Jilanne Doom's expression is one of hope and joy as she approaches the turn to the five mile mark. The Washington, D.C. resident finished in 3:19:12. Photo: Charlie Ban
Jilanne Doom’s expression is one of hope and joy as she approaches the turn to the five mile mark. The Washington, D.C. resident finished in 3:19:12. Photo: Charlie Ban

While many loved the scenic course, crowd support, and near perfect weather, runners at Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon universally raved about one thing: Marine volunteers who motivated them to cross the finish line.

“The Marines are amazing,” said Addie Thompson, a 24-year-old D.C. resident. “It’s really cool to see them supporting on the sidelines and everyone is so kind at this race, I’ve never experienced a race crew that was just to kind and helpful and supportive.”

[button-red url=”http://www.marinemarathon.com/Results/MCM_Results.htm” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]Thompson, who finished in under four hours, works out with November Project D.C., a group that promotes free fitness with workouts – including running the Lincoln monument stairs – all before the sun comes up. She credits her training with the group, and support from fellow group members along the course, for the improvement over her 2013 time at the race.

“I personally had a much better race,” she said. “Honestly NP has done so much for my training and the crowd, people were just planted all over and incredibly supportive. We have a really tight crew.”

Megan Clark, 34, also really thrived on the energy from those on the sidelines, saying the support from the crowd is what helped her hit her time goal at her first marathon.

“It was good, it was tough, but I think it went really well. It felt good on energy from the people,” she said. “Wonderful crowd support.”

The D.C. resident had hoped to finish in under 3:45, and ended up crossing the finish line in 3:42. While many spoke about the beautiful course passing by historic monuments, Clark said her favorite part of the course was getting Dunkin Donuts munchkins at mile 24.

While her first race was a success, Clark wasn’t sure if there’ll be another 26.2 in her future immediately after finishing.

“It’s too soon to ask. Everybody says wait until later today. Right now everything hurts.”

Whittney Hollingsworth, 50, struggled with hills at the start, saying that while she expected some hills, she wasn’t prepared enough for elevation changes at the beginning.

“I hurt from the beginning,” she said. “It wasn’t the time I was shooting for, but there was no disappointment in the time at all. I was just glad to get to that finish line.”

The 7-time marathoner from Elkmont, Ala., had a three-marathon bucket list: the New York Marathon, the Boston Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. With Sunday’s finish, she finally has completed all three and said each exceeded her expectations. Her family, who waited for her at the finish line, said the Marine Corps was the best for spectators, and Hollingsworth commented on the helpful volunteers, saying that “the Marines were wonderful.”

Paula Dubovoy, 23, broke four hours at her second marathon, where she ran for World Vision, a nonprofit that raises money to build wells for those who may not have access to clean water.

“What I love about them is they motivate people here to stay in shape and to achieve something that someone may think they would never be able to do but then there’s a greater purpose behind it as well,” the Westborough, Mass.-resident said.

Her favorite part of the course was the Marine volunteers at water stops and along the course cheering her on, while she could thank them for their service as well.

“It was just really neat seeing all the Marines and them cheering for us and thanking us and then being able to thank them as well. It’s just a cool thing, they’re thanking us and we’re thanking them,” she said.

Darjush Boushehri expected a mediocre performance, as his marathon training took a back seat to his final semester finishing up his J.D. at George Washington University. Despite that, the 33-year-old Greenbelt resident was happy with his performance at his second Marine Corps Marathon.

“My training had gone really downhill with grad school for the last month and a half, so I just decided I would stick with one of the pacing groups, 3:25. It was a hope and a dream and I came in at 3:26. That is my personal best by 22 minutes on this course,” he said. “So surprisingly well.”

He first ran the race in 2011 and came back because of the great organization and scenic course that winds by the Kennedy Center, one of his favorite parts of the course.

“It’s extremely well put together,” he said. “It’s great how it’s fairly flat overall. It has a little bit of hills to give you a little change, and seeing all the monuments of course.”

Boushehri ran Sunday for Teens Run D.C., a running group that pairs inner city kids who are interested in running any race distance with an adult mentor.

“It helps to keep them accountable, keep them in shape and give them something else to do,” he said.

He doesn’t any other races coming up before he graduates in December, but is working toward the Shamrock Whale Challenge in March, where he plans to run a 5 miler and a marathon on consecutive days, and will compete at Ironman Cozumel later in 2015.

David Rehm, of Fayetteville, Ga. bears down on the challenging 21 miles ahead as he nears the five mile mark. He finished in 3:59:01. Photo: Charlie Ban
David Rehm, of Fayetteville, Ga. bears down on the challenging 21 miles ahead as he nears the five mile mark. He finished in 3:59:01. Photo: Charlie Ban
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Marine Corps Marathon winner Samuel Kosgei nearing the 17 mile mark in second place. Photo: Charlie Ban
Marine Corps Marathon winner Army Spc.  Samuel Kosgei nearing the 17 mile mark in second place. Photo: Charlie Ban

Amid the museums that line the National Mall, Spc. Samuel Kosgei and Capt. Meghan Curran carved out their place in history when they both took leads in the Marine Corps Marathon that they would hold to the finish. Along the way, they both led their respective U.S. Army teams to military marathon team championships.

