to relax and enjoy the taper. “I am also starting to think about the future,” she said, “and how this milestone will help me take my running to the next level.”

This story appears in the Spring 2016 issue of RunWashington.

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Matt Deters’ Plan

In the months leading up to 2015’s Fall marathons, RunWashington will follow several local runners as they prepare for their races. We’ll chart their progress as they train their legs, lungs and minds for the challenges they’ll race on race day. Each week, we’ll catch up with our runners and see how they’re doing. Matt Deters is training for the Philadelphia Marathon. Read more about him here and here.

Matt Deters. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/D.Whit Photograpy
Matt Deters. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/D.Whit Photograpy

After a summer colored by training ups and downs, including nagging pains, a lingering bug, and the ongoing battle with Washington weather, Matt Deters, who performs better at cooler temps and lower dew points, is really starting to feel like he’s found his footing.

Deters still doesn’t like the heat, but after a long summer, he’s functioning better in it.  He’s upping his game when it comes to hydration and continuing his commitment to injury prevention.  Now that he’s into the meat of marathon training, all the little things are coming together.

Much of Deters’ daily and weekly routines center around running, but he likes it that way. “It’s very rigid, each day is similar,” he said.” That’s actually important to marathon training.  Certain people like that.  I find that really centers my life.

When he thinks about it, running takes up about three hours out of his day, or 20-30 hours per week.  His training involves miles, miles, and more miles.  Last year, running 100 miles in a week was a goal for Deters, now he is doing that as part of his regular training regimen.

The training cycle Deters and his teammates are following is the same one he was doing going into last year’s Glass City Marathon – a great race that almost was.  In fact, after putting up an exceptional half marathon performance of 1:09:45 at Shamrock, Deters had two races cut short – Cherry Blossom, cut short after a motorcycle crash, and Glass City, which was cut off for Deters by poor course management.

Deters is hoping to set a ten mile PR at the Army Ten-Miler and is hoping to match his performance at last year’s Shamrock Half in the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon.  He has started looking at the qualification times for the U.S. Half Marathon Championships, which, at 1:08, is a jump, but not impossible by any means.

Deters’ training plan was devised by Capital Area Runners coach George Buckheit, whose coaching philosophy, honed over 35 years of coaching marathoners, involves doing many hard long run workouts reaching marathon pace.  To counterbalance, the plan also involves a lot of running slow in between hard workouts. In the two week training cycle Deters and his teammates follow, they get five hard workouts in.  These include the long progression runs reaching marathon pace as well as tempo and track runs. But the rest of the runs, the miles Deters puts in largely on his commute to work, are supposed to be done easy.  To Deters this means a per-mile pace of between 7:00 and 8:00.

His coach explains it this way – “a lot of marathoners think they have to be out there bashing it every day, but with five days hitting it hard, the rest of the time is easy recovery stuff,” Buckheit said.  Deters takes this to heart.  “A lot of guys who are very competitive ignore that.  He buys in.”

Buckheit’s training regimen involves running long runs with significant portions at marathon pace.  Progression runs serve multiple purposes – runners have to hold themselves back at the beginning, a challenge to any level and pace of runner, and a crucial skill for maximum velocity racers like Deters and his cohort.

Progression runs also teach runners what it feels like to be at high miles on tired legs at marathon pace.  Reaching peak marathon pace at mile 14 of a 21 mile run is a good way to get a feel of what’s coming on race day.  Deters has the advantage of having done a very similar training cycle before, and he can feel a slight edge this time around.  “My last run I averaged 5:38 for the last seven miles.  The same effort last spring was in the 5:40s.”

In addition to closely following the training model of his coach, Deters works on his form consistently.  He has gleaned some useful knowledge from the concepts of chi running.  “By keeping my pelvis rotated, my back aligned correctly, and my center of gravity where it needs to be, I feel like I can really enjoy my running.”  In addition to that, he strengthens his neuromuscular system by working high knees, butt kicks, and other drills to hone his form.

