Double Trouble: (Somehow) We Survived NYC Marathon Weekend!

By Ashlee Lawson and Stephani Franklin

Less than two weeks have passed since we ran one of the largest and most coveted races in the world–the New York City Marathon. The fact that this race came at the end of the race season and followed the high of the Chicago Marathon, we knew we had to hold down the crew and make a strong DRC debut in the Big Apple. That said, while the NYC crews welcomed us with open arms, the city gave us all types of hell along the way.

Here’s a recap:

Pt. 1 – Training is the hardest part.

The best part about pushing your limits and training for a huge feat like a marathon is having others around you that are just crazy enough to do it with you. Initially, it seemed like a cool idea to be “outliers” and run a completely different race than many others in DRC (shouts to the Chicago and Marine Corp Marathoners), until they ran their races and we still had four weeks until ours (womp). This is where having each other’s support became crucial. With long miles still left in those last weeks, we both needed the accountability and dedication to each other to make it through to the end and collect on all we had worked for.

Pt. 2 – Stay ready so you ain’t gotta get ready.

Fun fact – a little under two weeks prior to the NYC Marathon, neither of us had bibs, travel arrangements or a place to stay. All we had were the encouraging texts from all of our fellow runners saying they were coming up to NY to cheer us on (gulp) and the miles we had racked up all summer. It wasn’t until a week before that our prayers were answered in one e-mail: “You’ve been invited to participate in the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon.” That was followed by a response of, “Oh sh*t, this is actually happening.”

Pt. 3 – Arriving in New York

Within a week, we scrambled for bus tickets and a place to stay – which all, thankfully, came together beautifully. However, it wouldn’t stay that way for long. We arrived in New York on Friday afternoon/evening (shouts to the random high-speed chase on 95 that turned 4.5 hours to 6.5 hours of travel), spent the night in the Bronx and then made our way to Manhattan the next morning. In efforts to preserve our legs (and coins), we tried our best to use public transit as much as possible. However, in true New York fashion, this was not the most efficient nor the simplest option. Between multiple trips to the Under Armour store, going to the race expo, doing a shakeout run with the New York run crews and searching for food with some of the DRC crew (oh, by the way our first meal of the day was at 3pm), we ended up walking the equivalent of a half marathon (13.4 miles to be exact). So much for staying off our feet and fueling properly before the BIG day. Be better than us.

Pt. 4 – Race Day + “Ferry” Godfathers + Mother Nature

We woke up at 4:45am, snacked and gathered ourselves mentally before heading out, all the while diligently refreshing our weather apps to check for rain. We left the hotel at about 6:30am to ensure we made it to Midtown to catch our 7am ferry to Staten Island. Things were looking good. There was no rain in the forecast, and we arrived at the dock by 6:45am; however, there was one tiny problem–the Midtown ferry didn’t exist. After 2.5 panic attacks, we found another marathon runner Steve who was just as confused as we were but had a plan. He said, “Let’s just get an Uber to the Staten Island ferry and hope for the best.” And that we did. After an hour of waiting and 20 minutes of pushing through a sea of thousands of people (no lie), we made it onto the ferry.

Once arriving on Staten Island, we then took a 25 minute bus ride to the start line–again everything in NY takes effort–but were mostly grateful that we made it in time. At that point, we separated and went to our own corrals to wait until the start. It was so exhilarating to be around so many other runners of all ages and to see the elites running across the Verrazano Bridge. You truly feel like you are about to be a part of something big. With “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra blasting everywhere, the sense of camaraderie and excitement takes over and next thing you know, running the largest marathon in the world doesn’t seem that scary at all. That is, until it starts raining and you realize you actually have to run 26.2 miles.

Pt. 5 – The Race

In Ashlee’s words…

The moment I finally toed the line on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge, everything became real. It was actually happening.  The last 4+ months of training would lend themselves to that next 4+ hours of running. I put my phone in airplane mode, said a prayer and started my Garmin. The Verrazano was incredible. By the time I made it to the Girls Run NYC & Resident Runners cheer squad at mile 9, I had gotten into a groove and was feeling strong, excited even. The energy from the crowds in Brooklyn pushed me through the first 13.1 and on through Queens (not to mention, Steph and I did a training run on this portion of the course). Upon my approach to the Queensboro Bridge, I gave myself a pep talk. If there was anything I was determined to do, it was make it across that bridge and to the wall of cheering spectators that greets you on 59th still feeling strong. Although I made it across without stopping, something just wasn’t quite right. I began to cramp on the descent, and the feeling of impending doom remained until mile 17. I STRUGGLED through miles 17-20. The rain heavied, I was freezing and my mental state began to deteriorate. It was then that I had a decision to make–pick myself up and push through, or struggle like this for another six miles. I chose the former, and boy am I glad I did. Also, who wants to look a mess running through Cheer Squad (thanks, Clif)?! With a couple of miles to go, I picked up the pace in an effort to salvage what could be left of a sub-5 hour marathon. Although I missed the mark by one minute and some change, I couldn’t be prouder of my NYC Marathon finish.

