Monday, January 22, 2018

GRC Team Awards 2017

At our annual winter meeting on Saturday, Coach Jerry took the time to recognize our top performers and notable contributors during 2017.

Women’s MVP—Stephanie Reich

Steph had another great year, and continued to prove her versatility, toughness, and commitment to her team. Among her achievements on the track in 2017, Steph successfully defended her Penn Relays Olympic Development 10,000 meter title, and set new GRC club records at 1500 (4:27.82), 3000 (9:36.03), and 5000 (16:25.19). On the roads, Steph defended her title in the Frederick Half Marathon, running 1:16:14 on a hilly course, with no race-specific workouts, less than 36 hours after setting the club record in the 1500, and won a seemingly endless string of races at shorter distances.

Steph’s health limited her training in the fall, and despite knowing that she was not anywhere close to ready to race at the level she expects from herself, she competed at Clubs XC to the best of her ability in order to help the team. Steph has big plans for 2018 as she continues her trajectory to national-class status, and we’re going to see many more great performances from her in the future.

Men’s MVP—Stewart Reich

Stewart continued his remarkable development from GRC “walk-on” to star, with breakthrough performances at numerous distances. On the track, Stewart ran PRs of 3:56.9 for 1500, 8:34.2 for 3000, 14:30.4 for 5000, and 29:46 for 10,000, which is fifth on the GRC all-time list. Stewart’s performance in the 10,000 was particularly noteworthy, as it was his first serious attempt at the distance, and puts him within striking range of the club record in 2018. In the fall, Stewart won several road races including Navy 5 mile and Vets Day 10k in a road PR of 30:45. Stewart finished the year with another breakthrough performance, finishing 70th at Clubs XC, which puts him eighth on the GRC list. Stewart is just getting started, and he will continue to build on his momentum going forward.

Women’s Newcomer of the Year—Maura Linde

Maura had a fantastic rookie year, running multiple PRs, and making the GRC all-time list in numerous events. On the track, Maura ran 9:37.8 for 3000, which is third on the all-time list, 16:39.8 for 5000, which is fourth on the list, and 35:31 for 10,000, which is third on the list. On the roads, Maura ran 16:45 for 5k, 27:31 for 8k, and 34:15 for 10k, all of which are second on the all-time list, and 59:11 for 10 miles, which is fifth on the list. Maura saved the best for last, capping off her year with a superb 20th place finish at Clubs XC, which is the second best performance ever by a GRC athlete at Clubs. Maura is poised to ascend to national-class status in in 2018, and she just might break a club record or two in the process.

Men’s Newcomer of the Year—Lucas Stalnacker

Lucas joined GRC after graduation from the Naval Academy, fresh off his fifth place finish in the 10,000 meters at the 2017 NCAA championships. Lucas raced sparingly in the fall because of his military duties, but when he got on the starting line he made it count. Lucas made a truly memorable GRC debut at the Philadelphia Rock N Roll Half Marathon, finishing fifth in 1:05:26 on a hot day after going toe-to-toe with an elite professional field that included Galen Rupp. At the Army 10 Mile, Lucas again locked horns with top-flight pros, finishing sixth after running in the lead pack with the Army’s squad of Olympians for 7 miles. Lucas set the club record for 8k at the Charlotte Southpark Turkey Trot, running an outstanding 23:46. Lucas concluded his season at Clubs, leading the team to a stellar eighth place finish, our best ever, coming in 60th, which is fourth on the all-time list. Lucas has much, much more running ahead of him, and we’re sure to see more national-caliber performances from him in the months to come.

Nina Brekelmans Award—Julie Tarallo

Julie has earned this award for her years of dedication to GRC, both as an athlete and as a board member. Julie is an outstanding marathoner, and her PR of 2:51:55 is fifth on the all-time list. In 2017, Julie ran a huge PR of 1:20:40 in the half marathon, and in her first cross country race since college, she finished a strong 134th place at Clubs.

As a board member, Julie contributions have included serving as women’s team captain, and as sponsorship director for the Fathers Day 8k. Julie’s dedication to service extends far beyond GRC. Julie is Communications Director for Senator McCain, and her extremely prominent and demanding position has frequently limited her ability to race and train. But despite the severe restrictions on her time, Julie has continued to compete at a high level, and no matter how busy she is, has made the time to fulfill her duties to the team.

Lauren Woodall Roady Award—Maura Carroll

Maura was one of the founding members of the current iteration of the women’s team, and she has been one of our best and most reliable athletes for more than six years. During her GRC career, Maura has shown great range, as her PRs of 17:27 track 5000 (which was the club record when she ran it), 29:24 8k, 35:45 10k, 59:56 10 mile, 1:19:46 half marathon, and 2:54:32 marathon amply demonstrate. Even as Maura has shifted her focus to longer road distances, she has continued to be excel in cross country, and her 60th place finish at Clubs in 2016 is seventh on the all-time list.

