Washington, DC
Christo Landry, Sara Hall, Aaron Braun and Molly Huddle. Photo: Dustin Whitlow
Christo Landry, Sara Hall, Aaron Braun and Molly Huddle. Photo: Dustin Whitlow

For the second year, the .US National 12K championships will be held in Alexandria, capping off the 2014 USA Running Circuit (USARC).

How it works: The USARC each year hosts national championships at distances ranging from one mile to the marathon. The first 10 U.S. runners at each race earn points, and also qualify for the 12K, which features $100,000 in prize money. Points are doubled at both the 12K and in the marathon.

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Heading into tomorrow, Falls Church native Christo Landry, with 76 points, has an insurmountable lead in the men’s standing. Landry is entered; Tyler Pennel, second in the USARC standings, is not.

Pennel established himself on the national stage at last year’s 12k, finishing 3rd. In October, he won his first national title in his debut marathon.

For Landry, 2014 has been nothing less than a breakthrough year. In April, he won his first of three national championships on his home turf at the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, prior to capturing titles at 10K and 25K. Five weeks ago, Landry was 13th in 2:14:30 at the Chicago Marathon. The result disappointed him.

Tomorrow, though, Landry, a graduate of Thomas Jefferson Science and Technology then William & Mary, who recently moved from Michigan to Charlotte, N.C., will give it his best shot, and, no matter the result, claim a USARC title and savor the opportunity to race in northern Virginia. “It’s just great to come home,” he said. “I grew up right nearby and anytime I get to come back to this area it just feels like coming home again, regardless of where I live at the moment.”

During a press conference today, Kevin Ullman of RunnerSpace pointed out that Landry and Molly Huddle have a shot at becoming the first runners to ever claim four USA titles in one year.

Landry, after noting how special that would be, said, “It’s more likely to be Molly’s chance to do it first than mine tomorrow.”

Huddle, the defending 12k champion and clear favorite, is just two points behind Sara Hall in the women’s USARC standings. Both will race tomorrow.

“That’s a pretty detailed stat,” said the understated Huddle, to Ullman’s question, “but I think it would be pretty special [to win four titles].”

Huddle has raced three USARC races and won as many times, claiming titles at 7 miles, 20K, and 5K. Last year, for Huddle, 12k, as a distance, seemed both strange and too long, even if she covered it in a national record time. This year, though, Huddle said she has a good “pace memory” for the distance and is focusing on winning a national championship. “Hopefully however fast we have to go I’m ready to do that,” she said.

Hall, throughout her career, has had tremendous success in the middle distances on the track, but said she has had fun – not to mention success – experimenting with longer distances this year. She was the second American finisher at the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, which hosted the national championship, and won and set a course record at the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler last weekend.

Had it not been for a burst appendix in August, Hall, who is married to American marathoner Ryan Hall, planned to run her debut marathon earlier this fall. That plan has simply been postponed.

“After this race I’ll probably be turning the corner to more marathon specific training,” she said.

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After many near misses, Aaron Braun won his first national title at last year’s 12k, “getting over the mountain,” he said.

Braun added: “Once I know that I’ve done something once, then I have a lot more belief that I can do it again.”

Braun’s 2014 has been up and down. His debut marathon didn’t go well. And in July, Braun, feeling overly fatigued, took a long break to recharge.

But Braun has since won the Great Cow Harbor 10K and San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, and is now focused on defending his 20K title. “I feel like I’m in as good of shape, if not better shape, than last year, so I should be able to pull it off again this year,” he said.

Believing gait inefficiencies contributed to his difficulties in the marathon, Braun worked on his form, starting with a visit to Mark Plaatjes, a former world marathon champion and physical therapist, for video analysis.

“As soon as I watched the video, I was kind of like, ‘Oh, gosh, that’s pretty bad.’ You always feel like you are the most beautiful runner, but when you actually see, actually critique yourself, it was kind of a good view into what was actually happening,” he said.

Braun has been doing strengthening drills and has been more conscientious of not leaning too far back while running.

“Hopefully it pays off tomorrow and in my future marathons,” he said.

***

A USATF spokeswoman said 1,300 runners will participate in tomorrow’s race. It will be run on a different, and out-and-back, course, but will start and finish in the same place, near Oronaco Bay Park. (See map.)

The elite women will start at 7:15 a.m. The elite men, masters, and open race will start at 7:25. To watch online, see the live stream.

Lucas Meyer, a lawyer living in Washington, D.C., is in the men’s elite field. See both elite fields.

RunWashington will cover both the elite men’s and women’s races. Follow @runwashington and @dicksonmercer for updates.

  

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Top American runners Shalane Flanagan, Molly Huddle, Chris Solinsky, and Matt Tegenkamp at a press conference this morning. Photo: Vladimir Bukalo
Top American runners Shalane Flanagan, Molly Huddle, Chris Solinsky, and Matt Tegenkamp at a press conference in Alexandria this morning. Photo: Vladimir Bukalo

The 2013 USA Running Circuit (USARC) will culminate tomorrow morning on the streets of Alexandria, where some of America’s best distance runners will compete for $100,000 in prize money, including $20,000 for the winners. The inaugural .US National Road Racing Championships – USA Track and Field’s first wholly owned-and-operated road race – will take runners of all abilities on a 12k journey starting and finishing near Oronoco Bay Park, a spot local runners know well.

How it works: The road racing series includes national championships for races ranging from a mile to the marathon. The first 10 U.S. runners at each race earn points, with 15 points awarded for 1st, 12 for 2nd, and 10 for third. Tomorrow the top 10 finishers will earn triple points, which provides extra incentive for runners farther down on the leaderboard.

The top three on the men’s side – Matt Tegenkamp (60 points), Shadrack Biwott (52), and Josphat Boit (50) – are entered. Among the top three women in the standings – Mattie Suver (47), Janet Bawcom (45), and Annie Bersagel (30) – only Bawcom is not entered.

As for tomorrow’s favorites, keep an eye out for Shalane Flanagan (15) and Molly Huddle (15). On the men’s side, Tegenkamp will be joined by training partner Chris Solinsky. Both fields are deep.

Brian Pilcher of Ross, Calif., and Kathryn Martin of Northport, N.Y., rank among the top entrants in the national masters championship.

Not Your Average Distance

Quick question for everyone running tomorrow: What’s your 12k PR?

Exactly.

So how do you approach such an unfamiliar race distance?

Do you – as was suggested in a question to Huddle at a press conference this morning – race 10K and try to hang on for two more?

“More or less,” said Huddle, who won the national 5k championships in September and the NYRR Dash to the Finish 5k two weeks ago (Flanagan was 3rd).

“This is pretty long for me,” she said, “but I am excited to see what I can do over 12k and I think it is a pretty interesting distance for everyone else to try.”

Asked to share his advice for taking on the 12k, Solinsky said to “find that comfortable rhythm that you are very confident you could do 10K or more at.” If you feel good at halfway, go for it.

“Through the training,” Tegenkamp said, “you have learned what you can handle in terms of pace.” Late in the race, though, when things get tough, turn on the competitive switch. “That’s what racing is all about,” he said.

Flanagan won a national title this summer at 10,000 meters and went on to finish 8th in the world in Moscow. Tomorrow marks her debut at 12k.

“I am in the same boat as they are,” said Flanagan, referring to the many runners who will race 12k for the first time tomorrow.

“It’s a distance that I’ve never done. It’s a brand new PR – so you have to just embrace it for the fun factor.”

Flanagan’s plan is similar to Tegenkamp’s and Solinsky’s: “I try to be smart the first half and then I switch over to being competitive – and that usually helps me pull out all the extra energy I have.”

USATF spokesperson Jill Geer said 12k allows 5K specialists and marathoners to “compete on relatively even footing.” But it’s also a great distance for an event designed to celebrate both our sport’s best runners and the many participants of all ages, levels of seriousness, and talent.

If you haven’t run a 12k before, it’s hard to cross the finish line, see the clock, and be disappointed. Take it from the first American to ever break 27 minutes for 10,000 meters.

“I’ve never run a 12k before so I know I’m going to get a PR tomorrow,” Solinsky said.

Details

The women’s championship race starts at 7:15 a.m. The men’s championship, master’s championship, and open race (also being referred to as the “community race”) starts 10 minutes later. A 5k race starts at 7; a half-mile “Kids’ Fun Run” starts at 9:30.

The 5K will include about 30 girls from the local Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School. The girls trained together for the race and Olympian Deena Kastor said she plans to meet them at the starting line for a pre-race pep talk. (“I think our greatest job as elite runners,” she said at the press conference, “is to be able to inspire the Olympians of tomorrow.”)

The race will be streamed live at USATF.TV.

RunWashington will cover both the men’s and women’s races.

@runwashington

@dicksonmercer

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The rain held off at the Run for Rainforest 5k...for about a minute. Photo: Jacqueline Klimas
The rain held off at the Run for Rainforest 5k…for about a minute. Photo: Jacqueline Klimas

The Run for the Rainforest 5k in Arlington, Va., not only benefited the rainforest, but also felt like one as it drizzled and then poured on Sunday morning.

About 150 people finished the annual race put on by the Amazon Conservation Team on a mild morning hovering around 72 degrees. The race on a USATF-certified course began at 8 a.m. [button-red url=”http://www.runwashington.com/RAIN_5K_RESULTS.TXT” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]

The 3.1-mile loop course started on the Bluemont Junction Trail and continued onto the Washington and Old Dominion Trail before circling back and finishing at the Ballston campus of Marymount University. Runners lined up on the narrow running path in a light drizzle, but the sky opened up almost as soon as they’d crossed the start line.

Andy Stepka, a 17-year-old who runs cross country and track year round at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax City, Va., took the top spot in the race, barely edging out 15-year-old Ryan Lesmez in a very close finish. Lesmez had the lead around the final corner when Stepka picked up the pace, sprinting the last 100 meters and beating Lesmez by just a foot-length.

Both men were listed as having an official finishing time of 18:25.

“I was coming around the corner, and I thought we’d have to make another loop, but I saw the finish line and decided to give it my all and try to slip past [Lesmez],” Stepka said.

Lesmez said he didn’t realize someone was that close behind him.

“I didn’t take this race as seriously as I could and decided not the sprint the end,” Lesmez said, who runs at Yorktown High School in Arlington.

In addition to the race preparing him for cross country in the fall, Stepka used the race as part of his training for the New Balance Falmouth Road Race, a 7-mile race on Cape Cod, Mass., on August 11. Lesmez is planning to do another run locally in August with friends, but has not decided which one.

Dominique Lee, a 25-year-old from Alexandria, was the first woman to cross the finish line in 22:59.

“It was an interesting race. I was alone for a lot of it, so that was tough, especially with all the rain and the last half was all uphill,” she said.

Lee ran in college, but took a few years off after and is just now easing back into distance running. The Rhode Island native’s next race will be the Blessing of the Fleet 10 Miler in Narragansett, R. I. on July 26. She used Saturday’s 5K to gauge where she was in her preparations for the longer race, but has no plans for any other local races.

She is also training for the Amica Marathon in Newport, R.I. this fall.

There were cash prizes for the top three male and female finishers, and raffle prizes available to all.

Finishers passed through a soggy balloon-lined fence while music blared, splashing through rivers of water on the street. Many were sporting the white technical t-shirt given to all participants, which featured the race logo: an image of a foot made up of blue and green leaves. While everyone running was soaked through head to toe, some didn’t seem to mind the wet weather.

“It was so hot, I love the rain. It felt good while I was running,” said Janet Garber, a 60-year-old from Alexandria.

Garber did the race with her two friends, Saleena Ross, a 59-year-old from Fort Washington, and Rita Cronley, a 59-year-old from Arlington. The three often race locally, and said they picked this race because it was the right time, place and distance for them.

Cronley said she likes to switch it up, taking on both small, local races as well as larger ones with a much bigger field size. For her needs now, the Run for the Rainforest 5K seemed like a good fit.

“I’m recovering from an injury, so I could take it easy,” Cronley said. “It was the perfect size and well-marked.”

Garber, who recently turned 60, said she was excited to “capitalize on a new age group.”

While some were just racing for fun, others picked the race because of the cause it supported. The goal of the Amazon Conservation Team is to empower indigenous people in the Amazon with the skills to better monitor and protect the rainforest. The money raised in the annual race is used to increase awareness about how important it is to save the rainforest, the race’s website said.

Evan Notman, a 47-year-old from Takoma Park, Md., was drawn to the race because he’s passionate about saving the environment and had heard of the organization putting on the race.

“In addition to protecting the rainforest, the Amazon Conservation Team does a lot of work helping indigenous people, which is very important,” Notman said.

Isabelle Anderson, a 10-year-old who ran the race with her dad, Angus, is another nature enthusiast drawn to the race for the good cause it supports.

She has participated in Girls on the Run at Rosehill Elementary School in Alexandria, but couldn’t this year because of a scheduling conflict, her father said. The two decided to find a 5K to do together as a replacement.

“I love nature and I like to run, so I thought it would be fun,” she said.

 

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By Brenda Barrera
Williamsburg, VA
May 19, 2012
For the Washington Running Report

“Yup, I’m 40,” the message on overall champion Kevin Castille’s shirt said it all. It was an impressive day for the 40 and older crowd at the Run for the Dream 8K in Williamsburg VA which also served as the USA Track & Field Masters 8K Championships. A total of 1,536 runners completed the 8K race on the rolling course on the historical Colonial Williamsburg and College of Williams & Mary. And 143 national-class runners competed in the separately scored Masters Championship division.

Having just turned 40 this past March, Castille is having an exceptional year. The Louisiana-native now residing in Kentucky is tearing up the roads and also the track. He captured the masters crown at the Carlsbad 5000 (14:57), set a U.S. Masters 10K record at the Stanford University Invitational (28:57) and set a new course record at today’s race with his 24:19 finish.

“The conditions were ideal,” said Castille who led the whole race and had set a goal to run faster than 24:00. “But it’s hard to get into a groove when the course has a lot of turns like this.” Alexandria’s Chris Juarez, 41, was second in 25:16 followed by Mark Andrews, 41, from Rochester, NY. Ray Pugsley, 43, from Potomac Falls, VA and racing for the Baltimore Washington Athletic Club took the fourth spot in the Masters competition in 26:02.

The women’s masters competition was almost a repeat of last year. Chris Kimbrough, 42,  from Austin, TX and the 2011 USATF Club Cross Country National Masters Champion defended her 8K Masters title. She took the crown in 28:08 but as with 2011 was challenged by former William & Mary All-American Sonja Friend-Uhl who now resides in Brentwood, TN. Friend-Uhl finished in 28:19. The margin was closer than last year when they finished 1-2 in 28:18 and 28:56, respectively.

“I felt pretty good for the first 3 miles and didn’t pass Sonya until 3 1/2 miles,” said Kimbrough who received extra motivation from her uncle who drove up from Suffolk to cheer his niece.

Susannah Kvasnicka from Great Falls, VA has been on hiatus the past few years due to injuries but it is hard to sit on the sidelines when you turn 40. Kvasnicka said she is excited to get back into racing shape and kicked off her return with an overall win at Cassidy Turley Race for Hope 5K on May 6 and in today’s contest she took the third spot with her 29:35 finish.

Charlottesville’s Thomas Adam, racing for the Ragged Mountain Racing Team, finished fourth overall with his 25:55. The youngster in the talented field at just 25-years old, is not going to be competing in the masters category for awhile but he drew inspiration from competing with the older crowd.

“I liked seeing more experienced runners still competing and still enjoying the sport,” said Adam.

Among the finishers was Andy Scales, 45, who completed the 8K in a kilt. He admitted last year at this time he was sitting on his couch and weighed 330 pounds. The accountant and volunteer fireman decided it was time for a change and adopt a new lifestyle which included walking in the evening.

“It took me a month before I could even run a mile,” said the Saluda resident who now weighs 285.

Actor Joe Mantegna, in town as the guest host for Colonial Williamsburg’s special “A Salute to the Nation” made an appearance at the awards presentation. Afterward, several of the participants mentioned they were eager to get off their feet as they would be returning to the starting line again for Sunday’s half marathon, part of the Patriot’s Challenge.

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