The unexciting things seem to be paying off well for Deters.  Running slow on his easy days. Turning in early on weeknights and getting eight hours of sleep.  Eating his vegetables.  Hydrating.  Foam rolling.  He’s reached the point in training where he’s “tired, eating all the time, running out of time to do things, but you still feel good,” Deters said.

His performance at the Navy-Air Force Half will be interesting to keep an eye on.  “I think he’s very ready.  If we get good weather he could be somewhere around 1:08ish,” Buckheit said.

In terms of Philly, Deters says his “B” goal is to break 2:30.  Since he doesn’t know what that pace feels like after mile 21, he thinks he can do it but hasn’t had the chance to yet.  “Deep down I feel like I could do 2:26.  But, I could also break my ankle or get hit by a truck.  You just gotta roll with the punches,” Deters said, leaving the door open, as his recent racing history has taught him, for any eventuality.

Buckheit hesitates to make a firm time prediction for Deters due to the unpredictability of the marathon, but think Deters performance will be “at a bare minimum, under 2:30, if everything aligns – 2:25,” Buckheit said.

When asked if the Glass City fiasco is likely to impact Deters’ performance, his coach echoed what teammates have said, “he took it better than I would’ve,” and went on to say that its only adding to his drive, “he’s right back where he was, training wise.  It didn’t piss him off, it made him hungrier,” Buckheit said.

With a half marathon and a ten miler coming up before his marathon performance just like last spring, Deters will have ample opportunity to gage his progress from last season, and then he’s got a typically cold, big city race with big city course marshals and markings to get him to the finish line.

Buckheit thinks Deters will be good to go as long as he makes it to the start. “He’s a tough guy,” he said. “I hope everything comes together for him and we get him to Philly in one piece.”

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An Untimely Hiatus

In the months leading up to 2015’s Fall marathons, RunWashington will follow several local runners as they prepare for their races. We’ll chart their progress as they train their legs, lungs and minds for the challenges they’ll race on race day. Each week, we’ll catch up with our runners and see how they’re doing. Meghan Ridgley of Reston, Va., planned to run the Philadelphia Marathon, but has been forced to take the season off. Read the first article about Meghan Ridgley here and the second here.

Meghan Ridgley lives vicariously through the runners she coaches until she can, herself, run again. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/D. Whit Photography
Meghan Ridgley lives vicariously through the runners she coaches until she can, herself, run again. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/D. Whit Photography

Meghan Ridgley has a lot more time on her hands now that she’s out with a stress fracture and a torn labrum.  Still immersed in running through her work at the Potomac River Runners store and as a coach, she insists that she’s ok being around people who are still able to get out and go running.  It was actually harder when her ankle was injured because she technically could still run.

“It’s a little hard, but it’s easier to watch people run this time because if I try to run my leg will stop and I will literally fall on my face, so the decision is kind of made for me,” Ridgley said.  Instead of wishing she could run, she gets a little secondhand joy from those who can. “I just try to live vicariously through my customers and the people I train.  A lot of people are doing the Army Ten-Miler and Marine Corps, I’ll absolutely be cheering them on and that’s gonna be the best,” she said.

Ridgley’s insisting on keeping her outlook positive by focusing on the side benefits of her setback.  For the runners she coaches “it’s an opportunity to show people that injuries happen, and that you have to let them heal.  Especially for a new runner, they get that injury and they think their life is over,” Ridgely said, joking that the people she coaches will say to themselves: “I don’t want to end up like Meghan so I’ll definitely take some time off.”

Long-time friend and fellow coach Jodi Rakoff has a firsthand insight into how Ridgely is dealing with being sidelined, because both happen to be convalescing from injuries.  They support each other by catching up on the couch instead of running together.  Ridgely has been there for her and is “definitely taking it in stride even though not exercising is really, really hard,” Rakoff said.  She sees her friend Ridgely channel the energy she isn’t using for training to support the runners she coaches and use her injury as a teaching tool.