In Steph’s words…

The race itself was an out-of-body experience for me. Once I started running, I couldn’t stop. The first stretches through Brooklyn and Queens were smooth–so smooth I nearly missed Cheer Squad at mile 9 (thanks again, Natalie, Na’Tasha, Jasmine and Denaz for shouting across the street lol). Once I crossed into Manhattan, the crowds were next-level. Rolling through the dopest cheer squad ever at mile 21.8 (because DRC is never where they say they will be) took me to the next level. After that, I just kept reminding myself to stay in the present moment and trust in my ability to finish strong. By mile 24, I hit the wall and began to breakdown but refused to walk. With only 2.2 miles and a few rolling hills to go, I convinced myself that New York would NOT get the best of me. And it didn’t. Btw, there’s a slight hill at mile 26 going into the finish line. They’re rude for that.

Pt. 6 – Lessons Learned

-Enter the lottery and confirm your bib early. This way you can make adequate travel arrangements and will never have to be routed to a non-existent ferry (or at least makes it less likely to happen).

-Study the race course and try to do a few runs in that city if you can. It helps your mind get prepared and acclimated to the conditions. We took an overnight trip to NY halfway through our training to do a long run through the Brooklyn and Queens portion of the course. Could not be happier that we did that. It helped 1000%.

-Run in all weather during your training – you never know what you’re going to get race day. The random, torrential downpours all summer in D.C. were rude and annoying, but they sure did come in handy when pushing through on our rainy race day.

-Never trust a person who says New York does not have hills. These are lies. There are nothing but hills and bridges and more hills. In all five boroughs. Trains for hills. Period.

 

-Run your race and find a homie (or a twin) to take on the challenge with you. Running alone can be gratifying and challenging, but running with others holds you to your greatness. Don’t cheat yourself.

Pt. 7 – The Moral of the Story

Getting to New York can be trash.

Getting around in New York is difficult.

The New York Marathon is a tough race.

…But the things that are worth it in life are never easy, right?

 

Runner’s High in the Chi

By Perri Smith

“I’ve never felt this way before, and I never want to feel this way again”, read the text message that I sent to my best friends after completing the Chicago Marathon last Sunday afternoon. Throughout the four and a half months of training, my motto was consistently, “one and done”. I would complete the marathon and retire my running shoes; my days of long distance running would be behind me. Running had become a chore, requiring 5:30 am wake-ups, missed happy hours, and an investment in body glide and Pedialyte. By Wednesday evening, however, three days after the race and once the soreness had subsided, I was already googling Berlin Marathon and New York Marathon, trying to find my next big race.

What happened in those three days that made me go from “one and done” to “sign me up for Berlin”? I had the opportunity to reflect on my journey to 26.2 and what the experience meant to me. Nye articulated it perfectly when he said that running a marathon is a humbling experience. Despite the relatively high temperatures on race day, I felt great — I would even venture to say confident—the morning of the race. My nerves had dissipated, and this race would be “just another long run with friends.” Eighteen miles in, however, my body began to betray me and my quads and calves started to cramp. I never hit the mental wall that people talk about. Instead, my body refused to listen to my mind, and my run slowed to a jog and eventually to a walk. Each time I tried to start running again, the cramps would return, alternating between a gradual tightening and a stabbing pain. Although those final eight miles weren’t as glorious as I had imagined, I finished the race.

Running a marathon gave me a new appreciation for my body and its ability to keep going. As Keshia told me before the race, quoting Assata Shakur, “A wall is just a wall. It is meant to be broken.” I am capable of more than I thought possible. I will take this mentality with me from here on out, but I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge how I got there.

