April 22, 2019

Living Your Best D.C. Run

By Monna Kashfi

Whether you’re lacing up for your first 5K or checking a 100-miler off your bucket list, the D.C. region has something to offer every runner. In fact, Washingtonians can once again boast about living in the best cities for runners – Arlington claimed the top spot for the second year in the row in the 2019 rankings and the District ranked third.

We asked our panel of expert runners (ICYMI: take a listen to our show on ultra-running in the D.C. region) to share their best tips and tricks for making the most of D.C.’s running scene.

What is your favorite race in the D.C. region? Why?

Jen Golbeck: The Marine Corps Marathon for sure. The Marines do such a good job organizing it, you get to see so much of the city, and this year they have a 50K for the first time which I’m super excited to run!

Bob Gaylord: Although I haven’t run it in a while, I’ve always loved the VHTRC-hosted Bull Run Run 50 Miler (BRR50) held in early April on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail. It’s always a great race put on by awesome volunteers and is close by. If you are thinking of running an ultra, the BRR50 is an excellent choice. If you aren’t ready to jump in the starting line-up just yet, volunteer at it and become part of the excitement!

Rick Nealis: After 27 years as Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) Race Director, my favorite race undoubtedly would be the Marine Corps Marathon. Besides this marquee event, I enjoy the MCM Kids Run the Saturday prior to the MCM in the Pentagon north parking lot for kids ages 5-12 to run a mile with Marines.

If I had to pick outside of the MCM, my next favorite would be the Army Ten-Miler. Many MCM runners also run the Army Ten-Miler and use it as a training run. The event follows part of the MCM course and celebrates the Armed Forces. As a personal connection, my father served in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II.

What would you never run without?

Jen Golbeck: At this point, I need my hydration pack and my phone. My runs are usually pretty long, so I have to drink and be entertained (which makes it sound like more of a party than it probably is). The hydration pack holds water and basically anything else I need; I listen to lots of podcasts, so my phone provides entertainment plus a sense of safety.

Bob Gaylord: I generally never run without a phone. You never know when an emergency will arise…even on a short run.

Rick Nealis: Throughout all these years of marathon and running experience, I would encourage individuals to never run without water and sunscreen. Hydration is important for training and runners can either carry water or stage it on their routes. Sunscreen will help with continued training and protect your body so you can continue your passion for years to come.

 What’s your perfect “D.C. run”?

Jen Golbeck: I love the Capital Crescent Trail to the C&O Canal towpath. It’s pretty, well-maintained, and you can literally run for days if you wanted to!

Bob Gaylord: I live close to Lake Accotink and it’s a beautiful trail that connects to the Fairfax Cross County trail…over 40 miles of trail connecting the entire county from one end to the other. I have a favorite loop that runs from 6-10 miles.

Rick Nealis: The Washington Metropolitan area has beautiful parks and areas runners should take advantage of. My two favorites are the W&OD and C&O Canal trails. W&OD is a paved trail between Shirlington and Purcellville, Virginia which runs through urban areas and into the Virginia countryside. The C&O Canal is 184.5 miles of trails and beauty. Washingtonians know this trail for the 3.5 miles of scenic views around Georgetown and the Potomac River. This trail is near and parallels portions of the MCM and MCM50K courses.

What is one mistake you made as a rookie runner or ultra-runner that you hope other new runners don’t make as well?

Jen Golbeck: I am usually super prepared and scientific in planning my training so I don’t make a ton of mistakes. But I once accidentally ran 20 miles when I intended to run 5 and the only food I had with me was half a stale fig newton. Now, I make sure to have plenty of snacks in my pack before I go so I don’t have to find a gas station or forage in the woods if it so happens that I feel so good that I keep running for a long, long time.

(I also once thought I hallucinated a panther in the woods during a 50-mile race, but it turns out there was an actual panther in the woods, so that turned out OK!)

Bob Gaylord: In a race, going out too fast…and crashing! In the mountains, thinking I had enough water…and didn’t. Both are REALLY bad mistakes!!

Rick Nealis: My Personal Record was in 1983 with a time of 3:09 at the eighth MCM. I would urge first-time marathon runners to follow a strict marathon training plan. Those long-distance miles are crucial to a successful race day. In 1983, I probably could have run a 2:55 but hit the wall due to not having done a long-distance training run.

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