While Ridgely definitely has let close friends in when she’s feeling the loss of something that she loves and that has always been a central aspect of her life, she’s relieved that overall, “people have commented at how upbeat and enthusiastic I am.”

Ridgely hasn’t gone this long without running since she started running.  Even when she was pregnant, even when she took time off from racing, even when she injured her foot.  “This is the least amount of physical activity I’ve had.  It’s difficult to deal with.  I didn’t realize how much of my day involved movement.  Fortunately I have a physical job,” Ridgely said.  But gone are the daily routines of quick core sets, triceps dips, foam rolls, and pushups in between tasks, tricks the busy mom has honed to keep herself at peak fitness while still doing everything else.

In the place of the time she spent training, she’s sleeping in, and getting to spend more time with daughter Miranda who’s starting third grade this year.  She’s cooking more, and has time to do things like drop a plate of cookies off for a friend who’s had surgery.

The extra time with her daughter is definitely the central focus of her decision to look on the bright side.  With back to school and a birthday party to prepare for, they’ve been busy together.  Miranda reminds Ridgely to wear her brace whenever she has to leave the house and asks about the pain.

As far as recovery and racing goes, Ridgely is playing the waiting game.  She’s due soon for her six week check-in with the surgeon, where an assessment of the torn labrum and stress fracture will decide what her running future holds.  “Because the stress fracture doesn’t feel remotely healed, in my non-medical opinion, I feel like I’m not going to run this year,” Ridgely said.  If the labrum requires surgical repair, she’ll have at least 12 weeks of convalescence.

“I’m anxious for the next step, I’m in the holding patter now,” said Ridgely.

Ridgely had already seen a step back from competitive level racing in her future due to an ankle injury she had orthoscopic surgery on and which will require another operation sometime in the next few years.  She is ready to accept that this injury may force her to stop running at the level she’s been at, but isn’t yet taking it as a done deal.

“It’s a different mindset.  I’m in the phase of I may need to reevaluate – I want to just be able to run, if that means I don’t get to run super-fast or super-far again, that’s fine – as a result of this, I’m going to be less disappointed,” Ridgely said.  “But,” she added, “it’s extra rest for my ankle, that could be what I needed as well.”

Rakoff agrees that the rest is good for Ridgley’s ankle, “it looks like an ankle now.  Before we called it the ‘schmankle,’ it was really inflamed,” Rakoff said.

Hoping that your current injury is good for your previous one is the epitome of looking on the bright side.  Ridgely is taking the determination she’s used in her training to cultivate her attitude of looking for the good in a situation she didn’t choose.  She doesn’t seem to be forcing it at all, rather she gives the impression that whatever comes her way, she’s going to do it the best she can.  Even being injured.

Once she’s healed up, she’s planning on a fall marathon in 2016.   She figures she’ll take it easy over the winter and then try out some summer races to see where she stands.  Without hesitation, when asked about Ridgely’s prospects, her friend and training partner replies “I think she’s gonna crush it 2016.  I think she’ll use this to fuel the flame for next year,” Rakoff said.

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Attitude is Everything

In the months leading up to 2015’s Fall marathons, RunWashington is following several local runners as they prepare for their races. We’ll chart their progress as they train their legs, lungs and minds for the challenges they’ll race on race day. Each week, we’ll catch up with our runners and see how they’re doing. This is the third story about Joe Divel, read the first and second.


 

Joe Divel. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/D.Whit Photography
Joe Divel. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/D.Whit Photography

Joe Divel is applying patience and consistency as he puts one foot in front of the other in pursuit of his goal to finish the Marine Corps Marathon on October.  He’s had to make some small adjustments in stride since he started training in May, but he’s remained on the course, faithful to the plan and his training group, the First Time Marathoners program offered by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club. Along the way he has passed a few very significant milestones.  He has logged more than 500 miles, an idea he found completely daunting at the start of his training. He has completed a 20 mile run.  And, like many marathoners, he recently met “The Wall.”