Without a doubt, I could not have made it to the finish line without my DRC family. Leading up to the race, I had the privilege of not only training with DRC but also asking newbie questions of our veteran marathoners. They were more than willing to share tips about fuel (should I run with Gu or Jelly Beans?) and recovery (have you ever tried cryotherapy?). Prior to marathon training, I had never run more than 13.1 miles. As my mileage increased, I dedicated my Saturday mornings to long runs with DRC. Each week, whether it was pouring rain or a steamy summer morning, DRC encouraged me to keep pushing when I was ready to call it quits. Most importantly, my DRC family calmed my doubts and anxieties in the weeks before the race. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and when I let those fears creep up.

Race day reinforced all of the support that I had received through months of training. It started with a prayer with the other runners in the back of the Corner Bakery on Michigan Avenue. Between the security lines and the lines to the port-a-potties, I lost everyone from DRC but managed to find Brittany and Nye in the crowd of our starting corral. The energy and excitement was shared by everyone at the starting line, and I was incredibly grateful to share the moment with them and thankful that I wouldn’t be starting the race alone. Nye and I ran the first half of the race together, taking in the crowds and the city and checking in with one another at each mile-marker.

Just as my cramps were beginning, I passed cheer squad. I had waited 18 miles to see them, and as always, they didn’t disappoint. Seeing familiar faces, hearing my favorite songs bumping from the speakers, running through a shower of confetti, they’re all part of the exhilarating experience that is running by cheer squad. I felt like a rockstar, and the pictures prove that the other runners were staring at me in that moment. In passing the cheer squad, I also picked up Courtney, who ran with me for a bit. She gave me a few words of encouragement to get me to my family who was eagerly waiting for me at mile 23.

Even after the race, when all I wanted to do was lay in bed and watch Food Network, my DRC family reminded me that this was an occasion to celebrate. With my medal wrapped around my neck, I made it out to the post-run party hosted by Three Run Two. I was surrounded by marathoners and the communities of running crews that had gotten them to that point. I was overcome with an immense sense of pride and gratitude. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would run a marathon. Reflecting back on the experience, I realize that the main reason I could and I did was because of DRC.

Now I’m texting my friends, “What’s our next race?” It looks like I won’t be retiring from running anytime soon. It’s silly that I actually thought that because with DRC, the miles are never not coming.

Marathon MoTAYvation

By Tay Carson

For me, running is very mental and therapeutic. When I deal with the stressors of life, I tend to exercise more and while running, I can clear my head and push my body physically. As strange as this may sound, running is so relaxing. After I have a run, whether it be good or bad, there is a sense of calmness and peace. 

In addition  to the spiritual and therapeutic aspect, I view running as having a never-ending finish line where you’re always striving to be better than your last run. Physically speaking, I view myself as a dog –I can overcome any challenge. Even when it’s raining, hot, cold, muddy, or elevation, etc., it doesn’t matter. I’m going to get this action, boss! People looked at me crazy when I told them I was trying to PR in Killington. I just say if your goals don’t scare you, they are not big enough! All that being said, my running tip would be to view it as a mental race. If you tell yourself you’re going to kill it, your body tends to follow suit!

The hardest race of my life was the Philadelphia Marathon in 2014. While training maybe a month before the race, I injured my left knee (iliotibial band syndrome). I slowed down my training, but I could still run. When race day came along, I put Max Time pain cream on my leg (it’s like Icy Hot on steroids aka magic). The first half of the race my leg held up strong but the second half of the race, the “magic” wore off. Around mile 16, my left leg went out, so those last 10 miles were horrible. I was limping, cold, in pain, and alone because the crowd disappeared and my phone died while I was struggling up this long highway. There were senior citizens  power walking past me, and the struggle bus asked me three times if I wanted to ride to the finish line; it was just a bad feeling. But with all that happening, I just became mad, actually angry. And I wasn’t angry about my current situation, I was pissed I could not reach my full potential which sparked the fuel for me to do the Chicago marathon the following year. It took me 6+ hours to finish the Philly race!

District Running Collective is f***ing amazing. My network has expanded beyond anything I could have predicted! I have met people all over the country/world via running. In the D.C. area, I’ve been exposed to various fitness groups and activities that I’d never know about outside of DRC. I really cannot put into words the options and energy I have gained through running with District Running Collective.  Just f***ing amazing!!!