[button-red url=”http://www.marinemarathon.com/Results/MCM_Results.htm” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]Both races featured strong leads by front runners in the first half. Getachew Asfaw and Colleen Little tried to run away with the race. Little faded after the half and six women were within 70 seconds at mile 17. Curran passed Little in mile 18 but soon found herself facing a daunting 20th and 21st miles crossing the 14th Street Bridge into Crystal City. Little went on to finish in 27th in 3:10:13.

But help arrived, she said. “A group of Marine Corps team runners told me to tuck in with them and they helped me get over the bridge,” where winds out of the north were starting to wreck havoc with the last segment of many runners’ races.

“The last few miles were really hard, because it was new it me, it was windy, but knowing I was on a team helped me push myself,” she said. “I was just taking it one mile at a timer after 20.”

She grew up in Chelmsford, Mass. And ran cross country and track at West Point, but said she has, comparatively, taken her running in a more recreational perspective as she’s settled into her job as a field artillery officer at Fort Dix in Moorestown, N.J. At 28, she, in a way, sprinted to her first marathon. After running the Army Ten-Miler two weeks prior, she caught the eye of Lt. Col. Liam Collins, the All-Army team captain, who had a few places on the roster to fill at Marine Corps. Collins ran 2:40:50.

“I knew she was a great runner, but I didn’t know she wanted to do a marathon,” he said. “Once I learned that, it was an easy decision to put her on the team. I told her the key thing was to be patient early on, don’t run too hard on the first 10 miles. There’s plenty of time to catch people when they fall apart.”

“I had been planning to do a marathon at some point, but I wasn’t planning for it to be this soon,” she said. “Col. Collins came up to me after Army and said ‘want to run a marathon in two weeks?’ It moved things up a little.”

Her longest run to that point had been 20 miles, and she admittedly had difficulties fueling.  More of her last gel wound up on her leg than in her mouth.

“I was having a little trouble with my stomach, so I tried to take it a little at a time,” she said.

Kosgei emerged from Hains Point ready to make his move to catch Asfaw. Gutting into the lead with two 4:52 miles at 15 and 16, he was ready to take his shot.

“Our strategy was to win as a team, and we were going to do that by staying conservative early,” he said. “But we knew the fast guy would burn out, but we didn’t’ want to let him get too far ahead.”

Collins saw the race develop as he ran up Rock Creek Parkway as the leaders headed back south.

“I saw the leader so far ahead, but I was confident, I knew we were where we wanted to be,” he said. “They would catch him.”

Asfaw appears to have not finished the race.

A native of Uganda, Kosgei, 30, is stationed at Fort Riley in Junction City, Kan. where he is a medic. He has run the Twin Cities (where he set his 2:17:17 PR) and Houston marathons and ran track and cross country  at Lamar University, where he was a two-time All-American.

“It’s a hard course, but a marathon is a marathon,” he said of Marine Corps. “If it’s flat you still feel it. My legs were heavy, the win was too much, but I knew I had to stay focused. The last mile wouldn’t kill me.”

He hopes to compete in the World Military Games in South Korea. In 2015.

Behind him, Army teammate SpcLaban Sialo, 31, made his marathon debut, finishing second in 2:23:48. A medic stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, he was the 2012 indoor Division II champion in the 5k while at the University of Central Missouri.

“I wanted to get on the podium, so I could win a medal,” he said. “It’s a special thing to finish second in your first marathon.”

He focused his fall training on the Army Ten-Miler, and like Curran had not done specific  marathon training, topping out at one 22-mile run.

“At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk again, but now I feel good,” he said.

Lindsay Wilkins, 36, matched her second place from her 2008 Marine Corps Marathon (2:49:06), and though she was a few minutes slower at 2:52:20, she felt it was a much better race for her. She lives in Arlington and ran track and cross country at the University of Richmond.

“In 2008 I lost by 11 seconds, so this was a lot better race,” she said. “A lot less frustrating, but it was hard at the end.”

She ran much of the race with intermittent training partner Erin Taylor, and the two moved up gradually throughout the race. The two were hoping to break 2:50, but like many runners, saw the wind blow those hopes away.

“I felt like someone was pulling me back the last four miles,” she said. “I know I said a few times, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me!’ There didn’t seem too many guys to tuck behind this year, so we were alone for a lot of it.

As was third-place woman Navy Lt. Gina Slaby, stationed in Virginia Beach, two weeks after running the Eindhoven Marathon in the Netherlands. The 33-year-old was last year’s runner up.

“It wasn’t where I wanted to be,” she said. “We got stuck in the middle of no-man’s land when the wind picked up.”

She ran with Kara Waters, of Great Falls, most of the race, and finished a second ahead of her, in 2:52:32. She’s headed to deployment in Djibouti, but is looking forward to racing a 100 miler in May or June, then the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Turner, PRed at his third Marine Corps Marathon, running 2:25:05. Not bad for a 35-year-old self-described “former obese smoker,” now stationed at Navy Base Coronado in San Diego.