“It was the perfect storm. I didn’t hydrate the week before like I should have.  Saturday night, we went to a different restaurant, and I didn’t eat properly.  I got really thirsty on the run but didn’t fuel up,” Divel said, as he tried to parse out the reason for unraveling in his last miles.

He was also experiencing knee pain at the time, and had to walk much of the last three miles.  He’s quick to point out, though, that despite Joe’s efforts to shoo him off ahead, pace coach Serey stuck with him until the end.  Divel’s takeaway from his first encounter with the wall? “It was a learning experience for this novice runner.  I’m gonna bring seven Gus with me on race day,” Divel said, not counting on the aid stations to have fuel for him.

To find out what he could do about his knee pain, he also went to RnJ Sports in Rockville to get his shoes checked, and a stride analysis showed that he was swinging one leg out when he ran.  He’s been paying close attention to form at FTM’s Wednesday track workouts and his knee is already feeling better.

It’s paying off.

“He’s very aware of his running form.  That’s part of the battle, being more mindful,” said FTM coach Glenda Garcia.

She knew that Divel had been held up by knee pain the last few runs but sees him coming back from it.

“He’s on the road to recovery,” she said.  She believes that patience will pay off.  She’s seen a lot of first time marathoner’s panic about hitting their training miles, to the detriment of listening to warning signs that injury was approaching.  “I think he’ll be careful and if he starts to have issues, he’s smart, he’ll hold back,” she said of Divel, “he takes advice and follows it.”

Many who undertake marathon training with weight loss hopes find that their post-long run appetite outweighs the calories burned in the output.  But Divel, who’s keeping off the 70 pounds he lost, an endeavor which began at the start of 2014, has found that he is making healthier choices.  “I’ll grab a banana instead of a candy bar now,” said Joe.

The FTM training program is in their sharpening phase now.  Joe’s weekly mileage is climbing with his long runs and the group does speedwork on the track on Wednesdays.  In repeats, he’s pushing the pace up to two minutes faster than his long run pace and he’s seeing results.  He feels himself building up strength and has found an unexpected side effect – “track work is a lot nice than I thought it would be,” he said.

That kind of outlook makes Divel an asset to his 12:00 minute mile pace group.  Initially one of the few men in the slow but steady crew, as members find their comfort zone the pace group has grown and is more varied in gender.

“He stays positive, he continues to be one of the core regulars,” Garcia said.

Even on the run where he hit the wall and was nursing a sore knee, he was encouraging the other straggler in the group to finish. Garcia appreciates Joe’s unflagging goodwill and dedicated consistency.

Divel is excited for the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon, but as he looks ahead, his feelings are mixed.  He’s gotten so attached to his running group that he knows completion of his goal will be bittersweet.  He’s going to miss the camaraderie of the group. Though ‘repeat offenders’  – FTM has many runners who have run marathons before – have assured him that groups get together throughout the year, still he knows it won’t be quite the same.  Divel has fallen in love with running – not just the act of it, but the people involved in it and the sense of belonging it lends.

“The whole team, the whole running community, it’s just behind you I feel,” Divel said.

Part of him is already looking forward to next fall and doing it all over again.  He’s even considered becoming a pace group coach as a way to contribute to the sport and group he’s come to love.

“I’ve gotten more out of this than I could ever give back to it, so giving back is something I’d like to do,” he said.

One silver lining he does acknowledge will come from no longer being in training – getting his Sundays back.  He’s made the most of Saturdays while in training,

“I have a very understanding and supportive wife,” Divel said, and they make sure to do something together on Saturday.  Church has gotten moved from Sunday morning to Saturday night, and weekday runs get done in the early morning hours.  It’s a serious time commitment, he allows, but he hasn’t had to sacrifice much, except “my lawn maybe. I figured I’m not gonna water it so I don’t have to cut it.”

Joe Divel may not mow his lawn, but he certainly shows up for long runs.  And that’s going to have to pay off for him in late October.

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