Photo credit: Maya Aridi

Nat-Attacking the Navy-Air Force Half

Me, a half marathoner? Nah. Prior to this year, I would have never thought it would have been me at the finish line after completing 13.1 miles. At some point in April after Bridge the Gap, I began to entertain the idea of running a half marathon. BTGDC was my first long distance race, and my running confidence was high after crossing the finish line. If I could train and complete that race, then why not push myself to the next level and take on a half? After receiving encouragement from DRC friends, I committed to begin the training for the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon. The race was scheduled for September which happened to be one of the first DRC featured fall races. “Perfect,” I thought. “This race would have a lot of other DRC runners, and the good vibes would be high.” I even persuaded a few others that NAF should be their first too. Plus, why not run your first half right in your own backyard? So I had no other choice other than to go for it.

Saturday before the race… 

My 13-week training program had come down to its final run before race day–the shakeout run. That morning, I met up with the DRC crew at the super dope Future of Sports pop-up on H Street. Everyone looked extremely energized and ready to knock this last run out before race day. As we swarmed our way down the middle of H Street on the way to the Stadium Armory for packet pickup (side note: way cool to run down the middle of an otherwise busy street), it began to sink in that I was really running a HALF MARATHON the next day! But I couldn’t help but feel the strong sense of community around me and knew everyone had each other’s back. That was also the day of the H Street festival, so plenty of vendors and neighbors were out which made way for some supportive cheers as we mobbed out the street. We arrived at the Armory and scooped up our packets. This race was here.

Nerves began to sink in throughout the day, but Saturday happened to be jammed with events, so that helped to ease those jitters. With so many activities taking place, I couldn’t help but think I was doing the absolute most before my first race and really should be sitting at home resting, but I went with the flow.

After carb loading at the pre-race dinner with the other runners, it was almost time. I spent the entire summer training, including countless hot, humid, and rainy(!) runs. I asked just about everyone in DRC for half marathon advice, and the moment was finally here. I laid out my race kit, took a pic (umm, duh!), and attempted to get some sleep.

Race day…

My alarm went off at 4:45am (whew, that’s early!), and I popped up with enthusiasm mixed with a touch of nerves. Race day had finally arrived! I quickly got ready and met up with Na’Tasha and Stephanie, and we headed to meet the rest of the DRC crew at 14th Street and Constitution Ave.

As we walked up on the rest of the crew, we were greeted with everyone’s smiling faces, just like it was our regular Wednesday run. My nerves had been eased knowing that our squad was so deep and we were starting off in solidarity. There were several fellow first-timers in the group, including Avery and Deceilia, so I made it a point to connect with them so we could start the race together. Corey led the group in a pre-race prayer, and then we headed to the starting line.

The race started off crowded, and I felt myself having to slow down to make way for the wall of people on the road. I reminded myself of some advice I had been given which was, “Don’t spend your energy early in the race weaving between runners.” I maintained a somewhat slower pace up until about Mile 5 where the course finally started to loosen up and I could pick up some speed. Mile 6.5, I spotted Taina and Dante as they were walking to meet cheer squad. I waved and, to my surprise, they jumped on the course and began running with me for about a half mile, offering some much appreciated support. As we approached Cheer Squad at Mile 7, you could feel and hear the electric energy being echoed on the course. The cheers and screams got louder, and I was thrilled to see my DRC peeps as I ran by.

Along Rock Creek Park, I began to see other DRC’ers as they were looping back the opposite direction. I said, “Hey! Good job!” to just about everyone I happened to see. That kept me motivated because I knew the turnaround point was near. Mile 10.5, as I began to search for the next water station, I started wanting the race to be over with. But I knew I wasn’t far from the finish and at this point needed the support of cheer squad at Mile 11. So, I grabbed a water at the station manned by District Tri and powered through. I could once again hear the bass bouncing off the Kennedy Center as I ran towards Cheer Squad. YFN Lucci’s “Every Day We Lit” was playing, and I was met with infectious energy, smiles, cheers, and a confetti shower. Just the boost I needed to get to the finish.

Somewhere around Mile 12.5, deep in thought and knowing it was nearly over, I recalled one of DRC’s Wednesday themes for this year–finish strong. I gathered myself, dug deep, and pushed my pace to finish the race.

I crossed the finish line and that was it; I was done. I actually completed a 13.1! Once I crossed the finish line and received my medal, I began to search for my DRC fam. The first person I saw was my friend Stephanie who met me with the biggest smile, hug, and my first congratulations. With the collective feeling of accomplishment, the tight sense of community, and the fact that all my training paid off, it all just hit me and I felt incredible.

