Bethesda native Daniel Samet leads the way in his half marathon debut at the Navy-Air Force Half Sept. 18. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography
Bethesda native Daniel Samet leads the way in his half marathon debut at the Navy-Air Force Half Sept. 18. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography

At the humid and overcast Navy – Air Force Half Marathon, many a runner had to temper their expectations. After a pleasant, mild Saturday, the return of sticky summer air on Sunday felt almost punitive. Yet the conditions did not stop Susanna Sullivan (Capital Area Runners) from crushing the women’s course record or Daniel Samet (Georgetown Running Club) from a speedy victory in his half-marathon debut. The Bethesda native ran for the Georgetown Day School and later, Davidson College. 

Navy-Air Force Half Marathon
Sept. 18, 2016

“The weather conditions made it more challenging than I had originally anticipated when I signed up,” Sullivan said afterwards. “But I feel like I ran a smart race and I was happy with how it turned out.” For much of the race, Andie Cozzarelli of Raleigh, N.C. ran alone a few hundred feet ahead of Sullivan. Cozzarelli is a two-time All-American and alumna of NC State who now runs for Oiselle.

In an exciting late play, Sullivan made a move on Cozzarelli in the last half-mile, “which was a little later than I would have liked,” Sullivan said. “But coming out of Rock Creek on the downhill, I really feel like I picked up some momentum and rode that to the finish. I was relieved to pass her and I’m excited for the win.” She finished in 1:17:32, obliterating the 1:19:52 record set by Martha Nelson last year. In another universe, Cozzarelli’s (1:17:53) finish would also have broken the course record. In fact, the times of third-place Amy Laskowske (1:18:07) and age-group winners Perry Shoemaker (1:18:33) and Julia Roman-Duval (1:19:05) also topped Nelson’s 2015 record, an impressive showing considering the temperatures.

In the women’s masters race, Shoemaker bested Sullivan’s teammate Cristina Burbach, who has finished second in the category for several years. Burbach brushed off that history to give the race a go yet again. “This was a race that really rewarded patience,” she said. “You had to go out very conservatively and stay conservative far longer than you wanted to.” For her, this meant waiting until the turnaround in Rock Creek Park, nine miles into the race, to push.

She was surprised when she reached that point, that “really all I could do was hang on. But even as I was just hanging on, I found that other people were struggling, so the act of hanging on enabled me to pass quite a few people.” This humid half was Burbach’s last training race before the Chicago Marathon, which is also known for its unpredictable weather. She hopes that race will be more pleasant.

In the men’s race, Samet, Jordan Tropf (Navy), Blake Taneff (GRC), and Matt Deters (CAR) formed an early lead pack that strung out its chase pack by the time they left Hains Point, just 5 miles in. For his first half-marathon, Samet came out planning to run conservatively and executed that plan as intended. Like Sullivan would a few minutes behind him, Samet made his play in the ninth mile. After that push, he says, “I was lucky that I was able to hang on” to win in 1:10:37. Tropf followed him in 1:10:50 and Taneff took third in 1:11:17.

Runners at all levels powered through the soupy conditions anyway. Erik LeMoyne (1:33:05), a Marine, was recently stationed in Quantico and relocated to Virginia. He is training for his first marathon at Marine Corps and ran through calf  cramps and a wall at mile nine today. “I set a lofty goal for three hours [at Marine Corps],” he says, “but I’ll probably have to adjust. Maybe like 3:10, but it’ll be my first one, so it’s a stepping stone to others.”

Despite struggling, LeMoyne enjoyed the race and its atmosphere. “I love the fact that, with everything that’s going on in the news and all of this negativity, that we can get some positivity around. Everybody’s coming out just to have a little bit of fun with each other.”

Some runners, like Reza Mohaddes (1:57:59) of D.C., still gutted out performances that made them proud. With his wife and sister watching, Mohaddes exceeded his own expectations for his first half. “My goal was like, just finish alive,” he says, “but I didn’t expect myself to finish alive, but I did.” Indeed, the bartender broke two hours and pushed through some tough final miles to earn his time. He’s excited at the finish festival, eyes lit up and talking fast. Asked if he’ll race another, he says, “Absolutely! I’ll race all the half-marathons and I’ll try to do the marathon as well.”

Traci Scott (2:01:18) and Artis Jones (2:03:38), members of the District Running Collective, didn’t feel phased by the morning’s weather, especially compared to the thunderstorms originally forecast. Artis laughs, saying that he’d been terrified of the storms but unhappy about the overcast morning. “I was like, I don’t want all clouds,” he said. “But then the sun came out. I was like, I need another cloud.” Although it only made a brief appearance, the sun was brutally hot in the moments it shone through.

Coming into the race, Artis had hoped to beat his time from last year, but “It was exactly the same!” he groans. (Online race results show that he finished 16 seconds faster this year, a technical victory to be sure.) Traci was aiming for two hours and fell just short. Both runners chalked up the successes they did have to the District Running Collective cheering squad, strategically placed at the Kennedy Center to greet runners in miles seven and 11.

“Our cheer squad is so lit. They’ll keep you going and motivated,” Traci says.

“They’re the only way I made it through,” agrees Artis.

Melissa Dentch (2:21:04) noticed the quieter atmosphere and the flashes of spectator support as well. “The runners were more supportive of each other than on a lot of other races I’ve done, which was really cool,” she said. “There wasn’t music or entertainment on the course so maybe everyone felt like they had to pull together a little more.”

Dentch trains with Team RWB. Military races like this one mean more to her now that she has friends who currently or previously served. “A lot of them are running for people that they’ve lost and people that they know and people who couldn’t be here today for whatever reason,” she says. “So it’s really powerful and meaningful to run with them, run alongside them, and support them.” Her teammate, Jennifer Janowski, joined a few other Team RWB members and the November Project to cheer runners through the finish line.

