Thursday, March 31, 2016

GRC Blossoms into Spring

Last weekend marked the official beginning of spring racing for GRC, as a small contingent of the Club's track crew took their turns on the tartan ovals of Raleigh and College Park.

This weekend, GRC runners will be out in force on the track and on the roads, springing to life alongside the blossoming flora and frolicking fauna.

Crystal City

First up, GRC will kick off the spring road racing season on Friday in Arlington at 6:30PM EDT with the first race of the Crystal City 5k Fridays series, an opportunity generously organized by our sponsors at Pacers Running. Toeing the line for GRC on the women's side will be Laura O'Hara, Kara McCartney, Alyson McGonigle, and Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier Emily Potter (who, pushing a baby stroller, will seriously up the ante of the race). Among the men out for the evening fun will be GRC's Kyle Cooke. Alyson, a 2015 graduate of and former middle-distance standout at the University of Richmond, will be making her GRC debut.

GRC's Ryan Witters starts one of last year's Crystal City 5k Fridays races (Swim Bike Run Photo).

Colonial Relays

Down south, GRC's early bloomers will return to the track in Williamsburg, Virginia for the 51st annual Colonial Relays at the College of William and Mary, led by Stephanie Reich in the Championship Women's 1500 meter run on Friday evening at 6:55PM EDT*. Steph is fresh off of her GRC track debut, personal best, and number two all-time GRC performance in the 5000 meter run at the Raleigh Relays. At Zable Stadium, she will look to notch her first mile-equivalent PR at the 1500 meter distance since high school. Judging by her recent performance, fitness is on her side.

Joining Steph in Virginia's colonial capital will be a sizeable crew of men in the Championship 5000 meter run, scheduled for 8:20PM EDT*. Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier Carlos "CJ" Jamieson will make his highly-anticipated official debut in GRC blue as he mixes it up with some of the Mid Atlantic region's collegiate best in the event. Carlos will have a good shot at notching a spot among the top five all-time Club marks, if not the 13-year-old Club record of 14:09.

Accompanying Carlos will be Stewart Reich, happily reunited with his wife Steph after they divided and conquered the east coast track scene last weekend. Stew is ready to notch his first sub-15 minute performance at the twelve-and-a-half lap distance on the track, after barely missing his PR of 15:04 by a single second in a solo effort at Maryland. Also running the event will be Kyle Wagener, fresh off his GRC outdoor debut in College Park. Luk Olenginski, in his own GRC outdoor track debut, will toe the line on Saturday at 10:20AM EDT* in the University Men's section of the race.

A live stream of the Colonial Relays will be available here; live results, here.

*The official meet instructions indicate that events may run up to 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

NOTE: The live stream is only available on Saturday, beginning at 1PM EDT.

Cherry Blossom Ten Miler (Watch Live!)

After a day of rest on Saturday, GRC will be back on the road, blowing pink petals off the Cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in their wake as the team musters for the annual premier fixture of the D.C. (and national) racing circuit that is the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. The race gets underway at 7:20AM EDT with the Elite Women's start. The event will be broadcast live here.

Some of GRC's biggest guns will be out in the sun for this race, including CJ, doubling back from his performance Friday evening, and rube Kieran O'Connor, returning to racing just over a month after his 24th-place finish at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Kieran will still proudly be sporting the single pair of running shorts he owns, and Coach Jerry has indicated that Kieran's race plan is to try and break 65 minutes in the event, in hopes of solidifying his place as a member of the B+ training group.

On the women's side, GRC superstars Kerry Allen and Maura Carroll will lead the way, both on the hunt for fresh PRs. Kerry and Maura are well-prepared for the pancake-flat course at Cherry Blossom after their triumphant efforts over the hills of the RRCA Club Challenge Ten Miler in Columbia, Maryland just a short month ago and the hills of the Rock 'n' Roll DC Half Marathon two weeks later.

Also out to steal some glory beneath the Cherry Blossoms will be GRC's Jerry "Outlaw" Greenlaw, Evan Jurkovich, Charlie Ban, Dave O'Hara, Chris Van Es, Paul Balmer, Matt "Fridge" Hassett, and Sebi Devlin-Foltz. Evan has been steadily racing his way back to form after an extended hiatus due to injury. Fridge will be gleeful to escape from his PhD research, if only for another brisk ten miles. Meanwhile, Balmer will take to the Tidal Basin as part of his ongoing preparations for the Boston Marathon.