There was once a time not very long ago when running one mile was a complete struggle, and I would have to stop several times. Yet, I kept coming back, kept building, and kept striving to get better. To have now completed a half marathon, well, my heart is overwhelmingly full. I couldn’t have done it without the unwavering support from DRC, the pep talks, the encouragement, the “I’ll run with you” and “You got this” from friends, and just the crew love.  This experience illustrated to me you can truly do all things. As a good friend told me after the race, “You, too, are strong and capable of more than you think.” So with that, me, a half marathoner? Yes.

Shout out to all Navy-Air Force finishers and especially my fellow first-timers. We did that!

Mommy + Miles

By Traci Branch

Returning back to DRC post Baby Bean was quite the experience. Pushing a stroller is surprisingly a lot harder than running while pregnant, both physically and mentally.

My pre-run checklist before our little Bean entered the world: Eat, pee, don’t go into labor, don’t fall, finish…so I can pee again.

My pre-run list now: Diaper change, DRC onesie, nurse and burp, snack, figure out how to work the stroller, watch out for dips and bumps, find the ramp, forget to pee.

In all seriousness, running with Bean has been a test of my coordination.  I’m still working on avoiding all the bumps and potholes of running through D.C. I’m learning to steer with one hand and use my free arm to propel us forward.  My favorite part of the run is going downhill.  Bean’s favorite part seems to be the cool breeze as he falls asleep.  Is it difficult?  Of course. But I am so encouraged by being back with the crew.  The support and love we’ve been shown is nothing short of amazing.  While he’s too young to understand now, I’m hopeful years from now Bean will know that he is a part of something great–DRC.

The purpose that fuels my running is the same.  I want and need to be healthy for myself and my family. I want Bean to know the importance of pushing past the reasons to opt out because there will always be an excuse not to run (or work toward a goal). But that’s when you lace up and GET THESE MILES! Most importantly, I want Bean to know what a solid village looks and feels like.

Shout out to all the moms and dads of DRC (#strollergang)! Thank you DRC and Bean for strengthening my purpose. Follow our journey together at www.abeangrowsindc.com.

That Time I Ran a 50K in the Mountains

By Clif Light

What does it mean to run over 10,000 feet of elevation gain?

Why did I sign up for a 50K in the mountains?

When will these giant ski slopes become flat?

When is the next aid station?

How am I only at mile 28?

These were some of the many thoughts that ran through my mind as I took on the “Beast”, as it is known in Killington. When the opportunity was presented to us to take on the UA Mountain Running Series in Vermont, I took a look at the distances and thought, 50K sounds like a fun challenge. Go for it. I’m currently training for the Chicago Marathon, so I knew I would be able to complete the distance, and I figured it would be a good way to continue my long-distance training. Little did I know, I would be in for the biggest physical challenge of my life so far.

Killington, Here We Come!

DRC took a charter bus to Vermont and left promptly at 6 a.m. from D.C. Once we began to load the bus, I knew it would be a great weekend because the energy on the bus was so high. Everyone was excited and talked for hours. As we got closer to Killington, the energy level rose as we blasted some trap music on the bus (…and there may have been a few shots of Whiskey taken). But as we arrived in Killington, it began to sink in for me–These are legit mountains. We noticed the elevation change immediately as some people complained about their ears beginning to pop.

Once we arrived, we checked into our condos. As I was walking to my room, I noticed a sign on the dumpster. It read, “Caution! Bears in the area.” –a warning to close and lock dumpster doors. Then it became really real–bears possibly on the resort. What did I sign myself up for (I asked myself that question plenty of times)?

As we headed to dinner, I started to get nervous. We got closer to the mountain and started to see where we would possibly run on Saturday. I felt like the entire night everyone asked me if I was ready. In my standard reply, I would always say, “I stay ready.” I think everyone knew this race wasn’t going to be the standard race. After some serious carb loading, we headed back to our rooms. Some people hung out for a while, had some drinks, or even got in the hot tub to relax. I had serious FOMO because I knew I had to prepare my race kit and get some serious rest. So I ended the night earlier than I normally would have before a race day.

Race Day

Race morning was a beautiful. We woke up and finally saw the mountain without any fog covering any of it. The 50K race began at 8 a.m., so I woke up at 5am to eat, stretch, and hydrate. While heading over to the race, I was trying to mentally prepare myself to run for 31 miles and was pretty focused. Once we arrived at the starting area, I felt better as I saw our New York fam that was also running the 50K. I was able to relax a bit since I knew I wouldn’t go through this struggle alone.

The countdown to the race had begun. We took off and shot downhill, and I thought, I can handle this pace here. And then we made a turn, and it was a massive ski slope on mile 1. This set the tone for the entire race. We ran up for another couple of miles, and then it would flatten out only to be followed by a more massive ski slope.