Maura has also been a long-standing member of the board, and has held several positions since 2012. For the last two years, Maura has served as race director for the Fathers Day 8K, which is an extremely difficult, time-consuming, and thankless job. Without Maura’s dedication and hard work on behalf of the team, both as an athlete and as an administrator, GRC would not be what it is today.

Friday, January 19, 2018

BREAKING: New O'Connor Family Member Sets 400m Family Record

It sounds hard to believe, but here's the report from Kieran himself:

"Ms. Oonagh Priscilla, weighing in at 7 lbs 3 ozs, born 1/17. Everyone healthy and happy. Already has a better 400m PR than her father."

Some quick math indicates that Oonagh would have had to run at least 1:02 in order to claim the record. This post will be updated once we know more.

Congratulations to Kieran and Zyra!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

VanGaged!

BrReuters Wire Services - Madrid, Spain.

FLASH: today at the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid, Spain, Chris Van Es popped the question to Zach Huey.  Sources report that Huey accepted with a resounding "Si!," which is Spanish for "Yes!"  (Editor's note: this flimsy GRC-issued keyboard is incapable of making accent marks and inverted Spanish-style exclamation points).  Stay tuned to this blog for all the details of this happy event.



DEVELOPING....

South Central by Southwest

As we deal with D.C.'s temperamental climate, five GRC runners headed to places with more predictable climates.

Local men run quasi-local half
Dickson, Evan and Outlaw raced the Houston Marathon after a series of great workouts in recent weeks and top-notch tuneups. Outlaw and Evan ran 1:10:22 and 1:10:25, respectively, at the Richmond Half.
Outlaw ran 2:27:37, less than a minute off of his PR of 2:26:50 at the 2015 Grandma's Marathon. Ev ran 2:29:33, close to his 2014 Grandma's PR of 2:27:37.


Dix breezed a 16 mile run on the towpath in mid December, with a few miles tacked onto the Gar Williams Half, where he finished second, matching Mike Cotterell's runner up finish in 2009. His 2:31:20 in Houston is his second best time, behind only his 2:29:14 from the 2006 Chicago Marathon. Based on their proximity to their best times and the fact that a difference of two seconds per mile adds up to almost a minute, it was a really successful trip for these three.




After so many Sundays prepping her boss for the Sunday talk show circuit, Julie Tarallo got the morning (at least) to herself at the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon. She ran 2:54:32 for third place, and, with her colleague, raised more than $5,300 for the National Brain Tumor Society. She ran a 1:20:40 PR at the Richmond half.



Even farther west, Greta Stults celebrated her break from working in the consulate in Kabul, Afghanistan by running the Carlsbad Half Marathon. Since June, she has done most of her running around a .8 mile loop in the government compound or, more recently on a treadmill, to avoid horrible air quality.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Global GRC: Frances Loeb wins Pacific Mini Games Half Marathon

GRC has gone global, as proven by Frances Loeb's victory in the Half Marathon in the Pacific Mini Games, an international competition in Vanuatu, where Frances is serving in the Peace Corps. Frances reports, "I had such a blast representing my island, Erromango, in the half marathon in the Pacific Mini Games. It was a close race for me with talented runners from New Zealand and Solomon Islands but all the support from my Peace Corps people, my village and my parents visiting me all the way from the US pushed me through! The best part was giving my host dad the gold medal and a victory dunk in the ocean when I got back to my village."



"Before the race, I was kind of freaking out because everyone in my village kept telling me they thought I would win because they saw how much I was training. And the word got out I was running this race all over the country. Four other Peace Corps volunteers told me about how people in their community asked them about corps volunteer who was running the half marathon. I started trying to tell everyone, like my host family and the other volunteers that had flown down to the capital to watch me race that there was no way I could win and I was just shooting for second or third. And actually, I watched this woman from the Solomon Islands who was also in the half marathon win the 5k two days before the race and she was a tough runner and racer. I had no idea what kind of shape I was in and wasn't feeling very fast.



So race day comes and everyone goes out pretty fast so I start off the race in last place. By the second mile I was solidly in third place and can see he Solomon island woman and my goal is just to keep her in my sights and towards the end pass her for second place. I was going out very conservatively and feeling really good. At a really long downhill around mile 5, I start to really close the gap and I wasn't planning to pass her that soon but I noticed that the New Zealand woman wasn't insanely far in front (the benefit of such a small race, I could see the next people in front and because there weren't like 50 people in between it didn't feel as daunting to close the gap) and I was feeling really good so I figured I should pass now and see if there's some chance I could close that gap by the end. I passed the New Zealand woman earlier than I would have wanted to, around mile 8, because I was scared that she would come back and get me but it was another long downhill and I just felt like I had to really pass and get some distance then.