Notably, Dave O'Hara will celebrate his 40th birthday with his Masters debut at Cherry Blossom, and hopes to improve upon his third-place age group showing in the event last year. Challenging Dave's dominance in the Masters division will be some guy named Meb Keflezighi.

Outlaw returns to Cherry Blossom coming off of an outstanding performance at the RRCA Club Challenge Ten Miler in February, where he led the men's squad to a runner-up finish over the extremely challenging course. For Outlaw, running the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler has become an annual fixture almost as certain as the budding of the trees and the flocking of tourists to those trees. Cherry Blossom was Jerry's first race after moving to the DC area in 2010 (but before joining GRC), and it remains his favorite race. This Sunday, Outlaw will look to continue his consistent showing as one of the top Americans" in the event, and hopefully snag a PR.

Jerry "Outlaw" Greenlaw
 Old man Charlie Ban commented that this year's Cherry Blossom Ten Miler would be markedly different from the 2010 edition of the race, as he will be the only returning GRC stalwart in the event from that year's competition crew. Long-time GRC veteran Jake Klim, also known as the "Red Fox," who led the Club in the 2010 race and has ostensibly "retired," is reportedly "putting all of his marbles" into his clandestine training for the Marine Corps Marathon this coming October.

The following video of the 2010 edition of the race, extracted from the depths of the GRC archives with the help of our wise historian, features a triumphant Red Fox, a brief appearance by Outlaw in his pre-GRC days (00:35), and the wise man himself: Charlie Ban.

*Video Courtesy of GRC Blog, April 2010 Archives.

Last year's race was disrupted by an early-morning traffic incident, necessitating the rerouting of the course, and resulting in the first (and hopefully last) ever Cherry Blossom Less-Than-Ten Miler.

As the throng of tourists along the tidal basin subsides, and many of our runners turn in their first results of the spring, we will have a report of all of this weekend's action featured here as the information becomes available.

The team will meet up at the Cleveland Park Bar and Grill (3421 Connecticut Ave NW), as is its custom, at around 2:30 for a post-race party.

Blossom 'em.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post erroneously reported that Sebi Devlin-Foltz was slated to compete in the Crystal City 5k. In fact, Sebi was up for a more formidable challenge, as he braved the wind and cold in the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. The GRC blog staff apologizes for this error.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The seeds of hard training

Lets Run featured as its quote of the day these wise words from Eliud Kipchoge, who blames the pursuit of money for recent doping scandals in Kenya: "People forget that money cannot be harvested.  If you want to harvest the money, you need to plant the seeds. And what are the seeds? The seeds are hard training."

Saturday, March 26, 2016

UPDATE: Maryland Invitational

Katie Kieran kicked things off up north for GRC at the Maryland Invitational Saturday morning with a second-place finish in the women's 5000 meter run, turning a time of 18:14.20. Katie's performance marks her return to the track after an extended hiatus from competition.

A few minutes later, Stewart Reich and Kyle Wagener opened up their own 2016 outdoor seasons in the men's 5000 meter run with first and fifth places finishes, respectively.

Stewart's time of 15:05.3 was a mere second slower than his PR, run last spring at the Bucknell University Bison Classic, when Stew was rounding into his peak level of fitness. Most impressively, Stew ran alone over the last 2000 meters of the race. It appears that Stew has picked up right where he left off, and his early-season victory by over seven seconds bodes well for his upcoming races.

Meanwhile, Kyle made his GRC debut in convincing fashion with a respectable time of 15:18.15.
This performance marks the beginning of Kyle's outdoor campaign to best his college marks on the tartan oval.

Kyle further demonstrated his bravery and ambition as he fought through a pesky side stitch during the last 800 meters of the race and mixed it up with the hardened post-collegiate veterans of the DMV distance running circuit. Though he was out kicked, Kyle's youth and vigor will surely serve him well as he works to avenge this defeat and establish himself as a dominant runner among the elders.

Full results are available here:

Friday, March 25, 2016

FLASH: Stephanie Reich Sets Fire to Track in Outdoor Debut

GRC rising star Stephanie Reich blazed her outdoor debut Friday night with a personal best time of 16:43.69 in the fast section of the women's 5000 meter run at the Raleigh Relays, finishing 16th in her heat and 17th overall out of nearly 100 runners.

(Full Results Here)

The time tentatively puts her at number two on the GRC all-time list, pending confirmation by the club's interns and administrative officials.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

GRC Track Squad to Open Outdoor Season

With winter now fully behind us, selected members of the GRC track squad will open up their Outdoor seasons this coming weekend at North Carolina State University and the University of Marlyand.

On Friday, Stephanie Reich, eager to convert winter miles into spring smiles, will make her Outdoor track debut for GRC as she toes the line for the 5,000 meter run at N.C. State's annual early-season track and field fixture: the Raleigh Relays.

Raleigh has a particular reputation for its fast, deep distance fields, especially in the 5,000. Last year, all five sections of the event produced multiple sub-eighteen minute marks on the women's side. Steph is up for the challenge, though, and might even just run away with a PR.

On Saturday, the action turns north, as Kyle Wagener and Stewart Reich open their spring track seasons at the Maryland Invitational, also in the 5000 meter run.

Maryland will mark Kyle's Outdoor debut in GRC blue. Stew, though unable to accompany his wife to take part in the wealth of opportunity in Raleigh on Friday, will surely be spurred by her performance the night before to turn out a fast time of his own. Word on the street has it that Stew is fit and itching to prove it.

The gun goes off for Stephanie's section of the Women's 5000 meter run in Raleigh on Friday evening at 8:10 PM EDT.

Stewart and Kyle will toe the line for the 5000 meter run in College Park at 11:35 AM EDT on Saturday.

Live results will be available here as the action unfolds.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Silver Spring native Devlin-Folz finds out what's west of Bethesda

It took three years, but Sebi and Chili Balmer were introduced to Dual Ferries  a core GRC workout/investment of half of a day  Sunday.

Balmer is weeks away from his first Boston marathon; it was Sebi's first 20 mile run and it was likely Kieran's first time topping 20 miles, too.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Words of Wisdom: Coach Jerry Talks Training in New Blog

Coach Jerry Alexander is the mastermind behind GRC's growth and success: the team has benefited greatly from his extensive knowledge and passion, as well as his commitment to his athletes. Every week, Jerry brings to the track his experience coaching runners at all levels: from beginners to post-collegiate elites and Olympic hopefuls.

Now, Jerry has teamed up with our sponsors at Pacers Running to share his wisdom and insights with the broader running community through a new training blog.

In his first post, Jerry offers his take on the value and importance of training in bad weather. You can read Jerry's thoughts at the link below:

He writes: "My hope is that through this blog, I can help clear up some of the clutter, and provide a consistent, measured approach to help you get the most out of your training and racing. I bring something of a unique perspective to coaching, because I work both sides of the street."

Coach Jerry juggles watches and wisdom during a GRC workout.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Nina Brekelman's Memorial 5k - Recap

Nina's father, Nico, made everyone laugh at the post-race ceremony this morning when he joked: "It's easy to organize a race, right? It's very easy to do." The Nina Brekelman's Memorial Scholarship 5k (results here), as Nico himself pointed out, was orchestrated by more than 70 GRC members. It was a short race, yet it was a marathon's worth of work led by Mary Grace, who in turn had huge assists from Lindsay and many others.

The idea for this race, as we know, was born out of tragedy. As it came together, though, it quickly grew into more than a memorial race, but really a demonstration that Nina's family, friends, and teammates were going to carry Nina's work forward. Nina's spirit would very literally live on, pushed forwarded by many, including two organizations that were particularly inspired by her: GRC, her running club, and Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS), where Nina earned her masters' degree; from runners, to scholars, to young women in Amman, Jordan, where she was a Harvard University Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) Fellow.

Nina, as Coach said today, was passionate:  "She was not the most talented runner on our team," he said in his remarks, "but she had a level of talent and desire that was truly exceptional."

And running was only part of it. Nina was committed to community engagement on a global scale. Dr. Joel Hellman, dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, which includes the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS), put it like this: 

"We're in a really unusual moment … where you start to see our politicians turning inward. … And it's all the more important that we here at Georgetown, in School of Foreign Services, are moving in the opposite direction, looking outward … 

"Nina was the perfect example of that."

Nina's former Dartmouth teammates, Phil Royer and Hannah Rowe, both represented GRC and won their respective races. 

Nina's parents, on the other hand, Nico and Gail, who live in Shanghai, both ran their first 5k. They arrived in D.C. on Thursday, and were joined at the race by their son and Nina's brother, Rob, who lives in London, and many members of their extended family.

Nico said they were still pretty tired from the travel. "But it's worth every minute to see this and everybody coming out for Nina. Nina's friends have been just amazing - all the things they're doing. They're making a lot of things happen. And it's wonderful. It's really helping us cope with it."

Reflections on the towpath

About 200 runners gathered this morning on GU's Copley Lawn, many wearing the official race T-shirt designed by Nina's cousin, Kelly Kurkjian. The course took them on paths around the campus, with a segment on the towpath in between. And as NBC reported, Mary Grace advised race participants to use that time on the towpath to remember Nina. 

Three runners who ran with Nina at Dartmouth did exactly that.

John Schroeder, of D.C., who finished 2nd, running most of the race solo, said: "I thought about Nina, and thought about how she enjoyed running. It was a good way to remember her." He added that Nina was the only runner at Dartmouth who had earned a spot on the team as a walk-on, through sheer hard work. "It's really hard to do. It's not something I've heard of anyone doing before I got there and since I've left."

Phil, cruising to victory, looked out from the towpath and was pleased to see there were some rowers cheering for him. (Rowing, as Phil pointed out, was yet another one of Nina's passions.)

And when Hannah crossed the line, the GRC-Dartmouth sweep was complete. "I was hurting," she said, "and I honestly did think about [Nina]." 

When the going got tough, in fact, Hannah remembered Nina's distinct running form. "t's not perfect running form," she said, "but everything was driving so hard, and you knew she was putting everything into it. It just motivated me, thinking about her: just drive my arms."

Always Nina 

Nina had been awarded a Fulbright fellowship. She would have been in Jordan last fall to conduct research on female distance runners and continue her studies. 

One of her big goals, as part of that, was to establish a girls running camp there. Today, with the help of current Fulbright students, 15 girls in Jordan were participating in the first ever such camp. 

There was also the idea of a scholarship.

After Nina passed, "the idea of an endowed scholarship in Nina's name was a real balm to our wounded spirits," said Osama Abi-Mershed, the director of CCAS. 

Well, that goal reached the finish line this morning too. 

Thanks to Nico's and Gail's efforts, which were supported by Nico's company, Cooper Standard, and thanks to race proceeds, Georgetown will now offer a fully-funded endowed scholarship to support students who share Nina's passion of supporting women's empowerment in the Middle East.  

"It is here as long as Georgetown, as long as the Center, is here," Rania Kiblawi, CCAS Associate Director, said.

Nina, as we have been saying - as we will continue to say - lives on.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Correction: Earlier version of this headline referred to Miss Piggy. GRC regrets the error.

The Georgetown Running Club granted star distance runner Joe “Wiggy” Wiegner III his release Tuesday, allowing him to sign with the Monocacy Running Club.

Some of Wiggy’s highlights for GRC include victory at a scorching inaugural Father’s Day 8k in 2010, a 61st place finish at the 2010 USATF Club Cross Country Championships, 50th place at the 2011 U.S.A. Cross Country Championships and a 30:32 10k at Pike’s Peek in 2013. He was a member of the GRC Dream Team that won the 2011 Cherry Blossom team title and did markedly better than the Philadelphia Eagles' Dream Team that fall. He, however, ran zero marathons.

He also tried his hand at blogging, maintaining PA to DC/MD TAKE TWO!, which later became The Next Step. Never one to shy away from intrigue, he maintained a voluminous collection of incriminating photos and documentation referred to colloquially as "Wiggyleaks."

He previously held team records in the 1,500 meters (3:54.25), mile (4:12.72) and road 5k (14:44). He held those records simultaneously for two years, and each record for at least four years. He still has the second fastest track mile time for the team. Perhaps the greatest lost opportunity was a duel with his heir, Ryan Witters, who displaced him as mile record holder.

“I’d like to thank the GRC for its support over the years, including allowing me to make this move, which will truly be in the best interest of my family,” his representative said via prepared statement.

But rather than making a cash grab (and believe me, GRC offered to just pay the guy already), Wiggy’s new arrangement reflects the priority he places on his life at home. Last September, fulfilling part of Jake Klim's 2010 prophecy, he married Brandi Firman (but no Baby Wiggy is on the way, yet), and the couple soon plans to move to Frederick, far from where he once often met for group runs in Bethesda, back when he lived in Rockville (near the White Flint Mall!).

In fact, the mall’s closure and redevelopment and the recent closure of the Bethesda Union Jack’s serve to remind us that nothing lasts forever. The Wigloo melts, you take the boy out of Twinbrook, everyone grows a little older and their legs feel stiffer in the morning.

Wiggy's last participation in a team race was at the 2014 USATF Club Cross Country Championships, for which he went from near dormancy, to shades of the young man who once practically owned the fields of Lehigh University while a Pennsylvanian youth, in about two weeks.

He also said that he hopes that a training situation closer to his home and more congruent with his responsibilities and free time will renew his devotion to his own participation in the sport, which has been challenged lately, though his love for it has remained steadfast. 

“Joe Wiggy will always hold a special place in my memory as a guy who loved to run, and loved to compete,” said GRC Coach Jerry Alexander. “His talent was undeniable, and he had some memorable races, including his excellent 30:31 at Pikes Peak, and his 4:12 mile at Penn Relays, and his finest moment in a GRC jersey was unquestionably his 61st place finish at Clubs in Charlotte in 2010.

“But more than the races, Wiggy brought an enthusiasm and a toughness to every single practice that will be hard to replicate. I'm going to miss him!”

Wiggy and Alexander are fortuitously linked. When Wiggy confronted the disappointment of not being able to make this marathon debut in Chicago in 2010, his subsequent desire to find a more formal coaching arrangement provided an impetus for Alexander to join the team. 

A native of Ivyland, Pa., Wiggy started running as a freshman in high school, and was so excited during his first practice that his father encouraged him to run home, lest he get his sweat all over the family car. 

His Council Rock cross country team scored a surprise win at the 1999 large schools Pennsylvania state meet, thanks in large part to his fourth place finish, which he followed up with a second place finish in the state outdoor 1600 meters. He ran at James Madison University for a year before settling at Lock Haven, where he was a cross country All-American. He then shuttled between a stint on the early GRC team, then back to coach at Council Rock South, then back to Maryland for good in 2009.  Contrary to popular legend, he never toured with the band Sugar Ray.

Wiggy has a preternatural ability to bounce back into shape within a few weeks' training, which was apparent from his 2013 Pikes Peek race, just months after resigning himself to life as a jogger, taking cats to the vet. 

While his running became intermittent, his friendship never, and will never diminish.  His sincerity is an anchor in an increasingly sarcastic culture. At the same time, he pioneered the popular fauxhawk hairstyle, which was the first word out of everyone's mouth when they entered barbershops from 2010-2014. 

His magnetic personality drew many, particularly members of the Four Horsemen, who followed him like the Pied Piper, only instead of a pipe, he had speakers and an iPod dock, and he led them to the dance party at the Father's Day 8k turnaround.

On top of his involvement with the Monocacy Running Club, he will continue to help coach the Gaithersburg High School cross country and track teams, instilling in his charges the attitude necessary to succeed and pumping them up for races with the sounds of his brother Bruce's band, the Weekend Riot. He will also continue brewing beer at home, but he won't be sharing that with the kids...

The GRC expresses its most sincere appreciation to Wiggy for all of his involvement, support, enthusiasm and dedication over the last nine years. He is always welcome back. We wish him good fortune, fulfillment and great running with the Monocacy Running Club. You're lucky to have him. 

The roster move will free up space for Murat Kayali to sign a one-day contract to retire as a member of GRC Saturday.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Outlaw *featured* in Washington Post

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Which hill is worse?

Kerry Allen high fives photographer Beth Young

Here we are again, talking about hills. GRC took to the streets of DC and Arlington this morning for the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon and the Four Courts Four Miler to triumph over a couple of infamous hills.

Pacers refers to the Four Courts hill as "rousing" and "no better thrill." The course features an elevation loss and gain of 232 feet on an out-and-back course with almost all of those uphill feet coming in the final mile, with the finish line perched at the top.

Meanwhile, the Rock 'n' Roll runners encounter at mile 6 a shorter, more vertical climb, where a flight of stairs may be a more welcome method of ascending. To add insult to injury, the hill at this year's race also featured wafting scents of grilled breakfast meats from nearby restaurant Open City.

The GRC had a great showing in both races, capturing four of the top five spots at Four Courts and securing the second place spot in the women's Rock 'n' Roll half with Kerry Allen's inspired performance.

Also be sure to check out's article on Rock 'n' Roll D.C. where the GRC is prominently featured!


Four Courts Four Miler

1. Sam Luff 20:33
3. Jerry Greenlaw 21:13
4. Luk Olenginski 21:29
5. Greg Olenginski 21:43

Rock 'n' Roll D.C. half marathon

6. Graham Tribble 1:10:11
12. Evan Jurkovich 1:12:09
23. Matt Hassett 1:15:22
49. Brian Young 1:20:03

2. Kerry Allen 1:20:07
7. Julie Tarallo 1:22:35
8. Maura Carroll 1:22:49
63. Mary Grace Pellegrini 1:31:24