The race itself was a blur merely because of the length of it and my exhaustion. I tried to break it down into eight-mile increments to give myself milestones to reach throughout the race. Miles 1 through 8 were pretty tough, but I was full of energy, and I enjoyed the scenery they provided as we climbed to pretty much the peak of the mountain. There was plenty of elevation throughout the first eight miles, but the downhills felt great at that point because all of the strain I put on my calves going uphill so early in the race.

Miles 9 to 16 were probably the best point of the race for me. Around mile 14, my energy was low, but at this point the 50k course merged with all of the other courses. So I was able to see other runners that were participating in the marathon and half marathon. It felt good to run with a group of people instead of alone in the forest. It gave me enough energy to keep pushing on as other runners encouraged me to keep it up. Mile 16 was the lowest point of the course at 1,174’. Miles 17 through 24 were the toughest because they involved some of the highest elevation gain.  From there, we climbed to 4,134’ at mile 22. This was the part of the course where a lot of runners began to drop off. The only thing I could thing about was to keep pushing. Heading into mile 22 from 21, I ran into some of my DRC crew who cheered me on as I stopped at the aid station. I drank a can of Coke, ate two cups of Lay’s chips, and continued to keep pushing forward. The support from DRC kept me going as I headed uphill. I kept running for as long as I could, but when I realized I could no longer see anyone or hear any cheers, I just stopped, gasping for air, and took a look up this massive slope. My strategy was to find a landmark on the slope to reach, stop, take a breather, and then keep pushing. This went on for miles, sometimes running and sometimes power walking. But I just kept thinking, Keep moving. Don’t stop until you reach the top. After reaching the summit at 24, there was an aid station where I drank another can of Coke with ice. I also had a cup of plain M&M’s, a cup of Skittles, and two cups of Lay’s chips. Who knew junk food would taste so good on a run? But at this point, I was starving, and I would eat anything that would keep me going.

Photo credit: Angela Hooks

From miles 25 to 31, it was all about finishing and not dying trying to. At this point, we had steep downhills where if you lost control, you would probably tumble to the bottom of the mountain. There was plenty of mud, and the footing was slippery, so I decided to just kill this downhill no matter what. I slipped and fell the entire way down on my backside, which felt good because my hamstrings and quads were completely dead, and the mud was cold enough to cool my body temperature down.

I finally reached a flat portion of the course, and I heard screams from DRC finishers waiting for me at the finish line. I ignored them for a while until I saw them running towards me. They began to run with me, and I thought maybe they shortened the course because they put the 50K runners through hell. I was wrong. There was a race volunteer that pointed left—50K runners had to go up another massive hill. I just stopped, bent over, and dropped every curse word I could think of. I kept pushing with the help of DRC. We proceeded to a flattened area of the slope, stopped to get a breather, and though it was the homestretch–until we hit the bottom of a hill and saw another sign to make another left and hit another massive hill. At this final climb, it was a total team effort. Brittany, Jasmine, Nye, and Tutu lead the way up the hill, which gave me a sense of how far I had to climb. Steph, J. Knight, and Carlos gave me encouragement alongside of me as I climbed. When J. Knight offered his shoulder to help me up I said, “No, I am good. I can do it alone.” But after a few steps, my hamstrings couldn’t take climbing, and I just reached out and kept climbing. Allison and Angela joined in, and I realized I was almost done and powered up and down the hill.

Staggering to the finish line, everyone cheered me in, and I was welcomed with a champagne shower. Finally done, I didn’t want to stop walking because I knew the pain would set in, and my body would lock up. I entered the recovery zone, and I felt like a patient in the ER. But with all that, I appreciated all of the support at the end because I needed every ounce of it.

What an experience looking back! I feel like if I made it through this race, I can do anything, and it will help me when facing future challenges. If there is an opportunity to take on Killington again, I would accept it and prepare myself better. But until then, I can’t wait to take on the next extreme challenge.

 

The Other R-Word

Although it’s a beautiful thing, life moves fast. It can be hectic, and busy, and complicated. Add adulting into the mix and you’ve convinced yourself that you need a special assistant just to help you stay on top of it all. Add another layer on top–running. So, you’re telling me I have to pay bills, keep Sallie Mae happy, deep condition my hair on a semi-regular basis, make it to all these social events, AND make sure I’m getting exercise? This is the life we chose, folks!