“It’s not like some of the bigger races,” Janowski says. “You actually get to see people cross the finish line.” She’s one of several people who praises the size of this race; with about 9,500 finishers in the half-marathon, it’s a third of the size of the Army 10-Miler or Marine Corps Marathon. Because she is tapering for Ironman Louisville, for this race, Janowski was happy to bring flags, energy, and Eagle fire to the end of the course.

Ultimately, regardless of the conditions, half-marathons can be a tough race. Nearly everyone interviewed felt some pain in the final miles of the race. Samet’s advice? “It’s a grind, so you just gotta be gritty and go after it.”

Christina Wryter and Lindsey Bernal grin their way down Rock Creek Parkway at the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography
Christina Wryter and Lindsey Bernal grin their way down Rock Creek Parkway at the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon. Photo: Dustin Whitlow/DWhit Photography
Ashburn's John Johnson storms down Clarendon Boulevard on his way to a 48:10 10k. Photo: Swim Bike Run Photography
Ashburn’s John Johnson storms down Clarendon Boulevard on his way to a 48:10 10k. Photo: Swim Bike Run Photography

With fall racing season upon us, runners of all ages and abilities converged on the 2016 Clarendon Day races. The 5k/10k/double race fell a week earlier than usual, and though September weather can be unpredictable, the morning dawned mild and slightly overcast. Undeterred by Safetrack delays, 1,145 runners gathered atop Wilson Boulevard to start the 5k. After the races, daylong festival 

Clarendon Day 5k/10k
Sept. 17, 2016

The course was quiet except for the pounding of shoes and panting of the fastest runners. Dashing towards Rosslyn, Clint McKelvy (14:36) of Arlington took an early lead that became insurmountable by the end of the second mile. At the finish line, McKelvy and his cheering squad debated his finish time, which fell just two seconds short of the course record.

“I thought I could have [the record] with a really good day,” McKelvy said. “I did not expect to get it when I was running solo for the last mile or so. It definitely helped having Stewart [Reich], the guy in second, pushing me the first two miles.”

Behind him, Reich (14:45) of Frederick and Tripp Southerland (15:11) of D.C. rounded out the top male finishers in the 5k. In the women’s race, Maura Carroll (17:35) of Arlington took first, followed closely by Jennifer Brill (17:51) of Arlington and Elyssa Gensib (17:54) of Alexandria.

Runners throughout the pack had strong performances and positive outlooks after the race. Waiting for her friend Tina to finish, Vinita Ollapally (28:32) mused about finish times. “I used to run a lot faster,” she said. “I’m not used to seeing 28 minutes on the clock. But I think it’s just, you know, you’re a runner no matter what. So even if you run slowly you’re not any less of a runner than the runners who are running really quickly.” She and Tina chose the race to set fitness goals for themselves.

Elizabeth Bolton (38:24) of Alexandria (who is this writer’s sister) smiled at the finish line and announced, “I just ran a personal worst!” with equal enthusiasm. She wasn’t disappointed, as she hasn’t been training and is now in the third trimester of her first pregnancy.

Another runner, Lizzie Gomes (38:59), chose the race for her first 5k at a friend’s suggestion. “I thought I was going to struggle and probably be last but I wasn’t!” she said quietly. That friend’s boyfriend, who declined to be interviewed, couldn’t help but chime in, “She’s a superstar today.” Although Gomes plans to stick to 5ks for the near future, she liked the course and felt positive about running the race again.

Shortly thereafter, 910 runners began the 10k. Many of them had trudged back uphill from the 5k finish–some 250 runners doubled up this morning. As in the 5k, a small lead pack broke away on the downhill, but even with the longer flat around the Pentagon, the winner proved unstoppable. Desta Beriso Morkham crossed the finish in 30:50, so nonplussed that he looked around and asked, “Finished?”

Morkam, who is Ethiopian, won his first American race by 40 seconds. “It’s good, it’s good” he said, grinning. “I am very happy because of this good weather for me.”

Behind him, Stewart Reich (31:40) and Matthew Barresi (31:52) took second and third, making Reich the overall top finisher in the double. Still panting, Reich said, “It went well. It was fun. I’ve never done anything like that.” Like Morkam, Reich and Barresi appreciated the conditions and shrugged off the morning humidity.

“The wind was in your face for a bit, but it’s September in DC so that’s what you get,” Barresi said. He added, “If the sun was out, it would have been baking us.”

In the women’s 10k, GRC runner and recent Northwestern grad Elena Barham dominated her first road race. Her 36:16 finish placed her ninth overall and was fully two minutes faster than the next woman, her teammate, Keely Eckberg (38:17). Barham’s strategy was to “just get out there and compete,” which she certainly did.

“There were some great men right around me and they were very, very helpful… [They were] just running really steady so I could kind of like, tuck in. Profit off their hard work a little bit,” Barham said.

Behind her, Eckberg seemed flustered by her finish. “I’m training for a marathon so [my strategy was] just hold a steady tempo pace, I guess. I’ve been feeling good in my workouts, so I dunno. Just to go out and run it,” she said, still trying to catch her breath.

She added, “I live right around here so it was motivating to see my apartment on the way back.”

Just past the finish line, third-place woman Barb Fallon Wallace (38:25) joined fifth-place Amy Nichols (39:56) to stretch and discuss returning to running after pregnancy. Wallace recently had her third child, and Nichols is newly returned to running after her first.

“[Barb] said just try not to set expectations and your body will get back into shape when it wants to,” Nichols said. “Of course I had impractical expectations but I was pretty happy with it, although I finished extremely out of breath. I thought I was going to die.”

For her part, Wallace simply wanted to run a controlled race. The first downhill mile challenged her, but she humbly accepted her finish, saying, “I figured if I didn’t catch [the leaders] then I wasn’t gonna be fast enough to run with them.”