In the end I ran a 1:24:59 and she was I think 43 seconds behind me. I was feeling great until the last 2 miles that were really rough, I was so tired and dying. The last like 300 meters when I was pretty sure I had the win I just could not move but I pushed it in. I was SO surprised I won, I thought I could run only ~1:28 based on my rough tempo workouts the 3 weeks before. I had been doing the workouts later in the morning closer to 9am in the heat and humidity and then the actual race day started at 5:30 and was rainy so that helped with my time. I think I got lucky that everything came together for me and that I ended up being so mentally tough and motivated just thinking about how happy my village would be and how my parents had flown all the way across the world to be there. I also got lucky because it felt cool for me but I think the New Zealand woman was not adjusted to the intense humidity and maybe went out too fast.



It was so special because no one from team Vanuatu ran for the women. While I was technically an independent since I'm not a Vanuatu citizen just a resident which allowed me to participate, I wore a uniform that had the name of my island and Vanuatu on it with a cool graphic of the island / Vanuatu flag and was kind of representing Vanuatu. A ton of people wanted to take a picture with me after. And most importantly, my village was THRILLED to hear the news. So many of them called me to congratulate me and tell me I made them proud and told me the story of where they were when they found out I won. I got a ton more of that when I made it back to the village. They all told me they had been praying for me. And when I called my host dad and told him I won, he cried. When my boat came in from the airport when I got back, they grabbed me and threw me in the ocean since I won."




Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Weekend Review: December 9-10, 2017

We had a fantastic weekend at Clubs.  There were excellent performances on both the men's and women's sides, it was a great team bonding experience, and most importantly, we honored Lauren in a truly meaningful way.

The men placed 8th, which is their best performance ever at Clubs. Our top 4 of Lucas, Stewart, Luke, and Ryan S were separated by only 20 seconds, our 5th and 6th men, JLP and Kyle, were close behind, and the spread from 1 to 6 was an outstanding 58 seconds.  We had so much depth that by Coach Jerry's calculations if Lucas hadn't run, we still would have finished 10th.  By 1 mile into the race, Lucas wished he was doing something other than running, as he did not feel like himself right from the gun, and had what he called his worst race in 2 years.  To put Lucas's talent level into perspective, while he had a terrible race by his standards, his 60th place finish is the 4th best ever for a GRC man, and to his great credit Lucas fought to the tape to put the team in a position to succeed.  Stewart learned his lesson from last year's irrational over-exuberance, running a patient, controlled race.  Stewart's patience was rewarded with a 70th place finish, which ties him for 8th on the all-time GRC list.  In his 10th Clubs, Luke ran yet another strong race, placing 76th.  Luke is a highly valued team member and a truly superior athlete, as well as a wonderful role model for the younger guys.  Ryan S rounded out our top 4 in an outstanding 80th place.  Ryan is heading to flight school within the week, and while we'll miss him at practice, he will continue to represent GRC, and we're looking forward to more great results from him.  JLP and Kyle both worked extremely hard to make the A team, and they proved they belonged by finishing in 123rd and 128th place.  Developing young athletes is an important part of our mission at GRC, and it was awesome to see JLP and Kyle step up to the A level on Saturday.  Graham was right with JLP and Kyle through 8k when he had the misfortune of taking a nasty fall caused by a non-competitor on the course, resulting in a partially dislocated shoulder.  Graham is okay, but he was disappointed to not be able to finish in our top 5, and prove me wrong for putting him on the B team.  Among other noteworthy performances for the men, Lars had a major breakthrough, crossing the line as our 7th finisher in 168th place.  Lars's time was a 10k PR, which is remarkable given that the course was quite difficult, and the conditions were brutal.  In the masters race, Wertz was 20th.  After finishing 10th last year, Dave was disappointed to take a step backwards, but he's fully motivated to take his shot at a podium finish next year.

Start of the Men's race. Photo Cred: Sean O'Leary.

Solid A Team Debuts for Kyle W. and JLP. Photo Cred: Sean O’Leary


Sean B., Ryan “Crop Top Szn” Witters, and Tyler Dye finish hard. Photo Cred: Sean O’Leary

For the women, Maura L was an outstanding 20th place, the second best finish ever by a GRC athlete.  Maura L trails only the great Frances Koons, who was 8th in 2014, and she will have a real shot at a top 10 finish next year.  This caps an excellent fall for Maura L, and for someone who has had a string of bad luck in major races, this result validates her aspiration to legitimate national-caliber status.  Our second finisher was Maura, in 76th place.  Maura doesn't like to admit it, but she is an excellent xc runner, and she proved it yet again with another outstanding run at Clubs.  Steph was 119th place, and after struggling with her health throughout the fall, and feeling terrible right from the gun on Saturday, Coach Jerry is extremely proud of Steph for taking one for the team.  Julie and Emily K rounded out our top 5, finishing 134th and 143rd, and they both performed exceptionally well despite being way outside of their comfort zones.  Julie is a true marathoner who had not run a xc race since college, and Emily is a mid-distance runner for whom 6k surely felt like a marathon, yet they both rose to the challenge to help the team place 14th, which was a great result under the circumstances.  Chelsea was our 6th finisher in 179th, followed closely by Natalie in 186th. We greatly appreciated both of their efforts, as Chelsea's training has been limited by her busy teaching and coaching schedule, and Natalie ran the full at Richmond less than a month ago.  Our mid-distance crew also ran very well, with Jackie in 193rd, Alyson in 202nd, Alexa in 208th, Angelina in 214th, and Jesse in 237th.  Jesse's participation was emblematic of how important Clubs is to GRC.  Jesse has competed in more USATF championships on the track than she can count, and for a national caliber 800 runner to willingly endure a race where she knew she would be bringing up the rear, and her primary goal was to finish without walking, was really significant to her teammates.