It’s always exciting to see fellow runners smash their goals, come down on their times, or complete another race. The desire to go up another level in our running careers is almost addictive; but with that high can also come the need to take a break from it all. Yep, rest. Our bodies physically, mentally, and emotionally need it. Sometimes there’s the temptation or the peer pressure to keep running without proper recovery and relaxation.

“I have to keep up.”

“I can’t lose the mileage.”

“The marathon is around the corner.”

“I’ll lose my speed.”

“What will others think?”

So, we keep going. Out of guilt, out of pressure, out of competition, out of not wanting to look weak.
But you know what? It’s actually ok to take a break from it all once in a while. It could be a day. It could be a couple weeks. It won’t last forever.

We all know that running, especially long distances, is more mental. Sometimes your mind just needs a break, and that’s ok. No one is saying to rest every single time it gets tough. Sometimes you need to push through because that helps you get faster and stronger. But if you’re experiencing a difficult time emotionally, haven’t gotten enough sleep the last few days, or you’re injured, it’s ok to relax for a bit. Promise. You’ll get back on track.

The miles are never not coming. They’ll be right there waiting where you left them. You’ve got this!

#ThirtyRunDayChallenge

By Ashlee Lawson

Sometime in April. I decided it would be a good idea to challenge the Ladies of DRC with a 5K, every day, for the entire month of May. There were a couple of us who knew what we would be in for–31 monotonous days of finding time and energy to run. To my surprise, a good majority of the group was super excited to put both their mind and bodies to the test. I’m still not sure why, but it was their enthusiasm that helped to make it all happen.

I’m super proud to say that over 30 women began the challenge and 10 women finished strong finding a way to run at least a 5K every single day. In total, over 1700 miles were run through rain and blazing heat, and while managing the Brooklyn Half and world traveling. Congrats Ladies!

A few lessons learned on the run:

  1. Accountability matters.

I wanted to give up SO many times. If it wasn’t (1) for each of the ladies’ encouraging words in the group and (2) the MapMyRun notifications that let me know in real-time that everybody else was putting in work but me, this would NOT have been possible.

Lesson: Surround yourself with people who want to see you do and be well. It’s amazing what you can accomplish together.

  1. It’s ok to slow down, literally.

When the challenge first began, I just KNEW I was going to earn a PB every day lol. I was about to be so fast by the time it was all said and done. That might’ve lasted a week. It came to a point where instead of focusing on how fast I was running each day, it became increasingly important to just finish. By the end of the challenge, I was running even slower than when I started…but I got it done.

Lesson: Like Charlie Dark often says, “It’s not how fast you go, it’s how you cross the finish line.”

  1. Recovery is key.

If you know me, you know how much I hate stretching. It’s SUCH a chore. Who wants to spend an extra 15-30 minutes stretching and foam rolling? Not me. This challenge forced me to properly recover (almost) every day, because had I not, I wouldn’t have been close to prepared to get up the next morning to tackle the next 5K.

Lesson: Along the way, it’s necessary to do things we don’t want to do, to get where we want to be.

I’m grateful for the lessons learned along the way, I’m feeling primed and well-oiled to begin marathon training, and feel closer than ever to an amazing group of women who want to help each other be better in running and in life.


Below are a couple lessons learned and goals smashed by some of the ladies that participated:

When I told people, I was going to run 3 miles a day for 31 days their immediate reaction was “oh are you training for a race?” and then when I said no, I’m doing this to test my willpower, I then got the deer in the headlights look. But it was true! AND it seemed pretty badass! Without the #ThirtyRunDayChallenge and the support of the other ladies there is no way I would have been able to do this and set a PR.

Angela Fleming


This #ThirtyRunDaychallenge, like everything DRC does, is about way more than running. It’s about finding that part of you that wants to quit & constantly disappointing it. It’s about pushing yourself to the point where the only thing you can do is win. It’s about being the best version of yourself daily, while knowing you’re not alone. It’s about being one of the amazing #LadiesofDRC

Courtney Littlejohn


I entered our #ThirtyRunDayChallenge knowing it would take dedication and consistency, yet I didn’t realize that a mere 3 miles would be so difficult; after all, I’m decently in shape. However, I quickly realized that conquering the mental game of running would be the only way I’d last for 31 days. The most rewarding part of this experience was when Nesi told me how proud and impressed she was to see how much I’ve grown since last spring. HUGE thanks to Ashley Gardner and Leo Reid for their friendly competition that ultimately turned into accountability. I never would have run 140 miles without y’all.