“I just tried to stay patient, the leaders went out so fast. I sat back in 10th, but I knew people would start coming back to me,” he said. “They almost all did.

Arlington’s Mike Wardian was the first male master across the line, in fourth at 2:25:42 and Kristina Brendzel from Tampa led the  40+ women in 2:59:20 for eighth overall.

Army. Capt. Meghan Curran, in second place at the Marine Corps Marathon. She would go on to take the lead a mile later and hold on to win her first marathon. Photo: Charlie Ban
Army. Capt. Meghan Curran, in second place at the Marine Corps Marathon. She would go on to take the lead a mile later and hold on to win her first marathon. Photo: Charlie Ban
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Marine Corps Marathon 2014

Marine Corps Marathon winners make moves on the Mall

Marine Corps Marathon winner Samuel Kosgei nearing the 17 mile mark in second place. Photo: Charlie Ban
Marine Corps Marathon winner Samuel Kosgei nearing the 17 mile mark in second place. Photo: Charlie Ban

Amid the museums that line the National Mall, Spc. Samuel Kosgei and Capt. Meghan Curran carved out their place in history when they both took leads in the Marine Corps Marathon that they would hold to the finish. Along the way, they both led their respective U.S. Army teams to military marathon team championships. Read more

Volunteers make the day for Marine Corps Marathon runners

Jilanne Doom's expression is one of hope and joy as she approaches the turn to the five mile mark. The Washington, D.C. resident finished in 3:19:12. Photo: Charlie Ban
Jilanne Doom’s expression is one of hope and joy as she approaches the turn to the five mile mark. The Washington, D.C. resident finished in 3:19:12. Photo: Charlie Ban

While many loved the scenic course, crowd support, and near perfect weather, runners at Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon universally raved about one thing: Marine volunteers who motivated them to cross the finish line. Read more

How’d They Do?

Kelly Swain, left, runs with teammate. Photo: Charlie Ban
Kelly Swain, left, runs with teammate Sarah McGonigle. Photo: Charlie Ban

Run Washington featured six marathoners before and race and caught up with them afterward to reflect on their race experiences. Read on to learn about these runners and how they did. Read more


The Least Interesting Thing About George Banker?

He’s Running his 100th Marathon

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Local running journalist, historian, competitor, race director and ambassador of the sport George Banker has been eyeing Marine Corps for his 100th marathon for some time. Read more

2013 Coverage

Shutdown Palace

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Runners run, elected officials legislate and besides the dozens of honorary congressional chairman for the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, never the twain shall meet.

Until October 2013. The first federal government shutdown in 17 years threw the running community into uncertainty as runners were ostensibly banned from National Parks Service property and race permits for that land disintegrated, putting the region’s marquee race in doubt. Read more

Men’s MCM winner holds lead for more than 25 miles

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Wire-to-wire.

It almost has no place in any talk about a marathon, maybe only in a tall tale. The race is too long, too grueling, too open to disruption.

But Girma Bedada did it at the Marine Corps Marathon, running 2:21:31. Read more

Calway notches MCM title, Olympic Trials qualifier

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With a strong lead in the Marine Corps Marathon, Army Capt. Kelly Calway had her opportunity–run harder now or spend seven months regretting it. With an impending deployment to Kuwait waiting for her a week later, the cool day in Washington was her chance to take care of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Read more

Marine Corps midpackers find a lot to like

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Much like Girma Bedada and Kelly Calway‘s efforts, Mike Kunzer‘s race at the Marine Corps Marathon was the culmination of years of preparation and training.

But Kunzer wasn’t focused on winning the race. He was thrilled to have finished, and it showed on his ebullient face. Read more

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MCM Preview: Jenn Pellegrino

Photo: Courtesy of Jenn Pellegrino
Photo: Courtesy of Jenn Pellegrino

When Jenn Pellegrino starts the Marine Corps Marathon, her mind isn’t going to be on whether she can finish — she’s already done 24, three in the last month.

She also won’t be focusing on time. In fact, she’s making it a point not to rush through the race.

“It’s just such a special race,” she said. “You want to soak it up. I’m just going to run with some friends and have a good time.”

The Arlingtonian will be celebrating her 30th birthday, which is coming a few days after the race.

“I felt like there’s no better way to celebrate than to do what I love,” she said.

And she certainly loves running. Those 24 marathon finishes all came in the last three years, since running Marine Corps in 2011 because she was new to D.C. and “that’s what people do.”

Never mind that she was also signed up for Philadelphia, three weeks later.

“That was what started my training strategy,” she said. “If I keep running marathons, I don’t have to retrain myself to run them the next time. It sticks with me.”

In April, she did her first two-day double — the Garmin Marathon in Olathe, Kan. And the New Jersey Marathon in Long Branch. The first went well. The second…

“I wanted to get through a few miles and see how I felt,” she said. “It got worse and worse.”

She’s joined the Marathon Maniacs running confederacy and dates a follow frequent marathoner, Chuck Engle.