Reich, Wallace, Nichols, and many other doublers used the race as a tune-up, particularly for the upcoming Army 10-Miler. Many set PRs thanks to the speedy first mile. Some, like Madeline Shepherd (22:03/49:44) and Justin Hewitt (17:55/38:55), thought they had taken down two personal bests. “This was my first time running any of the Clarendon Day races and it definitely is exactly as described — super downhill, really flat, really easy PR. Lot of fun,” said Shepherd, who also enjoyed the bananas.

“Couldn’t have asked for a better day,” Hewitt agreed. “Overcast, cool conditions, really  well-organized like [Shepherd] said.” He is training for Marine Corps after a friend unexpectedly transferred a bib to him. Shepherd is training for the Army Ten-Miler after appendicitis knocked her out of last year’s race. Both felt good about their fall season after today’s shakeouts.

An outsider would be forgiven their confusion at the sight of so many grimacing runners grunting, “I’m happy,” at the finish line. We don’t usually associate this much wincing or sweating with easygoing happiness. But with the pleasant conditions, PRs dropping like dominoes, and legs tested for upcoming goal races, these runners earned their good vibes.

Some shins were bared on the Love the Run You're With starting line. Photo: Steve Laico
Some shins were bared on the Love the Run You’re With starting line. Photo: Steve Laico

Although more than 1,000 runners signed up for the seventh annual Love the Run You’re With 5k, bone-chilling temperatures shaved that number in half as a polar vortex ripped through the area over Valentine’s Day weekend.

But those who braved temperatures that barely peaked at 20 degrees were treated to another festive and exciting installment of the popular February race began at Arlington’s Pentagon Row and concluded at Champps, which also served as the race’s home base.

[button-red url=”″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]Kyle Wagener (15:55) snagged top race honors as he breezed through the 3.1-mile course. Wagener, a member of the Georgetown Running Club, recently moved to the Washington area after graduating from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., where he ran collegiately for the school, topping off 22 years of acclimation to winter temperature that might have given him an edge Sunday.

“Days like today aren’t the average Minnesota winter day, but we get a lot of weather like this so it definitely probably helped a little bit,” Wagener said. “I did a race in high school on New Year’s Day where it was 0 degrees. So this wasn’t the coldest race I’ve ever run.”

His familiarity with sub-zero temperatures propelled him over second-place finisher Stewart Reich (15:57) of Frederick, Maryland.

Laurel Le Moigne (18:41) of Springfield earned first-place honors among female runners, 13th overall. Le Moigne said she was originally scheduled to run the GW Parkway 10k Classic on Sunday, but race organizers cancelled that race because of the cold.

“I was just really motivated to race today because in my training plan I knew I had to,” Le Moigne, 30, said. “We were about a mile and a half in and I figured I was probably going to win so I was motivated by that. I also kept thinking about the Olympic Trials yesterday and while this was miserable weather on one hand, the runners out [in Los Angeles, California] were out there passing out during a marathon in 80-degree weather. I figured I could sure as heck finish a 5k in 10-degree weather; it motivated me.”

Julie Dickerson (19:33) and Caitlyn Tateishi (19:33) tied for second overall among female runners.

The early year race attracted an array of runners ranging from seasoned veterans like Le Moigne to 10-year-old Braydon Fahle (27:40), who ran alongside Dasha Hermosilla (29:58) and her friend and fellow Moms Run This Town teammate Jennie Apter (37:06).

 Fahle placed first in his age group. And despite the brutal temperatures, he was quite pleased with his finish.

“After the first mile my legs started to get cold,” he said. “The last downhill part of the race was fun and the course was pretty cool because I liked being next to the highway on the way back. It felt really good to finish first.”

James Parks (30:21) celebrated his 60th birthday on Saturday and scheduled this year’s Love the Run You’re With 5k to coincide with a 60-hour birthday party that spanned five cities.

“I was looking for something to fit into my schedule of 13 events in five cities,” the District resident said. “It started on Friday and went from Philadelphia to New York to D.C. to Richmond to Atlanta.”

After the race, Parks serenaded diners in the packed restaurant with his rendition of Stevie Winder’s famous 1980 Happy Birthday. Parks is an avid runner who ran three marathons last year. And while he considers himself to be quite the competitor, he said events like Sunday’s highlight the camaraderie between fellow runners.

“I don’t necessarily have to know all of the runners, but I know their hearts,” he said. They’re good people. Runners are the most wonderful kinds of people you can find in the world. And when you really get out there, you recognize that you’re not running against other people, you’re running with other people and they’re all cheering you on. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Photo: Brain W. Knight/ Swim Bike Run Photography
Danielle Scissom and Jennifer Bentley lead a group of sugar plum fairies across the finish line of the Jingle All the Way 5k. Photo: Brain W. Knight/ Swim Bike Run Photography

After recruiting their parents to join them for the Jingle All the Way 5k, Philadelphia, Pa., residents Wendy and Angela Hou (51:24) traveled back to their Herndon, Va., home a few days before the race. And just like many of this year’s participants, the two found themselves in a store Saturday evening shopping for items ahead of Sunday’s event.

But the sisters weren’t there to pick up gels, water bottles, socks or additional pre-race items. Instead, they walked out of a Northern Virginia Michaels craft store with tinsel, ornaments and other Christmas accoutrements.

“My sister and I convinced our parents to do their first run, so we wanted to make this really fun for them,” Wendy Hou (51:24), 26, said. “We put all of this together last night. We did it as a family and just went all out.”

[button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-redThree members of Team Hou Hou Hous walked away with awards Sunday. Wendy Hou’s human Christmas tree earned first-place honors in the individual costume category, while her parents, Wen-Chun (51:24) and Shu-Ching (51:23), placed first in the couple’s category.  Wen-Chun sported a red-and-white Santa Claus sweater and Santa hat, a paper beard and toted around three reindeer attached to wooden sticks. Shu-Ching donned a red-and-green elf hat and a matching red-and-green elf sweater.

More than 4,500 runners flooded downtown Washington, D.C., early Sunday morning to compete in the popular holiday-themed race. Runners gathered at the start-finish line near Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania, Ave., just before 9 a.m., and traversed the 3.1-mile course that took them past the U.S. Capitol building and on historic Independence Ave., before dropping them back off on Pennsylvania Ave. at to the finish line.

Kevin McNab, no stranger to top finishes, bested all runners with a time of 15:31. But Ryan Witters proved to be a formidable opponent as he placed second overall at 15:41. Northern Virginia Running Club (NOVA) member Emily Potter, who will compete in the February 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials, cruised to a first-place women’s finish at 17:37.

More than 20 of Potter’s teammates competed in the event. NOVA president, Erin Masterson (18:58), credited the group’s large showing to the race’s unique team categories.

“This was a big turnout for us,” Masterson, 32, said. “We focused on this race at the beginning of the year because there are very few opportunities for women to race competitively as a distinct team, and not with men – I love that Pacers did that this year.”

Potter wasn’t the only NOVA member to earn a first-place finish.

Although the father-daughter duo of Marc (23:14) and Madelyn Stokes occasionally run together during NOVA practices and on some of Marc’s recovery runs, Marc said soccer is 10-year-old Madelyn’s sport of choice. After Sunday, running just might give soccer some competition. Madelyn Stokes placed first in her age group with a time of 23:11.

“I was nervous at first because I saw a lot of kids and thought it was going to be hard – I wanted to get first in my age group to show my team,” the youngster said. “At first I was shocked. But when I found out that I was actually first I was really proud. I liked racing with my team.”

Marc Stokes, 43, ran collegiately at Texas A&M University. He raced alongside his daughter on Sunday.

“I’m her pacer,” he said with a laugh. “Maddie’s trying to break 22 [minutes]. We’re getting closer. I absolutely think she’ll do this again next year. It’s a great run.”

While Sunday’s race marked the first for many runners, it was anything but for 71-year-old District of Columbia resident Barbara Johnson (35:49). Johnson’s first race, she recalled, was 40 years ago, and said she has enjoyed the sport ever since. Friends and fellow runners showered her with applause as she made her way to the award podium Sunday to collect her medal for finishing first in her age group. She said she runs nearly every day, and has participated in more marathons and distance running competitions than she can remember.

“I love it; it keeps me going,” she said with a smile. “I really loved it today. It really was fun. I was supposed to meet some friends – I never met them. But I made some other friends and it was great. Everybody’s all dressed up.”

When asked if she’ll likely participate again next year, she quickly replied, “Oh yes. Why not?”

Trevor Lafontaine leads Oscar Santos through mile 15. Photo: Steve Laico
Trevor Lafontaine leads Oscar Santos through mile 15. Photo: Steve Laico

He was beating the bridge, and everyone else, when Trevor Lafontaine wondered if he had made his move too soon.

He hadn’t, but he had good cause to wonder.

[button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]The 22-year-old West Point graduate held his lead on Oscar Santos, who he dropped in mile 19, and kept going to a 2:24:24 finish to win the Marine Corps Marathon, which celebrated its 40th anniversary. But he didn’t know what was coming up.

“I’ve never run more than 22 miles, so everything after that was uncharted territory,” he said.

LaFontaine hadn’t raced any distances longer than 10k, an occupational hazard when you come out of college and move right to the marathon.

“I think the little break after the collegiate season helped me,” LaFontaine said. “I ran about 30 miles a week this summer working 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., but things settled down once the school year started, so I had a little break after three seasons of running. Now I can set my own schedule, so when I want to train, I train.”

He coaches the U.S. Military Academy’s prep school cross country team in New York, which gave him flexibility schedule his training, but that hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. He hoped to run the Army Ten-Miler to give him a taste of longer distances, but coaching the team meant spending that weekend on a trip to a cross country race.

Army coach Lt. Col. Liam Collins recruited him to run the race, but Lafontaine is largely self-coached.

“I did most of my marathon pace workouts at 5:30 pace, shooting for 2:25, so I’m really happy how it all turned out,” he said. “That’s really what I was shooting for. I’d throw in seven miles at marathon pace, but I never really went farther than that.”

That was all he needed, because he averaged just that to win by 1:43 over Santos.

He broke off from Santos,  a contractor for the Mexican military, in mile 19, near the U.S. Capitol

Justin Turner and Ken Foster took the lead early, before crossing the Key Bridge at mile four, before falling back on Hains Point after the half marathon mark.

“I had a cramp in mile 18 and I stopped to massage my hamstring,” Santos said through an interpreter. “I lost about two minutes, and I never made up for it.”

Jenny Mendez Suanca heads toward the 20 mile mark. Photo: Steve Laico
Jenny Mendez Suanca heads toward the 20 mile mark. Photo: Steve Laico

The women’s race also featured several lead changes, but in a rarity, the early leader prevailed. Jenny Mendez Suanca led early, but fell back around halfway through, when Harriott Kelly and Maria Elena Jimenez took over heading onto the National Mall near mile 18.

“They sped up and slowed down, but I just kept steady,” at 6:19 pace, she said through an interpreter. “I got a lot of energy from the crowd, even though I didn’t know all they were saying.”

Suanca started running seven years ago, encouraged by her husband, who coaches her, and won three out of her four marathons in her native Costa Rica before tackling her first international marathon at Marine Corps. Her 2:45:55 finish was a 10-minute personal best.

“I feel privileged to be here, running with the Marines,” she said, “It was much less humid. I was cold at first, I struggled, but I warmed up.”

She has been running for roughly seven years, and motivates herself with the opportunity to improve every day.

“I came to challenge myself, to run as fast as I could,” she said.

Behind her, Christine Taranto, who is based in Monterey, Calif., charged out of the middle of the pack to claim second place and a six-minute-plus PR over her time from the Big Sur Marathon this April. As a member of the Marine team, she relished the chance to pass up runners from other branches to finish second.

“Every person, I just thought, this is another point. This is our home race, so I should race like it,” she said. “I hit my goal half marathon split and took it from there. I listened to what number the crowd told me I was, and I just kept moving up. I just ended up running a solid, steady time.”

Taranto’s teammate at West Allegheny High School near Pittsburgh, Lauren Shaffer, also ran, finishing in 3:22:56. The pair finished in the top five at the Pennsylvania state cross country meet’s small school division in 1999.

It was Taranto’s fourth shot at Marine Corps, her third on the current course configuration that has been in place since 2013. Starting that year, the course traded a loop around the Palisades neighborhood for an out-and-back to the north on Rock Creek Parkway to the bottom of Shoreham Drive. Lafontaine’s time was the slowest in the current design, Suanca’s was the second-fastest of three winning women’s times.

Like Taranto, Brian Flynn, of Rockingham County, Va., worked his way up through the race, finishing third in 2:26:26. He used the race as a chance to run 5:25 pace for the second half of the race to prepare him for the California International Marathon in early December. Like Lafontaine, he is a coach, in charge of the Bridgewater College cross country team.

His strategy of holding back early, though, ended up leaving him in the lurch in terms of people to run with. He passed plenty of people

“I had some people from miles two through four,” he said. “Otherwise, I was just passing people, on my own.”

Evan Fox (2:33:01) of Arlington, Dickson Mercer (2:34:45) of Washington and Tom Dichiara of Garrett Park, Md. were the top finishers for their respective states in the D.C. area, while Kara Waters (2:55:53, fourth overall) of Great Falls, Va.; Sarah Whitworth (3:01:06) of Washington and Patricia Soumoff (3:14:39) of Greenbelt, Md. led the local women.



What’ll it Be?

Christine McCauley (in pink) and Ian McLallen (with backback) start off the 10 mile portion of the Perfect 10. Photo: Potomac River Running
Christine McCauley (in pink) and Ian McLallen (with backback) start off the 10 mile portion of the Perfect 10. Photo: Potomac River Running

Either way you sliced it, the race was a perfect 10.

If they chose to run 10 kilometers or 10 miles, runners passed judgment on the race like a gymnastics judge. But unlike the finely-tuned routines on the mats, runners could improvise mid-race and choose to cut it short or add another 3.8 miles to their run.

With the rain gone, Centreville resident and Potomac River Running team member Todd Bibb, 44, won the 10k overall in 35:35, an average of 5:44 per mile.  Commenting on the weather, Bibb noted that “It was nice, cool, and there was no rain.”

Around the midway point of the 10k course, a formidable hill came into play, but Bibb, having run for over two decades, had the experience to pace properly.  “Mile three was a killer, but after that it was okay.” Currently, Bibb does human resources and information systems work.

Winning the women’s 10k in 37:19, a 6:01 mile pace, was Michelle Capozzi, 23, of Leesburg.  A week prior, she won the women’s 5k at the Dulles Day 5K.

Capozzi noted that she’s adapted well to the D.C. area after living in the northeast. “It’s nice and I really love the area here” Capozzi said.

The other choice for running was the 10-miler, and for the men’s division a D.C. public school teacher/former American University runner, Carlos Jamieson, along with Leesburg 20K winner/ George Mason graduate/full-time Potomac River Running Associate Jimmy Luehrs, were certainly up to the task.  Jamieson, 28, won in  52:15, and Luehrs, 22, was second in 52:54.

For Luehrs and Jamieson, teamwork certainly paid off.  The two kept each other going throughout the race which certainly contributed to their success.  “We ran together the whole time and went back and forth between leading and following.  It helped,” said Jamieson.  When asked if “the wall” was hit at any point, both runners alluded to a point “around mile seven or eight”.  Winning the female division of the 10 mile was Perry Shoemaker in 59:38.  Shoemaker, 44, is a perennial leader in the PR Trophy Series Standings.

Photo: Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photography
Eventual winner Sam Penzenstadler leads the pack out of the start of the Clarendon Day 5k. Photo: Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photography

The midpoint between a mile and a marathon is more than a little beyond the 5k, but that didn’t matter to Sam Penzenstadler and Kieran O’Connor.

[button-red url=”″ target=”_self” position=”left”] 5k Results [/button-red]The pair of Arlingtonians battled to the Clarendon Day 5k finish line with Penzenstadler, a 3:58 miler, edging marathoner O’Connor by a second in 14:34. The competition, not to mention a downhill first mile that early leader Tyler Andrews, also of Arlington, passed in 4:35, helped O’Connor score a 40-second PR, though Penzenstadler was off of his 13:58 track PR best. But, it was enough for the new Pacers New Balance runner to break Landon Peacock‘s one-year-old course record by three seconds. The race starts in Clarendon and heads down Wilson Boulevard and turns at the Arlington Memorial Bridge before finishing in Rossyln. The 10k turns at I-395. Both feature dramatic net downhills.

[button-red url=”″ target=”_self” position=”left”] 10k Results [/button-red]”I wanted to kick it in and win it in the last mile,” Penzenstadler said. “I’m new to racing on the roads, so I wanted to hold back and see how the race played out. I wasn’t even sure where the finish line was, but once we turned that corner and saw the finish, I put in a little move.”

It was enough to gap O’Connor, who started a late push before the two mile mark.

“I don’t have a kick, so if I wanted to win, I was going to have to get ahead early,” he said. O’Connor had added up 35.5 miles of racing the last three weekends, with second place finishes in the Parks and Navy-Air Force half marathons.

His second place didn’t break his spirit, because he headed back up Wilson Boulevard to join other 338 runners who doubled in the 10k. He won that race in 31:42 over Georgetown Running Club teammate Mike Franklin, who was second in last year’s 5k. The pair ran together through four miles.

Andrews, another marathoner, surged to the front of the 5k shortly after it started.

[button-red url=”″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Double Results [/button-red]”I was getting antsy,” he said. “I raced here because I knew it could be fast, but we were bunched up early on and I was clipping heels, so once we hit that big downhill I went to the front.”

He’s running the Hartford Marathon in October in preparation for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, but hadn’t backed off of his 150-mile weeks. That weekly total helped him keep his ugly last mile in perspective.

“When it got bad, I knew I just had one mile to go,” he said. “I wanted to see what my top-end speed was, and I definitely felt like I was red lining earlier than usual.”

Katie Kieran, of Arlington, won the women’s 5k by 46 seconds over Leah Congrove of Greensboro.

“I just wanted to keep my breathing controlled and let my legs go at a natural rhythm down the hill,” she said. “I was through the mile a little slower than I expected, but that just gave me confidence that I’d have more to give at the end of the race.”

That, and company from NOVA Running Club teammate Craig Shearer.

“It was excellent, I had him to keep me on pace,” she said. “I didn’t feel my momentum break after the downhill stopped.”

Women’s 10k winner Emily Potter, of Alexandria, is easing back into winning the late-August Edmonton Marathon (in 2:42:56), and didn’t stress too much on her way to a 37:49 finish.

“Did a long warm up, wore my training shoes, just wanted to get a long race in, ease back into it,” she said. “There were a lot of people in the first two miles, but it thinned out after that. Somehow it always feels windy in both directions out there.”

Behind her, D.C.’s Kerry Allen (second in 39:40) is training for the California International Marathon and chose to race when she was shut out looking for company on a long run.

“All my friends are out of town or stabbed themselves in the foot, so I was on my own today,” she said. “I found a good group of guys to run with. But the wind seems to come from all directions out there.”

D.C.’s Jess Martin and Arlington’s Alex Rosenblatt both doubled, at Martin’s suggestion. The pair stuck together for the 5k in 22:00, but Martin went ahead in the 10k (43:50) while Rosenblatt enjoyed his first-ever 10k (47:57)

“I have a knack for making bad decisions,” he joked, admitting he enjoyed the race. “I’ve run that far, just never in a race.”

D.C. resident Taurean Barnwell made his third attempt at the 5k, but was slowed by a knee injury.

“It didn’t hurt, but my range of motion was limited,” he said. “I had a good time anyway.”

The thing about Barnwell is that he doesn’t train to run. Basketball makes up most of his exercise, but his girlfriend runs daily. He chooses the races, they both run them.

Springfield’s Edith Roscoe ran the 5k race side-by-side with her friend Aziza Avant of Woodbridge, who was attempting her first race after participating in a color run last weekend. Roscoe was a little more experienced, having run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, but with that race having been 17 months ago, she was admittedly off of her training peak, but focused on helping her friend.

“We’ve been talking about it a lot,” Roscoe said of Avant. “She’s been saying she can’t do it, but I told her I knew she could. Now, she has the running bug. We’ve already made up our minds that we’re going to run the double next year.”

“I really liked the downhill and talking to other runners, learning about what they’re running for,” Avant said. “I was a sprinter in high school, but I always wanted to do long distance races and get more endurance. Now, I’m doing that at 35.”

Sure enough, training three times a week with Roscoe has helped make 40 minute runs a lot earier. They breezed through 12-minute miles, and even when they faced a slight uphill in the last mile, they took it as a challenge to improve on their weak points.

Avant is finding that time to herself to run at 5 a.m. is giving her more energy, which comes in handy corraling her 4-year-old, the youngest of her five children.

“Running is the only time I reserve for myself, no children, not husband, and I’m so glad I do it,” she said. “When I come back, then I’m ready to go.”


Parks Half continues to delight

Selina Read gets some last-minute company across the Parks Half Marathon finish line, while Rob Kennedy thanks his lucky stars the newcomer isn't in his age group. Photo: Dan Reichmann, MCRRC
Selina Read gets some last-minute company across the Parks Half Marathon finish line, while Rob Kennedy thanks his lucky stars the newcomer isn’t in his age group. Photo: Dan Reichmann, MCRRC

Joanna Robbins had done the Parks Half Marathon a few times, so she went to bed feeling like she was ready to help her friend Aaron Zimmerman run his first half.

[button-red url=”″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]When she woke up at 7:04, though, she knew there was one thing she forgot—the race started at 7. She thought on her feet, once she got out of bed, and high-tailed it to the five mile mark, courtesy of Ben Levy’s tactical navigation.

“They were nice and let me on the course,” she said. “I knew his pace, so I timed it right and got there in time to see him.”

Zimmerman managed to catch a ride with Robbins’ family and was cruising along, thinking he’d be on his own.

“Joanna just kind of pulled up alongside me and merged with me and there she was,” he said.

They pair met up with Levy at the eight mile mark and together, the three of them logged 26 miles.

“Joanna and I added up to 13 miles, so that’s pretty good,” Levy said.

The trio were among nearly 2,000 runners who made the trip to Bethesda through Rock Creek Park from the Rockville Metro station.

Andy Weaver, of Baltimore, was the first, coming away with the men’s win in 1:08:15, running most of the race alone, the second year the race has been bereft of East African competitors in the front.

“I was expecting some more people because prize money has a way of bringing people out, but I’ll take it,” he said.

Weaver recently moved to Baltimore from Delaware, following four years running for the University of Delaware, until the school cut its varsity cross country and track programs. He finished his eligibility at the University of Oklahoma and works as a civil engineer, running for the Falls Road Running Club.

“I thought this race would be a good place to check on my fitness before the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly Half,” scheduled for Halloween, he said. With a 1:05:40 PR in the half, he stands a chance of running the U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying standard of under 1:05.

He had a healthy lead over Kieran O’Connor and Brian Flynn, who ran 1:11:37. O’Connor planned to run the race a little easier, until early on when he saw the chase pack was not moving as fast as he expected.

“It looked like a little weaker field, so I made the call 100 meters in to go for it and make some money,” he said. “Brian and I decided early on not to fight too hard.”

D.C.’s Tezata Dengersa took the women’s crown in 1:20:10, ahead of Baltmore’s Nicole Wilson in 1:21:24.

Ashburn’s Debbie Casola had run the Parks Half’s predecessor, the Marathon in the Parks, but had never tried the half until her son, Daniel, voiced his interest in running it.

“I thought it was a great idea,” she said. “We ran about the first two miles, then I let him do his thing.”

“I couldn’t pick a better day to run,” Daniel said. “The weather was great.”

That it was. After a hot and muggy week, mostly clear skies and temperatures in the low 60s greeted the runners, with a slight sprinkle in the middle of the race.

“I thought I was crying a little earlier than normal in the race,” said Mike Katz, of D.C.

Missy Park, of Arlington, was running her ninth Parks Half, and by now she’s running on autopilot, but enjoying the race just the same.

“These days I know I can run the distance, but I don’t train as much,” she said. “I just accept that I won’t be as fast, but when you have a nice day, it doesn’t matters as much.

Bethesda native Sean O’Leary relished the chance to run his first Parks Half .

“I’ve come full circle from working at packet pickup at RnJ seven years ago,” he said. “Running those first few miles, it was hard to keep things under control because I got so pumped up by the Montgomery County running atmosphere.”

Mike Cole, of D.C., on the other hand, didn’t realize how fast he was going, because he consciously left his watch at home and didn’t start his running app on this phone.

“I just wanted to run however I felt comfortable, I just wanted to see how I feel and run as fast as I wanted to,” he said. “I saw the mile marks, but I didn’t realize how fast I was going until the finish.”

At which point, he noted that he had run a 14-minute personal best. His half marathon prior, he had also run about 14 minutes faster than his first.

“I think (that approach) helped, because I wasn’t even thinking about time,” he said. “I did a seven mile run last week and it was brutal, so I didn’t even know if I’d PR.”

He appreciated the support along the course from spectators, but observed a difference from other races.

“There weren’t as many people out there, but they cheered louder,” he said. “There was quality over quantity, and it made it a nice, intimate setting for the race.”

Marathon veteran Shlomo Fishman of Silver Spring chose Parks as his first half. He’s an Montgomery County Road Runners Club racing team member who also trains with the Dojo of Pain.

“I started with the marathon and so anything shorter is like speed work,” he said. “A lot of my MCRRC and Dojo teammates were out here and they were a big inspiration for me. They’ve helped me get faster and stay on my goal: to improve by three minutes in the marathon every year.”

The Rockville Rotary Twilighter starting line. Photo: Dan Reichmann
The Rockville Rotary Twilighter starting line. Photo: Dan Reichmann

Susanna Sullivan narrowly missed a first-place finish in the 2014 Rockville Rotary Twilight Runfest when Etaferahu Temesgen shattered a race record to edge her by 10 seconds. This year, Sullivan made sure she ended up on the other end of a close race.

[button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] Women’s Results [/button-red]“Last year I lost in a kick so I really wanted to be conservative early and make sure that I was ready to kick at the end,” Sullivan, 24, said. “One of my teammates asked me if I looked back in the last half mile. I told her I didn’t, because I didn’t want to see where (runner up Elfinesh Melaku) was and didn’t want to see her right over my shoulder and panic.”

Sullivan, a Capital Area Runners club member and Falls Church resident placed first among female runners in the 2015 race Saturday night in downtown Rockville, running 27:22. Melaku ran 27:45

The race was Sullivan’s first since she ran 2:35:37 at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. on June 20 , but the 28-day layoff didn’t have a negative impact on her performance. That happens when you’ve hit the Olympic A standard for the marathon.

“I took some time off after the marathon from working out and just really gotten into the workouts in the past week and a half. But they went well,” she said.

[button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] Men’s Results [/button-red]In the men’s portion of the 8k, Abu Kebede staved off Chris Sloane and the humidity to finish first among male runners, 25:02 to 25:04. Race spectators lined North Washington Street and cheered on the two men as Kebede cruised through the white finish line tape a step ahead of Sloane. The two hit the asphalt together shortly after.

“The last mile was very hard for me,” Kebede, 27, who lives in New York City, said. “It was very hot. The heat and up-and-down hills made it very difficult.”

High temperatures and humidity added another element to the already competitive race. Sloane, 32, vacationed in Southwest Florida in June and said he used some of his time there to prepare.

“I was in Florida for ten days last month and did a lot of training down there so that really helped,” Sloane, who lives in Gaithersburg, said. “I think it helped me today. I feel good about the way I ran. We started surging at probably about the last half mile and both realized that we were fighting for this. It went right down to the end.”

Third-place 8k women’s finisher Julia RomanDuval, 32, of Columbia, said Saturday’s weather was perhaps the worst she’s encountered in her running career.

“I’m not used to it – I don’t usually do well in the heat so I had to kind of push through today,” she said with a laugh. “It definitely wasn’t my fastest time, but I’ll take it.”

Exavier Watson joined more than 15 of his Montgomery County Road Runners teammates for the popular night race. The Germantown resident said he already logged 75 miles over the week, but used Saturday’s race as a primer for the Atlantic City Marathon he plans to run this October.

“I used this as a training run and I also like the competition element, too. I feel like competition always prepares you for what’s coming down the road,” Watson, 36, said. “I’m really bad at hills and this was a hilly course. I thought about quitting a few times but I knew there was a flat finish at the end so I kept pushing. And I also didn’t want to look bad in front of my coworkers who are on the team. They’re training, too, and I didn’t want them to talk trash to me on Monday at work.”

While the race attracted some of the region’s most competitive runners, it offered variants – including a fun run/walk – for runners of all levels.

Olney, Md. residents Kira Bursaw and Laura Portillo signed up for the 2013 race but severe weather forced officials to call it off. Despite the heat, Saturday’s weather was more cooperative.

“We ran the two miler and it was a really neat route,” Bursaw, 26, said. “There were a lot of hills but it just was really nice. It was kind of intimidating, though, when you neared the finish and ran towards all of the people doing the 8k. It makes you feel like you’re out of shape. We’re going to sign back up and do it again next year.”


Portillo, 26, said she and Bursaw often participate in color and electric runs, but she chose Saturday’s race as a training exercise. She aspires to tackle some of the longer courses.


“I love running but I’m trying to work myself up to running longer distances,” she said. “The uphill parts of the course were challenging, so that’s a good start. It was all downhill at the end so that was nice.”


Middle school student Leilani Nti convinced her mother to sign her up for the two-mile, fun run/walk event after she stumbled across an ad for the race in The Gazette newspaper. Her aunt, Gabriella Fernandez, joined her.


“I like the course and it was really fun, but it was very overwhelming because I was one of the first five to finish,” Leilani, 11, said. “It was fun to look back and see such a big crowd behind me. Next year I want to do the 8k.”









Runners make their way down Clarendon Boulevard. Photo: Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photography
Runners make their way down Clarendon Boulevard. Photo: Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photography

Run and repeat.

That’s what 286 runners opted to do at the Clarendon Day 5k and 10k, both of which started with a more-than-one-mile drop down Clarendon Boulevard into Rosslyn. The brave 5k runners were on the clock to get back to the top of the hill by 9:05 at the latest to start the 10k.

[button-red url=”″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Double results [/button-red] Rachel Schneider ambitiously opted for both and her combined time of 51:40 not only easily outdistanced second place doubler Kayley Cerney‘s 1:03:41, but she broke both course records in the process. Her 16:26 5k shaved off Katie Read‘s 16:54 from 2009, and her 35:14 10k gouged almost 90 seconds from Lisa Baumert‘s 36:42 the same year.

“I just finished five years of running at Georgetown University for cross country and track, and I still train under women’s head coach Mike Smith,” Schneider, 23, said. “So we just kind of figured that we would use this as a good workout to see where I’m at. The crowd here is so awesome. It really made me feel good and got me pretty fired up.

Schneider also used the opportunity to speak about her alma mater and its track and cross country program.

“Georgetown has such a phenomenal team. There is a great group of girls over there who are just working so hard. I feel lucky to be able to train with them and help them out.”

Alexandria’s Landon Peacock broke Steve Hallinan‘s 14:43 course record with his 14:37 win over Mike Franklin. Marathoner/ultramarathoner Mike Wardian proved he isn’t out of speed at 40 by running a 15:17/32:13 double, leading the male doublers. Kevin McNab just missed Matt DeBole‘s 30:24 10k record with his 30:37 winning time.

The highly-trafficked Clarendon neighborhood received a dramatic makeover on September 27 as street vendors and exhibitors’ tents replaced vehicles and littered typically-busy Wilson Boulevard for Clarendon Day 2014.

[button-red url=”″ target=”_self” position=”left”] 5k results [/button-red]“I think it’s a very festive atmosphere – beginning with the run and ending with the daylong street fair here in Clarendon,” John Brittain said. There are a good combination of fun runners and competitive runners. We’ve seen families running together, recreational runners and a few speedsters. Everything blends well on a morning like this.”

Cousins Candace Inghram (30:52) and Janelle Freeman (30:35) made Clarendon Day 2014 a family affair as the two participated in the 5k event. For Inghram, the race was a first. The cousins donned matching gray-and-pink T-shirts emblazoned with “Will Run for Wine” and set out on the three-mile course.

“I found out about the race from Janelle. She runs a lot and is always posting pictures of her races on Instagram, so I wanted to participate,” Inghram, 33, an Indianapolis, Ind., resident said. “I was nervous all week but Janelle told me that it was just a 5K – I had no idea even how long that was –   and that I would make it. I made it.”

Freeman, 31, said she hopes Saturday’s race is the first of many the two will run together.

“I’m glad she made it through her first race. Pacers always puts on good races. I knew that it would be a fun, easy event for her to do. It was a lot of fun and today was a great day for running,” the Alexandria resident said.

The fun did not end with the adults.

[button-red url=”″ target=”_self” position=”left”] 10k results [/button-red]Stephen Lagarde slowly walked along Fillmore Street as he shepherded his two young daughters, Cate and Evie. Both girls’ sets of eyes remained locked on the gold medals they just received, and their little fingers tightly gripped the trinkets.

After a bit of confusion at the start of the race, Lagarde said the family was finally on its way.

“We lined up by age – there was a little chaos as everyone tried to figure out where to go – and when the dust settled and it was time to run, we fell to the back of the pack,” Lagarde, 35, who lives in Clarendon, said. “We’re proud to say that we were dead last out of the two hundred or so people that were in the race.”

And although Lagarde’s five, and two-and-a-half year old daughters were far too preoccupied with their medals to speak for themselves, their father said the three will likely run again.

“I suspect we’ll be back again next year. We didn’t know what to expect today, but now we do,” Lagarde said.

In early May of 2010, Anthony Cook sat in one of the rooms at Arlington’s Virginia Hospital Center. Cook, a lifelong asthma sufferer, had just become the world’s first successful bronchial thermoplasty procedure patient. Prior to three-operation procedure, Cook said mere breathing was a daunting task.

“I was on oxygen, I was in bed and I was on tons of medication,” the 51-year-old Herndon resident said.

On Saturday, he stood in front of Whitlow’s on Wilson, barley able to contain his excitement. He set a personal best with a time of just over 22 minutes in the 5k event. It was a fitting ending to an already-remarkable day.

“The morning has been emotional. I love Arlington because I had the procedure here and it saved my life,” Cook said. “To be able to come across the finish line in the fastest time that I’ve ever run, just added even more emotions to it. I love to speak about the procedure because I want other asthmatics, who want to run, to be able to know about it. It really means a lot to me.”


Subscribe to our mailing list