Start of the Women’s Race. Photo Cred: Sean O’Leary


 Maura L. grinds it out. Photo Cred: Sean O’Leary


Very few GRC athletes consider themselves cross country specialists, and Clubs is a major commitment in terms of time and resources, yet we make it a priority because it gives us the one chance each year to compete together, as a team, in a meaningful competition.  We all came away from the trip committed to doing even better next year in Spokane, and are already looking forward to everybody training together next fall to achieve a common goal. 

At Jingle Bell 15k, our Houston crew of Outlaw, Evan, and Dickson were 3rd, 4th, and 5th, getting in some solid marathon-pace work.  Charlie was close behind in 6th.  In the 5k, Mitchell ran 16:34, and then immediately volunteered handing out medals at the finish. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

FLASH: 2017 Club XC Nationals Results

Official team results are in: The men were 8th, the B team was 33rd, and the C team was 46th.  The women finished 14th.The GRC men finish return to the top 10 for the first time since 2013. 

Women – Open 6km
Maura Linde 20th 20:31
Maura Carroll 76th 21:29
Stephanie Reich 119th 22:13
Julie Tarallo 134th 22:24
Emily Koehle 143rd 22:31
Natalie Patterson 186th 23:22
Jacqueline Kasal 193rd 23:36
Alyson McGonigle 202nd 23:50
Alexa Squirini 208th 23:57
Angelina Oputa 214th 24:21
Jesse Carlin 237th 26:21

Men – Open 10km
Lucas Stalnaker 60th 31:09
Stewart Reich 70th 31:18
Lucas Meyer 76th 31:23
Ryan Speir 80th 31:29
John-Louis Pane 123rd 32:04
Kyle Wagener 128th 32:07
Lars Benner 168th 32:36
Cabell Willis 202nd 32:58
Alex Archer 203rd 33:07
Sean Barrett 218th 33:10
Ryan Witters 221st  33:10
Tyler Dye 223rd 33:12
Austin Hayslett 236th 33:23
Hashem Zikry 265th 33:43
Joseph LoRusso 297th 34:09
Lukasz Olenginski 310th 34:24
Russell Chase 339th 35:17
Paul Guevara 350th 35:34
Christopher Van Es 366th 35:03

Men – Masters 10km
Dave Wertz 20th 34:09

Thursday, December 7, 2017

PREVIEW - 2017 Club Nationals

It’s that time of year again. The 2017 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, more affectionately known as “Clubs Clubs Clubs ️,” is right around the corner.  Pacers Running//GRC New Balance takes Clubs very seriously. For months, the team has practiced on the rolling grass hills of the Cell Tower Field on Saturdays to prepare for this moment, which is the team’s one chance to compete against our peer teams in a national championship setting. Every January, Coach Jerry and the team reiterate the goal to have both our men’s and women’s teams finish in the top 10 in the same year. It would be a very special achievement for the entire GRC family to achieve that goal in Lexington on Saturday.
The women returns to Clubs after placing 6th in Tallahassee last year. Although they will be without a few of their top runners this year, a top 10 finish is still in reach. Maura Linde will lead the way having just run 34:13 for 10k on the roads. Stephanie Reich was 26th in 2016, and Coach Jerry says she’s ready to “give it her best shot.” Maura Carroll is an “excellent XC runner” who will try to build on her 60th place finish last year. Julie Tarallo ran a major half marathon PR in November (1:20:40) and is ready to “mix it up,” especially since she hasn’t raced a spiked-up XC race since college. Emily Koehle, a mid-distance specialist in college, is relatively inexperienced in XC, but Coach Jerry affirms that she's in excellent shape and is ready to run well.  Chelsea Bollerman is healthy again after sitting out in 2016. Natalie Patterson is fully recovered from the Richmond Marathon. Mid-distance specialists Jesse Carlin, Jacqueline Kasal, Alyson McGonigle, and Angelina Oputa will also line up at 11:45 AM, ready to give a go.


The men look to return to the top 10 for the first time since they finished 9th in Bend, Oregon in 2013. Look for Lucas Stalnacker up with the leaders. Having just run 23:46 for 8k and hanging with the leaders for significant portions of the Philly RNR Half and Army 10 miler, Lucas could close in the club record for best finish (Kieran O’Connor, 46th, 2013). Stewart Reich is in great shape (let’s be honest - when has he not been?), and is armed with the knowledge from his experience of going out too hard last year. Luke Meyer was 7th in Lexington in 2008, and while he's not quite at that level 9 years hence, he is healthy and fit, and ready to improve on last year’s 78th place finish. Ryan Speir, fully recovered from his excellent marathon debut in Chicago, will try to stay close to his Navy teammate Stalnacker. Sean Barrett has regained his fitness after being deployed for the last couple years, and is ready to make a strong return to Clubs. Kyle Wagener is making his long-awaited A team debut after running numerous PRs in 2017. Newcomers Alex Archer and John-Louis Pane (JLP) are both fit and ready to contribute. 
This is the strongest B team in GRC history.  The depth of the squad is demonstrated by the fact that GRC stalwarts Graham Tribble, Cabell Willis, and Ryan Witters are included, and with Tyler Dye, coming off a huge half-marathon PR, track specialist Luk Olensinki, and newcomers Hashem Zikry and Austin Hayslett on board, the goal is to finish in the top 20.

In the masters race, David Wertz will look to improve on his excellent 10th place finish in 2016, and he's fit and ready to take a shot at the podium.
More importantly, the GRC teams return to Lexington five years after losing our teammate, Lauren Woodall Roady, at the 2012 National Club Cross Country Championships. Both teams will run will run with Lauren in their hearts on Saturday, as we do every time we race. If you haven’t already, please read Colin Raunig’s reflection on running and life here.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Return to Lexington: A Team Through Time

 

by Colin Raunig

 
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Georgetown Running Club after the 2012 National Club Cross Country
Championships in Lexington, Kentucky
 
In the sport of running, cross country is the closest construct to a team activity. This sentiment isn’t new. Every year, coaches across the country give motivational speeches to their athletes on the merits of running o’er hill and dale, jumping right into the pool of sentimentality and telling everyone to drink from it. They’re not wrong. If you’ve run a cross country race with teammates you care about, you know how right they are. Running is about the individual; cross country, their collective performance. You start the race together. You unite at the finish line. In between those two points, you run.

The Georgetown Running Club has suffered the loss of two runners in the past five years: Lauren Woodall Roady and Nina Brekelmans. Lauren died in Lexington, Kentucky the night of the 2012 National Club Cross Country Championships, the same site as the upcoming 2017 meet. Nina died June 2015 in Washington DC, the home of GRC. As a team, we mourn their loss and celebrate their lives. As a team, we try to create meaning from who they were. We run and we race as a testament to life.

I used to think the team was about me. GRC. I was on the road with the team from DC to Lexington for 2012 Clubs when we made a stop for lunch somewhere in West Virginia. I had been in good shape, really good shape, the best shape I had been in since the Naval Academy, from where I graduated in 2007, a place where I had little opportunity to prove my fitness, as my attempts to succeed on a Division 1 track and cross country team resulted in me trying to cash in at a level slightly above my pay-grade.

With GRC, I had earned a spot on the A team. But then I pulled my hamstring a week before the race. I stutter-stepped after a deer startled me while I was doing laps on Theodore Roosevelt Island. This was two days after the last big workout before clubs, my best workout of the season, in which I closed the last repeat of a 4 x 1600-meter session in a time that closely aligned with my PR. I had been determined for Clubs to be my college redemption, but it wasn’t meant to be. I decided to go to the Lexington anyways to support my teammates.

 A teammate, Pete Silverman, was filming a documentary of the trip, and stationed himself outside the bus entrance at the West Virginia rest stop, gathering footage as we filed off the bus for lunch. When I exited, I put on my best face of fabricated coolness for the camera, flipping up my jacket collar like a gaunt James Dean, or at least a skinny Luke Perry. No injury would prevent me from playing the part of the stoic runner.

We made it to Lexington later that day, the day before the race.

If there’s better running than the south in the winter, I haven’t seen it. On race day, the sky was overcast with intermittent showers. The east coast humidity was still present, but replaced with cooler temperatures, it enveloped you with a welcome embrace that communicated one message: run. We took the bus from downtown Lexington to the course. A repurposed horse farm, with rolling hills and thick grass of a deep green, it was the kind of terrain that may not have been made for runners, but that runners worldwide and across the generations have made for them.

I helped Pete film our teammates as they raced. After my duties were complete, I stationed myself about 600 meters from the finish line, yelling out my teammate’s names with unneeded instructions like run fast! By that time, I knew most of my teammate’s names, but not everyone’s. I had joined the team just three months earlier, as I was stationed in DC for one year to study Japanese for the Navy at the Defense Language Institute before continuing on to Japan. I knew Lauren Woodall Roady only in passing, sharing a conversation with her just once at a post-race team brunch after the Veterans Day 10k. As Lauren ran by, I hesitated in calling out, determining whether her name was “Lauren” or “Laura.” I decided on Lauren. I told Lauren to run fast. She did.


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Lauren Woodall Roady



The night after the race, the men’s and women’s teams met at a bar downtown. Lauren went out to dinner with her parents and then walked from the hotel by herself to meet the team. She didn’t make it. She was struck and killed by a fire truck that was turning left as she was walking with the signal in the crosswalk. We soon became aware of the subsequent ambulances and fire trucks that arrived, but didn’t realize why they were there until later.

I was woken up by Pete at three a.m. to meet everyone downstairs in a second floor conference room. He told me why. I arrived to see people crying and consoling each other. I didn’t know what to think and found a place to sit. A week later, I drove down with team members for Lauren’s funeral in Tennessee. Lauren’s husband, Peter Roady, gave the eulogy. He was composed. He said we should honor Lauren’s memory by the way we lived. After the funeral, the men’s and women’s team returned to DC. We stopped at a restaurant halfway for dinner and shared each other’s company.

Lauren’s death caused me to reevaluate my relationship to running, and my relationship to the team. In one sense, running didn’t matter in the face of such tragedy. In another sense, it mattered more. As an outlet, as a distraction, as a way of finding meaning in the sport, or assigning it one. I doubled down on my ambitions for the upcoming track season, and as soon as my injury healed, I threw down workouts on the track I hadn’t touched since college. I was determined to run the races of my life, because the time for running--the time for living--was now. And then: another injury. I was pretty much injured until I left DC for Japan the next summer.

But if the team was just about running, I wouldn’t be writing about GRC five years later. Because it’s not. For example, why did I join the military? For a middle-class sense of patriotism? Perhaps. But what sustained me were the relationships, the men and women to the left and right of me. Side by side. The same is true of GRC. In the interim, and in the wake of what happened, I may have absorbed the wrong lesson, that running and racing are solitary ventures. But the long-term lesson remains: that running is more than just about running, that it’s about the people we run with, and even run against, that we get to the finish line at different times, but we all get there. That’s what binds us.

Two and half years later, June 2015, I was preparing to leave Japan and return to America when I learned of Nina Brekelmans’ passing. She died in a house fire in Dupont just weeks after she earned her Master’s degree from Georgetown. At the time, I was still on the GRC email list, which helped to fuel my running for the two years I was the sole American in Eta Jima, Japan, an island near Hiroshima that is the site of the Japanese Naval Academy.

To get through my time on the island--“my island”--when I wasn’t injured or working, I ran. My Japanese co-workers were nice, but despite my best efforts, and my language training, I often didn’t understand them, wakaranai, both literally and figuratively. Running was my escape. Much to the Japanese Navy’s chagrin, I ran my workouts on their 613-meter grass parade field, on which I had wheeled 400-meter increments marked with white spray paint, and relayed the results to Coach Jerry Alexander over email. I did my easy runs off-base in my GRC singlet along the road that separated the coast from the island’s mountainous terrain, black crows dive bombing me when I encroached on their christened turf during mating season, and older Japanese women yelling at me from passing cars when the DC-like weather was hot and I had slipped my singlet off. I lived in Hiroshima on the weekends, taking the ferry to get there, and did my Sunday morning long run along its southern port, weaving my way through the throngs of Japanese fishermen and feral cats who lined the water’s edge, and, upon returning, checked the GRC blog for the weekend race results—it was Sunday evening back in the states. I got through those two years through a combination of fortitude and dismay, and by leaning hard, maybe too hard, through the internet and on the relationships I had formed in America, the most adjacent being GRC. I was physically separated from my past; that plus the passage of time created a palpable detachment. When I read Jerry’s email about Nina, I didn’t know how to process the event so far removed from DC and from my teammates.

In July, six weeks after Nina’s death, and back in America, I visited DC before moving to Colorado for grad school, taking the metro to Tenleytown for the summer team meeting. I mistakenly thought that the team I had left would be the one I would return to. I wanted it to be. The team had changed after Lauren’s passing, but I had been there to absorb that process. Upon returning from Japan, I quickly discovered the team I had left was not the same. It couldn’t be. Not after Nina’s passing. Not after all that time. I wasn’t the same either. As much as people change, I had changed, and my decision to leave both the Navy and Japan at the same time left me unmoored, to use Navy terminology, or rather, split in half, exposed, as I tried to stich myself together again. I thought the team would be there for me as they were before. In many ways, they were. But they were hurting, too.

The meeting started as most do: late. While I waited for it to begin, I sat on the couch in the living room. I remembered that this was the same spot where I had sat during the team meeting after Lauren’s passing, held the week after her funeral. I remembered Nina had been sitting on the floor in front of me, her arms draped over her knees as she cried, surrounding team members consoling her, while others stood up to share their memories of Lauren. Nina hadn’t been able to go to either the race or the funeral and that was perhaps her first opportunity to mourn what had happened.

And now Nina was gone, too.

When the meeting began, Nina’s passing was spoken of by Jerry and other members of the team in a way that made me realize that the processing of her loss had began before I had arrived. I was only beginning to understand the gravity of what had occurred, and the reaching effects it would have. I stood along the perimeter of the living room, and listened, and the way I internally processed Nina’s passing was perhaps similar to how Nina had processed Lauren’s.


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Nina Brekelmans


The first time I met Nina was on the same day we both ran our first races for the Georgetown Running Club. It was the fall of 2012 and we ran a 5k cross country race in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The first time I saw her, I didn’t know she was a member of GRC. She didn’t have a uniform yet. Neither of us did. But I do remember the gaze of a determined and focused young woman as she took her place at the starting line after finishing her final pre-race strides. It was the gaze of someone who knew exactly what she wanted. She wanted to run fast.

After the race, Jerry introduced Nina and I to each other, and we both shook hands. Nina and I piled into the back of Jerry’s car as he talked running and told Nina that she should consider signing up for the 2012 National Club Cross Country Championships, a 6k race for women and 10k race for men, that would be held in Lexington, Kentucky that year. She instantly agreed. Jerry then told me I should run the race. I was hesitant. The Navy had flown me out of shape at my previous duty station in Oklahoma City and I was only beginning to get back into it. And, to be honest, I was still a little gun shy from my disappointing college career. But I agreed: because Jerry insisted and because of Nina’s confidence.

The military is an institution that often breeds camaraderie, but my language training was one-on-one, ichitaiichi, and I didn’t know anyone in the DC area. Quite literally, I had asked for it. I had wanted to leave my aviation job in Oklahoma City and had taken the Japanese orders after being declined for a military foreign language scholarship in which I applied to live and study at a civilian university in France or Spain. Japan wasn’t Europe, and the job I took wasn’t a civilian one, but it wasn’t in Oklahoma, so, in that sense, it was the same. I wanted to take control and get away from the track the Navy had ordered me on. Before I left for Japan, in DC, I was still happy about my chosen path despite inklings of doubt about it: the early signs of incompatibility with the Japanese language and the vestiges of loneliness. I wanted to achieve the self-satisfying notion of being an individual, but I missed the camaraderie I had come to take for granted in the Navy. And I maintained the nagging and permeating feeling that no matter where I lived or what obligations I would be required to fulfill, that I was a runner.

I wanted to race again. But I was having trouble finding the motivation by myself. The purpose of my daily solo runs lay somewhere between opportunity for ethereal reflection or to fight back an encroaching tide of pudginess. I knew that such idle goals weren’t good enough. But I couldn’t do it alone. That’s when I found GRC. The team became my primary outlet while I studied Japanese full-time for the Navy. The people supplanted my military friendships and were a superior version of the team camaraderie I had lacked in military college. Within months, I was running the races of my life. I wasn’t running my best ever workouts, but my newfound enjoyment of racing made up for it. I toed the starting line to races with a true desire to succeed, instead of not wanting to fail. There is a difference. For me, it was the difference that mattered. In the moment, I may not have been able to articulate the lasting impact of this team, but I felt it. This was my last tour in the Navy, and the members of GRC were my shipmates.

Earlier this fall, in October 2017, I attended my 10 year college reunion in Annapolis, Maryland. I flew in from Colorado, where I am in my third and final year of graduate school. After the summer meeting in 2015, I continued running and intermittently emailing Jerry for training advice, until I suffered torn hip cartilage and bone impingement in my left hip, and underwent corrective surgery in June of this year. By the reunion, I was walking normally, and I made my way to a memorial event on the Friday before the weekend football game.

Dozens of my classmates and their families arrived to pay tribute to those who passed before us. The event was held in Memorial Hall, a room dedicated to those graduates who died in the line of duty. Retired Vice Admiral Rodney Rempt spoke. Rempt was the Superintendent of the Naval Academy from our Plebe Summer until our graduation. He told us to make the most of our lives, because we don’t know how long we have, and we don’t know why some are taken earlier than others. Later that day, when the reunion activities began in earnest, I took solace in the company of my classmates. A lot has changed for many of them: hairlines, waistlines, children. A lot hadn’t: our friendships.

How do you measure loss? Or a life? You can’t. Neither can be quantified, just as Lauren and Nina’s contribution through their lives is immeasurable. What would have become of Lauren and Nina? A better of question: who will we be in their absence? We live with the cumulative knowledge of who they were. Maybe the answer is to live by the examples set by them. That doesn’t cause the hurt of the separation to go away, it just repurposes it. Time and distance aren’t just measurements of loss, but of a race to be run. Time in relation to a distance raced creates a new meaning. I think of the examples set by Lauren and Nina, of passion, ambition, and drive. They toed the starting line of the race with optimism, even in the face of an uncertain future.

There is an answer in the team. The same is true for servicemembers and civilians alike. Even though I have left GRC, the team remains. Members come and go, but there is always the team, and as long as Jerry has enough stopwatches and pairs of blue jeans, he will be there to oversee them. Our time on this earth is temporary, and it’s up to us to make the most of that time, and to honor those who go before us, to harness the memory of them as examples to live by. To run by. GRC isn’t about me. It’s about all of us, those who are on the team, those who were, and those who will be. Although I work hard everyday to rehabilitate my hip, it’s possible I won’t be able to race again, and I’ve accepted that possibility. There’s more to racing than just running alone.



Georgetown Running Club, 2017





Thursday, November 23, 2017

Turkey Trot Results

In the third week of November, GRC//Pacers-NB athletes board all manner of planes, trains and automobiles to return home for their Thanksgiving Turkey Trots. Check out below for updates on these harriers' performances.

Charlotte Southpark Turkey Trot

Recent Navy grad Lucas Stalnaker cruised to a 2nd place finish in the Charlotte Southpark Turkey Trot in 23:46. This extraordinary performance earned Lucas the number one spot on the GRC all-time list for the road 8k.

Results: Charlotte Southpark Turkey Trot

Alexandria Turkey Trot

GRC//Pacers-NB sent several of athletes up to the Alexandria Turkey Trot. On the women's side, Maura Linde made a statement by finishing 4th in 27:31. This performance will put her second on the GRC all-time list for the road 8k. Linde was followed by Kerry Allen in 29:06 (9th). Greta Feldman and Taylor Tubbs made the most of their GRC debuts to finish 29:15 (11th) and 29:50 (12th) respectively. Look for those two to make a big impact on the track this Spring. Marianna Aguilar finished 25th in 32:57.

On the men's side, David Wertz led the way with an 11th place finish in 25:54, which should set him up well for the master's race at USATF clubs where he will look to finish in the top 5. Following Wertz was Tom Kelly in 26:48 (14th), Charlie Ban in 27:23 (17th), and Paul Guevara in 27:56 (19th).

11. David Wertz 25:54
14. Thomas Kelly 26:48 
17. Charlie Ban 27:23
19. Paul Guevara 27:56

4. Maura Linde 27:31
9. Kerry Allen 29:06
11. Greta Feldman 29:15
12. Taylor Tubbs 29:50 
25. Marianne Aguilar 32:57

Thanksgiving: Food, family, and five-milers
(Photo courtesy of Tom Kelly)



Results: Alexandria Turkey Trot 2017

RRRC Turkey Trot

Cabell Willis chased his old high school rival over hill and dale in the Richmond Road Runners Club Turkey Trot 10k. Though he did not best his rival this year, Cabell ran a solid 32:52 to finish 2nd.

Frederick Turkey Trot

It was an all Reich show in the Frederick Turkey Trot with Stewart and Stephanie Reich winning the men's and women's races in 14:58 and 17:19 respectively. Austin Hayslett finished 4th in 16:05 and Angelina Oputa was 9th in 19:48.

Winner winner
(Photo courtesy of Steph Reich)
Results: Frederick Turkey Trot 2017

Bethesda Turkey Chase

GRC netted a pair of top ten finishes in the Bethesda Turkey Chase 10k. Lucas Meyer completed the course in 32:19, which was good for second place and Chris Van Es finished 10th in 35:07.

Results: Bethesda Turkey Chase

Minneapolis Turkey Day 5k

Kyle Wagener braved frigid conditions in the great white north of the Minnesota to finish 2nd in the Minneapolis Turkey Day 5k in 15:20.

Giving as much of a smile as one can after running a 5k in 25 degrees
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Wagener)
Results: Minneapolis Turkey Day 2017 

Fairfax Turkey Trot

GRC harriers Craig Morgan and Natalie Patterson gave themselves something else to be thankful for on Thanksgiving after picking up a pair of wins in the Fairfax Turkey Trot in 15:47 and 18:56 respectively. Jordan Psaltakis finished 7th in 16:55 and Laura O'Hara finished 5th in 20:22.

Results: Fairfax Turkey Trot 

Nazareth YMCA Pumpkin Pie 5k Run

Up in Nazareth, PA, Dickson Mercer earned himself a pumpkin pie for his 3rd place finish (16:31) in the Pumpkin Pie 5k run.

Results: Nazareth YMCA Pumpkin Pie 5k Run

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Weekend Results: Philadelphia and Annapolis

Philadelphia 8k and Marathon

GRC//Pacers-NB harriers traveled up I-95 N to the City of Brotherly Love for the Philadelphia 8k and Marathon this weekend.

In the men's 8k, Paul Thistle finished 10th in 24:30, which ties him for 4th on the GRC all-time list.

In the marathon, Graham Tribble ran 2:27:36 for 11th place and Mark Hopely ran 2:29:49 for 17th. Keely Eckberg finished 23rd in 3:03:37.

Stay tuned for more details...

Men's Philadelphia 8k
10. Paul Thistle 24:30

Men's Philadelphia Marathon
11. Graham Tribble 2:27:36
17. Mark Hopely 2:29:49

Women's Philadelphia Marathon
23. Keely Eckberg 3:03:37

Results: Philadelphia 8k, Half Marathon, and Marathon

Mark and Graham lead a pack at mile 14
Mark's finish

Graham's finish
[Photos courtesy of Mark Hopely]

Annapolis Running Classic

Over in Maryland, Dickson Mercer battled hills and windy conditions to get the win at the Annapolis Running Classic Half Marathon in 1:15:47.

Results: Annapolis Running Classic