“I love that no matter where you go, in a huge race with thousands of people, you have this community,” she said of the Maniacs. “There are days where I’ll be talking to another Maniac during the week and by the end of the conversation I’m buying a plane ticket and registering for a race that weekend.”

That wasn’t always her.

“When I was younger, I wasn’t athletic at all,” she said. “It started later, after college, and I did the normal progression — 5k, 10k, half marathon.”

Her mom was the runner in the family, with young Jenn tagging along on her bike. But Susan Pellegrino never ran a marathon. Until last year. The two ran Marine Corps together. Mom still talks about the race.

“She called me the other day and she ‘it’s almost the one year anniversary of our marathon,’” Jenn Pellegrino said.  “She would go for 15-miles runs and then hop on the bike, so I knew she could do it.”

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To pin a label on George Banker, you’d have to get him to slow down first.

He’s a runner, an organizer, a historian, a photographer, a speaker, a joker, a mentor, a problem solver, and whatever else anyone needs him to be.

But as Oct. 26 approaches, Banker is first and foremost a marathoner. The 64-year-old will run his 30th Marine Corps Marathon, and his hundredth marathon, overall.

“Is it a passion? Yes, it is,” he said. “If you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to get it done.”

You’ve seen him: tall, a lean runner’s build, short hair, notepad in hand and camera around his neck.

George Banker, ready to run. Photo: Sara Alepin/Photos from the Harty
George Banker, ready to run. Photo: Sara Alepin/Photos from the Harty

He grew up on the Quantico Marine Corps, the son of two Marines and the stepson of another. He went on to serve 20 years as a tech sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, eight in active duty from 1969 to 1977, which included service in Vietnam. While spending 12 years in the Air National Guard based in Washington, D.C., he studied accounting at George Washington University, began working for IBM. He worked at IBM for 25 years, while raising children Ronald, Yvette and Dre with his wife, Bernadette. They’ve been married for 43 years.

Banker’s military upbringing and career shaped his outlook. “There is just a bond that the military has that is very difficult to duplicate in civilian life,” he said.

His name is synonymous with the area’s military-sponsored races. His job as operations manager for the Army Ten-Miler “pays the bills,” but he also serves as the MCM historian and in an unofficial capacity on the board of many other local D.C. races, including the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, the George Washington Parkway Classic and the Lawyers Have Heart 10k.

At other races, he works as an announcer and provides general support and troubleshooting to race directors.

Martha Merz, an elite masters runner and Navy spouse who has lived in the D.C. area on an off for the past 25 years, has known George since she began racing here after college. “He is the professional behind the scenes at so many races, getting things done and ensuring that race organizers understand runners and all the intricate details that go into a quality event,” she said.

Writing race recaps for the Rock Creek Running Club in 1984 gave him his start in running journalism and he was hooked when he saw his byline in Runner’s Gazette. For the next decade, Banker covered about 60 races per year, sometimes running in them, too. He followed the lead of Jim Hage and Steve Nearman, then developed his own style, becoming a race reporter for the masses.

“I would talk to anyone and everyone – front, middle, and back of the pack,” he said. “Every race has a soul. But it takes the right person to write about it.”

Documenting MCM’s history, from its debut back in 1976, was one of his passions.

Those Runner’s Gazettes, along with seemingly every other running artifact he has collected, are neatly filed in boxes that basically insulate the basement of his home in Fort Washington, Md.

“I’m an organized pack rat,” he said. “When I die, there’s going to be a U-Haul in the funeral procession, behind the hearse.”

Those records helped Banker assemble The Marine Corps Marathon: A Running Tradition, published in 2008.

“This book was a labor of love, an ego trip,” he said. “I wanted my name on the front cover and my picture on the back. I don’t track sales; I don’t go buy a truckload of books and park out by the Metro.”

But writing the book was important to him, for the simple reason that he is the only one with as much knowledge on the history of the “people’s marathon.”

“He is the people,” said MCM race director Rick Nealis. “I can’t think of another individual in the D.C. area who does what he does for the sport of running. And from a historian’s standpoint, he’s been invaluable.”

Nealis appreciates that Banker has been able to cross “party lines” by being a uniting force among race directors, race organizations and sponsors… even different branches of the military. “He is the definition of ‘joint,’ or purple, as we call it [in the military],” Nealis said.

His ATM duties include the role of community outreach director. He also sees himself as an advocate for runners. “I’m looking out for that runner, because no one else is going to,” he said. “I may be bumping heads with the race director on some of my decisions, but frankly speaking, that’s my job.”

He’s not shy about getting an elite runner into a race to help boost the quality of the fields. “I look at this as a way to validate everything these elite runners have been doing,” he said. “And I’m going to bring in some talent to race with them.”

But Banker also welcomes talent to races for other reasons: the great stories that emerge. He seeks to tell not just the running story, but the personal side, too. He has learned that writing about what makes runners tick, and how they balance the running, the personal, and the family side of things, is what people want to read – not just race results.

Masters ace and Potomac River Running owner Ray Pugsley, who won the masters title at the 2013 ATM, said in September that Banker was urging him to defend his title, despite recent back surgery. Pugsley had recovered, but had not quite fully regained his fitness.

“He’s relentless,” Pugsley said.

Pugsley has known Banker for 20 years. He remembers seeing George at the finish line of every race with a smile on his face, hoping to interview the finishers.

“He knew our names, he knew about us, about races we had run, about who we were,” he said. “And in turn, we started to get to know George — not just as a reporter, but as a friend.”

Throughout his many dedicated years of service to the sport, Banker has managed to keep up his own racing. Running well before dawn has always been routine, given his schedule.

His fastest marathon is a 3:04:37, run in Houston in 1988. Nowadays, Banker is happy just to finish, injury-free.

He has targeted Marine Corps for number 100 for some time, but ice on the George Washington Birthday Marathon course, which forced its cancellation in February, meant he had to improvise and run the Elkton Trail Marathon in Maryland to catch up and stay on pace. It did not go well.

“It was one of those races where I had to tell myself to stop looking at my watch,” he said. “I have some unfinished business there.”

In addition to running his hundredth marathon at MCM, he also plans to run his seventh JFK 50 Mile on November 22. He wants the sweatshirt given to runners who have finished 10 JFKs.

Banker has been “the heart and soul of military-related running in the region for decades,” said Race Director Mike Spinnler.

Banker has long been advised by Joe Lugiano of Cary, N.C.  Banker thinks of Lugiano as more than a coach, but someone who embodies what running means to him.

“He has been my coach back to IBM days and I have known him since I have been running,” Banker said. “We all have that person who knows your body and what you can do. He trains [me] by using my confidence in my abilities.”

In his own coaching, Banker takes a demanding yet realistic approach.

“I will get inside your head; I want you to make a commitment. Take a look at your schedule. How much time do you have to devote? That’s how much time you give. You need to get out of it what you want.”

Local runner Elyse Braner met Banker several years ago. “He took me under his wing and quickly became of my most important mentors and role models,” she said. “Many others can say the same of George. His commitment to volunteerism and the community is nearly unequaled.  On top of all of this, he finds the time to train for marathons and ultra-marathons. I only hope that one day I can have even a fraction of the impact on the community that George has had.”

Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World Bart Yasso first met Banker at a convention nearly three decades ago.

He described Banker as a “dear friend,” and as someone who does a “bundle of everything for the sport.” Yasso was particularly impressed, though, by Banker’s efforts to promote diversity in running.

“He had so much insight on the future of the sport … and he’s really had an impact in that way,” he said.

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I’m no expert on the Marine Corps Marathon, but after running it (almost) twice and spectating five times, I have a few insights to offer on getting around, seeing people you want to see and getting them the encouragement they need.

First off, it’s a good idea to sign up for runner tracking. Though it may not always offer instant updates, it’s a good way to keep an eye on where people are at 10k, 20k, 30k, 40k and the finish.

The Metro can help you get around, if you time it right. The system opens at 5 a.m. and there have some additional trains running on the Blue Line between Franconia-Springfield and Stadium-Armory between 5 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

That said, it’s a good idea to think about when you’ll be trying to get from, say, the Smithsonian or L’Enfant Plaza stations to Crystal City, because as fast as the Metro may move, hitting it at the wrong time could mean a runner can move two miles faster. Check out WMATA’s trip planner tool. Make sure you have enough money loaded on your SmartTrip card so you can breeze through the toll gates. And don’t overshoot your stop.

For marathon viewing novices, it can be really hard to pick people out early in the race, so give the runners a few miles to get out of the crowd and spread out.

The less crowded the sidelines, the more runners will appreciate cheers. People write their names on their shirts because they’re inviting you to cheer those names, and it helps to hear your name called in a tough race.

Here are a few nuggets I’ve picked up from my Marine Corps spectating, and racing, experience:

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MCM Preview: Kelly Swain

Kelly Swain Photo: Cheryl Young
Kelly Swain Photo: Cheryl Young

It was time, and Kelly Swain knew it.

“I was always working up to a marathon,” she said just a month before toeing the line at the Marine Corps Marathon.

The 29-year-old Burke native has been running since high school, but wanted to wait for the right moment to commit to 26.2 miles. She started running while at Lake Braddock, encouraged by her older sister’s achievements, but quickly became successful in her own right. That sister, accomplished local runner Erin Taylor, recalls “some middle school race, or high school, [Kelly] either won the mile or got second. I was like, ‘People think I’m fast? She’s gonna be way faster.”

Swain went on to run at the University of Virginia, but injuries and the pressures of collegiate running kept her from the “normal college experience” she wanted, the kind where your peers aren’t working like professional runners to maintain their scholarships. She declared herself retired.

“I just needed a break and didn’t think I really liked running any more,” she said.

She’s not alone.

“A lot of these runners come out of college programs burnt out,” said George Buckheit, Swain’s coach with Capital Area Runners. “They just feel like running isn’t fun, and I think one of the strengths of what we put together at Capital Area Runners is we’ve got a group that is very supportive.” This has been a selling point for Swain’s return; both sisters praise Buckheit and their teammates for the motivational atmosphere that sets them up for their success.

“The Ultimate Progression”

“When I came back to running three years ago, I promised myself I would not let it consume my entire life,” Swain said.

Instead of cutthroat competition, she made the choice to set time goals and encourage runners who might pass her.

“I think when I took the focus off of competing with other runners and placed it on my own ability, I started loving running once again,” she said.

Still, to her, the marathon was “the ultimate progression” in a runner’s career and her unspoken goal was to finish her first in under three hours. To get there, she spent two years rebuilding her base with CAR and the last year racing the Army Ten-Miler, the Richmond Half Marathon, and most recently, the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon. Her times show little hint of having recently come out of retirement. In fact, she won the Marine Corps 17.75k in March and placed fifth at the Navy-Air Force Half-Marathon. But she had to rebuild her confidence alongside her mileage before she considered going farther.

“I didn’t want to just do a marathon to do it,” she said. “I wanted to do a marathon to know that I was going to run well and that I was well prepared.” Doing well, for her, meant being thoroughly prepared to break three hours. “I guess this is the year that I thought I was ready to do that,” she said, with characteristic humility. Because runners love a challenge, she also scheduled her wedding to to fiancee, Brendan Mahoney, for Nov. 1, 2014, just six days after her marathon.

With any luck, the post-race soreness will wear off before it’s time to dance.

“I never make any bold predictions on a race, especially a marathon,” Buckheit said of her upcoming race. “It’s so unpredictable. But she’s running great. This is as well as she’s been running since she’s been with us.”

Swain is also running her highest mileage ever, and without injury, which Buckheit attributes to better recovery practices.

“She’s ready,” Taylor said. “She knows how hard a first marathon can be, especially if you go out too fast like I tend to do and then you’re pretty much crawling in. She’ll run better than I did my first.”

Taylor’s pride in her sister shines through every praising word she said. “That week is going to be amazing for her,” she gushed.

Race Day

On marathon morning, Swain plans to heed the advice of her coach to start slow and finish fast. She attributes her success at the Navy-Air Force race to staying slow through the first 5k, per Buckheit’s advice. “I never believed him at first until I actually started to do it in races,” she said.

Buckheit and Taylor shared their advice for Swain, the thing they’d like to repeat in her ear for 26.2 miles.

Taylor said to have fun. “At the end of the day, there’s gonna be some part of the race I would think [will] hurt worse than anything that’s ever hurt before, and just to remember you’re doing this because it’s fun.”

And Buckheit reiterated the need to be patient. In the first 10k, he said, “If you don’t feel like you’re running too slow, you’re running too fast. […] Wait until everyone else has made their early race mistakes and starts crashing, and that’s when you pick your spot to start moving your way through the field.”

Most of all, they share the unequivocal opinion that she is ready. She has trained hard and run well throughout her training. All that remains is to race.

“We’re rooting for her,” her sister said.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2014 RunWashington.

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Anthony Garofano. Photo: Melissa Dorn/Lissa Ryan Photography
Anthony Garofano. Photo: Melissa Dorn/Lissa Ryan Photography

Through the throngs of  spectators lining the Marine Corps Marathon course, Marine Maj. Anthony Garofano will have his ears open. Underneath the canopy of cheers, he’ll listen for an unmistakable sound.

“At certain points, she’ll be out there and, if she’s crying, she’ll be easy to hear,” Garofano said of his newborn daughter, Helen.

While training for his first marathon, Garofano fit in runs around a demanding schedule as an active duty judge advocate general for the Marine Corps, his commitment to organize a running club for Capitol Hill staffers and preparing to be a new dad.

In spite of all that, everything went pretty smoothly, thanks to his understanding wife, Christine, and co-workers.

“My office has been incredibly supportive the whole time and there’s only one run that I went on with my cell phone in my hand just in case I needed to stop early,” he said. “Otherwise it’s been very smooth. My runs are early enough that Chris doesn’t even know I’m going.”

Garofano was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer in 2004 and began serving as an active-duty service member in 2008. Through his job, Garofano ended up in charge of the Capitol Hill Running Club this year. During training season for the Marine Corps Marathon, the Marine Corps liaison office organizes the club, setting up a training plan for the race, water stops and support for the weekly long runs. Since he was coordinating training for a group of 20 to 30 Hill staffers, he figured this would be a good year to tackle the marathon himself.

“It was sort of in the back of my head — I don’t want to, but I (also do) want to run a marathon — so taking on this club was the opportunity,” he said.

The group meets Tuesday and Thursday mornings, with a long run on Saturdays.

“That doesn’t interfere with work schedule, but it ruins your Friday night a little bit,” he said. “(But) when you’re 32 and you have a baby, there’s not much Friday night left to ruin.”

Luckily, his wife understands the demands of both the club and marathon training.

“I’m really lucky to have a wife who’s so understanding about the commitment to the running and the club and who’s healthy enough to not have an issue,” he said. “This could be a lot more difficult without people being supportive.”

In addition to his time working as a fellow for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose district includes Marine base Camp Pendleton, Garofano has also served as a military prosecutor and a battalion judge advocate who deployed with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion to southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2010. While overseas, he helped the troops handle legal matters, like rules of engagement or dealing with detainees. Now, he works in the Marine Corps House liaison office, educating and informing members of Congress about the Marine Corps.

He’s had some training interruptions —missing his 18.5-mile long run the day his wife went into labor in late August, and a week to adjust to Helen’s sleeping schedule. He had to miss a few runs when traveling where it was unsafe to run, but wasn’t worried about it affecting his overall training. The weeks he’s had to miss long runs, he said he’s felt just as strong going farther the next week.

“If I missed several weeks in a row, then I’d be concerned, but missing one or two long runs doesn’t fill me with terror,” he said. “Maybe that’s ignorance.”

His travels have given him a few unforgettable runs all around the world. One of his favorites was during a trip to Guam, where he got to run along the beach. And another run in Hanoi, Vietnam, which was so humid that his watch face fogged up as soon as he stepped out of his hotel.

“It was about 6:30 in the morning; it was like the entire city was outside exercising, whether it be Tai Chi or playing badminton, or there was a muscle beach set up, with guys doing bench press and sit ups,” he said. “It was really cool to see so many people outside exercising at the same time, it was a neat community spirit thing.”

Garofano has spent years running, but is tackling long distances for the first time. He was a sprinter at Middlebury College in Vermont. Since then, he’s mostly lifted weights, gone on multi-day hikes and run just enough to pass the annual physical fitness test for the Marines.

“Every year the Marine Corps makes you run three miles to make sure you’re still in shape; that was the standard for me prior to this year,” he said.

As a result, every week’s long run is a new milestone as the farthest he’s ever run in his life.

“A lot of it has been mental,” he said. “I’ve gotten to the point if I can do 17.5 miles, I figure as long as I can keep it up I can suffer through 26.”Although Garofano has managed to fit almost everything into his weeks, one thing that has suffered has been spending time with friends, though he said they’re all understanding of the time spent running and with his new daughter.

“My friends and Chris’ friends may think we’ve abandoned them, but I think we’ve got a pretty good excuse,” he said. “The combination of running and baby has certainly reduced the amount of going out to dinner, but everyone understands.”

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2014 RunWashington.

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MCM Preview: Breanna Gawrys

Breanna Gawrys Photo: Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photography
Breanna Gawrys.  Photo: Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photography

Dr. Breanna Gawrys, a captain in the United States Air Force, will conquer the 2014 marathon on much more training and sleep than she did during the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon.

“I was working a lot more — like 70-80 hours per week — so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get the training in so this year is going to be a lot better,” she said.

Gawrys was referring to the long hours she spent as during her internship. But even with a time-demanding career last year, she still ran the race in 3:36:05.

“You’ve got to find the time to have the time,” she said.

Now, a resident in family medicine at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, she’s getting a little more sleep and said she’s had a few more hours to train.

“The energy of the spectators and to have the marines there is very inspiring,” Gawrys said, adding that running next to wounded warriors also motivates her. “I keep coming back because it’s one of my favorite races.”

Gawrys was only 19 years old when she completed her first marathon, Marine Corps, and earned a spot in the Boston Marathon. She was second in her age group and came through the finish line in 3:30:04. Gawrys’ first marathon experience was still fresh in her head.

“Some guy spit on my leg during the bridge. He wasn’t intending to but it sort of ended up there.”

But getting spit on didn’t deter Gawrys in the least. Eight marathons later, she’ll be aiming for a 3:25 to 3:30 finishing time in this year’s race.

“I try to maintain a good mental attitude throughout the race so I’ve just trying to get myself in that mindset,” Gawyrs said of her training. “I tried to incorporate Haines Point because that’s usually the point where I find myself unhappy during the race so I’ve been trying to think positives thoughts during it.”

Gawrys channeled her enthusiasm early on in college when she created the Duke Roadrunners.

“We would just sign up for races together and go run them,” Gawrys said.

Even though she caught the marathon bug early on, she plans on sticking with the sport long term.

“I want to stay active with the sport and not get injured and not over do it so when I’m older I can keep going back to Boston — that’s really the goal,” she said.

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Eye on Arlington

Scott Brodbeck. Photo: Jimmy Daly
Scott Brodbeck. Photo: Jimmy Daly

Juggling a full-time job and night classes for an MBA can be hard enough, but somehow Scott Brodbeck managed to find time to train for a marathon too.

Brodbeck, who founded two hyperlocal news sites for Arlington(Arlnow.com), Bethesda (Bethesdanow.com) and Reston (Restonnow.com) generallyworks 8 to 6, but says he “never really takes a break from the day job.” He recently earned his MBA from Georgetown University, where he had class two nights a week in addition to homework. This fall, he tackled his first marathon at the Marine Corps Marathon.

“Trying to earn a graduate degree and running a business and running, there wasn’t much down time,” he said. “I did my best to fit in runs, but half the time I’d find myself running at 11 p.m., which is probably not ideal, but I’m not an early riser.”

Brodbeck, who has been running seriously for about two years, was one of thousands of non-elite runners who crossed the finish line on Oct. 27. Unlike the pros, the average runner doesn’t get to take time off from work, family responsibilities and social gatherings to train.

His advice to other first time marathoners on how to fit it all into just 24 hours is to enjoy it and pay attention to signs in your body that could signal an injury coming on.

“I think it’s totally doable and certainly it gives you some extra time to listen to audiobooks … so it doesn’t feel like I’m doing nothing during that time. Not only am I running, but I’m reading,” said Brodbeck, who is working his way through the Game of Thrones books during his runs, but plans to listen to music for the race.

“The one thing I’ve learned is you really need to listen to your body. You can’t train too hard, too fast.”

He had originally signed up for Marine Corps in 2012, but had to defer after a knee injury on his 15-mile training run that has since healed with physical therapy and seeing a chiropractor.

“The hardest part is the anticipation of the long runs, given my issues in my knees,” he said. “I always wonder if the knees are going to hold up. After every long run, the knees, the calves, the feet – something is sore.

I just keep hoping I’m going to be able to run it and so far so good.”

One of the reasons Brodbeck selected the Marine Corps as his first marathon was partly for the convenience of the race being in Arlington, where he lives. He launched ARLnow.com in January 2010 because he felt there wasn’t a good single source of up-to-date, interesting information about the Arlington community online. The site, which he edits, covers local issues ranging from Metro weekend track work to city finances to local business news. He launched BethesdaNow.com to fill the same niche hyperlocal role in that community.

The Arlington resident does most of his running on local paths, like the Mount Vernon Trail, Custis Trail and Washington and Old Dominion Trail. However, he occasionally enjoys mixing it up and running on the streets, which gives him a new perspective of the Arlington community.

“Running around Arlington’s residential neighborhoods — and seeing the swing sets, minivans and barbecues — reminds you that this is a place that a lot of families call home,” he said. “You might not get that if you live in the metro corridors and don’t take the time to explore the area on foot.”

Brodbeck is following a training program designed by Hal Higdon, a long-time Runner’s World contributor, training consultant for the Chicago Marathon and eight-time Olympic trials participant. In the program, which he found online after a friend’s recommendation, he spends about eight hours a week training with hour long runs on Tuesday and Thursday, a long run on Saturday and two bike rides to cross train during the week. He is hoping to finish the race in under four hours.

“I don’t feel like I’ve drastically changed my life. I spend those eight hours a week training , but honestly running is the one form of exercise I actually enjoy, he said.

Because of his previous experience with injury, he feels it’s especially important to be dedicated to training and stick to a plan, making sure not to increase mileage too much too soon. However, sometimes his schedule doesn’t cooperate and he occasionally misses runs. When that happens, he doesn’t let it derail his training. He either tries to make it up the next day or just skips it and works out even harder the next scheduled run.

Though squeezing in time to worry about what you eat may be difficult, Brodbeck has improved his diet by eating fresher, healthier foods and fighting his McDonald’s cravings, only eating fast food “sparingly.” In addition to eating better, the training has also made Brodbeck spend less time on the couch.

“I’m playing fewer video games. It used to be that Halo 4 was a good way to unwind after a long day at work, but I  increasingly find myself working out instead of playing games,” he said.

Though he is new to running, he showed an aptitude for endurance when he was younger. He biked extensively around his childhood home in Pittsburgh. One day, while he was on a ride, his mother Jill got a phone call.

“Mom, can you pick me up?” he asked.

“Of course, where are you?” she responded.

“West Virginia,” he answered.

Another challenge of marathon training over the summer is fitting the training around vacations with friends and family. When Brodbeck went to Dewey Beach, Del., with some friends this summer, no one could understand why he opted to go out on a 13-mile run instead of relaxing. “My friends could not understand why I could not come to brunch at 10  ’clock.” he said. “They couldn’t understand why I would come back with a bag of ice we bought for beer to ice down,” he said. “My friends aren’t necessarily big runners, they think I’m kind of crazy. I just know it’s something I have to do. I spend enough time thinking about running this stupid marathon that I’m determined at this point to get it done.”

While he’s made sacrifices to train on vacation and improve his diet, there is one thing Brodbeck won’t sacrifice: beer.

“There are people I know who have cut out drinking, I am not willing to do that,” he said. “I feel like beer is carbohydrates, it tastes good after a long run.”

He’s looking forward to the flatter course for 2013, but what really keeps him going through all the late nights, long runs and sore muscles is imagining the crowds lining the street on race day, something he hasn’t yet experienced at the shorter 5k, 4 mile and half marathon races he’s done in the past.

“I can’t wait to go on the run and see the people standing on the sidewalks,” he said. “For the Marine Corps [Marathon,] I know there’ll be people with signs and cheering, I just can’t wait to see that. And then I can’t wait to cross the finish line and finally be able to say I’ve run a marathon.”

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