My first race of any distance was the DC Road Runners’ National Capital 20 Miler. My marathon training was at the mercy of my friend Miles, and he suggested that running a 20-mile race a month before the Marine Corps Marathon would be a great way for me to gauge how prepared I was for the big day. As always, Miles was right.
Over the years, I’d run in several road races, but none farther than five miles. I had no idea how my body would respond to long mileage under race conditions. The National Capital 20 Miler gave me an opportunity to practice fueling and hydrating while on the run. Plus, Miles promised there would be pizza at the end of the race.
I ran that first of several National Capital 20 Milers in 1997. Bill’s parents lived near the start, so Daniel and I drove over the night before to spend the night with them. Daniel was only seven years old at the time, and was excited to tag along so he could get some one-on-one time with his grandparents. Little did he know that Grandma had a fun surprise in store for him!
I got up early the next morning, and in true dress-rehearsal form, had my bagel and banana before heading off to meet Miles and our other running buddies at Jones Point Park underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. We picked up our race packets, put our long-sleeved cotton shirts in our cars, pinned on our race bibs, and got ready to run.
Soon we would be running out of the park and down a beautiful twisty-turny, and at times hilly, path that ran to Mount Vernon between the Potomac River and the George Washington Parkway. Once at Mount Vernon, we turned around and headed back. The out-and-back course allowed for an opportunity to see and cheer on fellow runners, but made the path quite crowded at times.
Miles and I ran the whole race together, and early in the race we caught up with a super tall guy. I remember him so well because I actually had to look straight up to see his face when we passed him. Several minutes later we heard a loud thud behind us, and when we looked around, we saw the tall guy lying on the pavement. He had tripped on the curb as we crossed a side street. It was the first of many race casualties I would see over the years.
Miles and I stopped for water, and just after we started back up, we saw Daniel and Bill’s mom collecting water cups into large garbage bags. Daniel’s surprise from his grandma was that she took him to the race to watch me run, while volunteering! After quick hugs and kisses with my little buddy, Miles and I took off to finish our race.
Just before the finish line, a photographer caught me on a downward stride. Seriously, what does it take to get photographed in a longer race looking like you’re running fast? I was running hard to the finish line when this picture was taken, and probably running about a 7:45 pace. Notice that I hadn’t learned to put my hair in a ponytail yet! How on earth did I run with it flopping around like that? And what is that ridiculous expression on my face? Is it the look of determination, or a grimace?
I finished that race in 1997 in 2:46:14 (8:18 pace), and guess what? The thought of eating pizza made me sick. Sorry, Miles!
In 1999 I encouraged my runners in the Worldgate Sport & Health Marathon Training Program (where I was the coach) to enter the National Capital 20-Miler. It had been a great race for gauging my training, and I wanted my runners to experience a longer race before their marathon as well. Miles joined us, and ran the first of many races and training runs with my team. Miles and I finished together in 2:57:59 (8:53 pace).
My Worldgate Sport & Health team and I returned in 2000 to run the race. I ran a 2:55:33 (8:46 pace).
In 2001, the National Capital 20-Miler was held just twelve days after our country was attacked, and a plane was flown into the Pentagon, just a few miles away from the start of the race. The shirt had a picture of the Pentagon on the front of it with the words, “Proud to be running in America.” over the image.
In 2001, I took my camera with me, and had someone take a picture of our Worldgate team before the race. We had a lot of fun, and I finished in 2:57:32 (8:52 pace).
2002 was the final year that I ran the National Capital 20 Miler. Again my Worldgate team joined me, as did Miles and his MilesRun team.
One of the great things I loved about the race was that they had packet pick-up available on race morning. Since it was a relatively small race (about 600-700 runners), it was always very easy to park near by, pick up our packets, store our things in our car, and make it back to the race starting line in a timely fashion.
Before the race, our team gathered in the parking lot for a quick team picture. We then set out to look for Miles and the rest of our Maryland friends.
Miles and I ran the race together, and finished with a lap around the track. It was a hot and very humid day, and at some point Miles shed his shirt. We finished with our arms held high, and with a time of 3:11:21 (9:34 pace).
After the race, we got together for a quick picture before we headed our separate ways. This picture was later used by Worldgate Sport & Health to advertise my marathon training program. They made it into a large poster, and after we no longer needed it at the gym, I gave it to Miles, along with the story about how several women at the gym had asked me who the guy without the shirt on in the back row was!
It’s been over ten years since I’ve run this race, but at the time it was a race that I recommended to my friends. DCRRCA puts on great events, so I can only imagine that the race has gotten better over the years.
- Have you ever run a DCRRCA race?
- Do you like pizza after a race?
- Who raced this weekend?