Emma McNamara


Would I willingly do another #ThirtyRunDayChallenge?

Idk…

If I did, would you join me?

 

 

 

Mind vs. Miles

This running thing is about more than our weekly runs or even getting medals. It’s obvious that some of us may be running for physical reasons, but what about the mental or emotional aspects?

Everyone has a story and a “why”. If you’ve been running with us for a while, you may know that some of our friends like @daddydarkrdc, @alisonmdesir, and @teambrkthru all have stories about how they’ve raised awareness related to mental health. But, their stories don’t stop with the tragedies or obstacles that have come across their paths. All of them have used running in a way that helps to connect with people at their core. They’ve all helped others to keep going, even when the going gets tough.

Distance running is about perseverance. It’s a battle between your mind and your feet. It’s about the will to keep pushing even when you don’t know how you’re going to make it. That’s life, as well. There are going to be things that will be placed in your path, and you’re going to be tested. Do you stop running when it hurts, or do you run through the pain?

Although they may be smiling on the outside, a fellow runner could be fighting like hell to survive each and every minute of their day. Make sure to be kind. You never know what someone is going through. Your presence and a positive word of encouragement could literally be the reason they choose to hang on.

Sometimes, all you can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. One day you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come.

Note: We understand that running can be good for mental health. However, we also know that it is important to consult a professional for assistance if needed. If you ever feel like you need help regarding your mental health, DRC would like to encourage you to reach out to someone who is licensed/certified to help you deal with the battle you may be fighting.

FOMO: My Crazy Weekend of Running Brooklyn and the Capitol Hill Classic (As Told By My Social Media)

By: Leo Reid

At the end of Bridge the Gap DC (#BTGDC), it was evident that there was a huge social and athletic gap that was created. After the 17 French-Canadians (@werunmlt) left, and I finally packed all the airbeds and tent down, it was clear I needed to find a race that could replicate such a great weekend. So, Brooklyn would be the part deux.

So, let the weekend begin: I packed my bags and headed to the airport for the short 45-minute flight to NYC. Private jet, baby!!

Once I landed, I Uber Blacked from the airport to bib pick-up, then settled in with the crew for the lituation.

The energy was pure silk, and the running community that I have come to love was very present. Being in a very diverse group of runners who also like to have fun is only part of what a run weekend is all about. Bridge Runners (@bridgerunners) and Harlem Run (@Harlemrun) were representing their city and reminding us of a race weekend feeling called crew love.

It was an early night in–stretched (yoga), got my race day clothes together, spent five minutes arranging my bib and other items, then spent 20 minutes taking a picture and getting a clever caption for my IG post.

If you have never run a race before, you may not understand the need to get the proper arrangement and picture for your social media. It is not only a reminder to your friends on social media that you are a boss at sorta training for something, but it also reminds you how artistic you are in finding the right filter and writing clever captions.

Bed time! If you want to ever get close to breaking your personal best/record, getting enough water and rest is important.

The race day morning routine is to get up early and hydrate to fuel muscles throughout the race or desperately try to soothe the alcohol induced vertigo of a hangover.

I have to get to the race on time to take a pre-race photo. This picture is important to prime my social media friends for their timelines being flooded with my accomplishment until the next #TBT where I reflect with an inspirational quote. #Crewlove #Believeinself #Allwedoisrun!

 

I get in my run wave but convince myself that since I am still tasting the Long Island from the night before, running with the squad is better than chasing Aaron (@sartorialgazelle). Racing him is just impossible!

I started the race and enjoyed the low 60s weather and the great run atmosphere.

Overcommitted in the first few miles, I had to stop and “go” because the drinks from the night before were running through my kidneys faster than  my legs were, and struggled through the last few miles before mile 11.

Mile 11! Cheer squad!!! Picked pace up and pretended I was going at a good pace. Practiced few surprised but photogenic poses before reaching cheer squad because they go by quickly and you never see who is taking your picture!

Running slowly, I took in all the happiness and littness of cheer squad.

Cheer squad was just the energy I needed. I could see the black flag from a distance and could hear the familiar voices of DRC cheering. Cheer squad was lit!

@wrucrew, @bridgerunners and @districtrunningcollective signature confetti made my nausea and mild cramping disappear. The sheer joy of cheer squad and their positivity at mile 11 was appreciated by my, and other, fatigued legs counting down the next 2.1 miles. If you have never experienced cheer squad, you are missing out, and you need to experience the true community it teaches. Cheer squad people: Thank you! