Washington, DC
Hope Wilkes and Beth McClain head downhill in the first mile of the Four Courts Four Miler.                Photo: Charlie Ban
Hope Wilkes and Beth McClain head downhill in the first mile of the Four Courts Four Miler. Photo: Charlie Ban

It all came back in a hurry for Phoebe Markle.

After a few months of no running while she rested her IT band, muscle memory took over as soon as the horn sounded for the Four Courts Four Miler and she tore down Wilson Boulevard. The kind of muscle memory that develops after running two marathons, a half marathon, a half ironman and a 10k in a little more than a month.

“I was on a running high,” she said about her busy competitive schedule last October and November. “I was starting to know what my capabilities were and I didn’t want to stop. I heard about people getting overuse injuries, but I thought I was invincible.

“I wasn’t, not by a long shot.”

With about a month of running under her belt, Markle, of Arlington, pieced together enough raw fitness to finish as the third overall woman, in 25:55, following Claire Hallissey (22:56) and Kristi Markowitz (25:22), both of Arlington.

“I wanted to just get into a race and see how my knee felt,” Markle said. “Once I was running, everything felt fine, so I went for it.”

If all goes well over the next month and a half, she’ll be racing the Nike Women’s Half Marathon.

The course allowed many runners to race with unbridled enthusiasm down Wilson Boulevard and Jefferson Davis Highway before turning around and returning from whence they came. At that point, they faced the consequences of what they had done earlier, climbing back to the Arlington Courthouse Plaza near the eponymous pub. It was good  preparation for St. Patrick’s Day festivities a week later.

Terry Gricher, of Burke, has done the race before but made the same mistake.

“I start out too fast, even though I know better,” he said. “I’m out in 14 (minutes), back in 16. It never seems as bad on the way down as it does on the way back up.”

He tried to warn Kenny Rayner, of Arlington, on the starting line. His words were unheeded. Rayner went out in 4:40 leading Matt Barresi, of Falls Church. Close to the turnaround, Barresi blew by and took the lead to the finish, in 20:18. Burtonsville, Md.’s Edmund Burke also moved ahead to take second in 21:54, with Rayner finishing third in 22:16.

Barresi chose to race to avoid running too hard otherwise. He’s racing the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon and aside from using it as a tuneup, he hoped it would keep him under control.

“I figured hopping in the race would prevent me from getting antsy and going on a 16 mile run or something like that on my own,” he said.

After finishing third in this race last year, he wanted to run faster and to win.

“I pushed the pace the first two miles to give myself a time cushion and knew that I wouldn’t fall apart too much in the end because I’m strong from all of the marathon training,” he said.  “It was tough running uphill into the wind to finish, but I was able to run 13 seconds faster than last year with nobody to chase.  The race gives me a lot of confidence going into the marathon this weekend.”

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By Mollie Zapata
Washington, DC
November 6, 2011
For the Washington Running Report

More than 2,200 people from 34 states plus the District of Columbia gathered to show support, raise money, and compete in the National Race to End Women’s Cancer 8K and 1 Mile Walk in Washington, DC on Sunday, November 6, 2011. The event, in its second year, marks the 20th anniversary of the Foundation for Women’s Cancer and raised funding to prevent, detect, treat, and defeat cancers unique to women.

Chris Juarez, 41, of Alexandria, VA, dominated the race, leading the field by more than a half-mile, winning in 26:13.

“The race felt comfortable, I ran 23 [miles] yesterday,” explained Juarez who used this race in preparation for the upcoming Philadelphia Marathon.

As with so many in the crowd, Juarez had a personal connection to the cause. “My mom is a breast cancer survivor, 17 years,” he said.

Second and third in the men’s race went to Diaa Nour, 31, of Washington, DC who finished in 29:21 and Jon Elvrom, 38, of Seattle, WA following in 30:04.

Michelle Cunningham, 36, of Centreville, VA won the women’s race in 32:57. Her running accomplishment was made even more impressive by the fact that she is a cervical cancer survivor.

“I want to show everyone that not only can you survive cancer, but you can thrive,” said Cunningham who had surgery in 2009. She crossed the finish line with a glowing smile on her face.

“A win is always special,” she said. “But this race is so much more meaningful to me.”

Phoebe Markle, 27 of Alexandria, VA finished soon after Cunningham in 33:10. Arlington’s Caitlin Murphy, 26, took third place in 34:42.

The race pavilion included a survivors’ tent where those who had experienced cancer first hand were encouraged to make signs. Posters lined the tent with statements: “Running in memory of Joan Lyons,” “Lydia’s Legacy,” “Cindy, we wish you were here. We love you!”

One mother made a sign for her daughter, who was an ovarian cancer survivor of 13 years. “There is no detection method and we need one now to save lives,” she said. “I was here when they had the first race and I’ll be here every year so that we can have more survivors.” Both women participated in the 1 mile walk this year.

Before the race started, runners, survivors, and supporters gathered in front of the stage and the announcer asked, “Who can say they’re here because this [women’s cancer] has touched them directly?” Hands all over Freedom Plaza raised and a cheer went through the crowd.

At 9:00 a.m. they took off down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol – running, walking, jogging, and rolling (stroller-pushing parents were a common sight at this family-friendly event) a new course for this year that went by the Capitol, Smithsonian Museums, and within sight of the Washington Monument.

In addition to individual runners, there were 50 teams entered. Jennifer McDonald of Catonsville, MD noted, “It was so cool to see the teams supporting each other through the race. The way the course was set up, you got to pass your teammates a lot and cheer.” McDonald is studying oncology, and ran on the neon t-shirt-clad, “Team Rock.”

“Every time I see a survivor finish, I tear up. This race is such an inspiration,” said McDonald.

The tone of the event was much more supportive than competitive. No age group prizes were offered since the emphasis was on survivors. In all, 47 women’s cancer survivors, aged 27 to 60, completed the 8K.

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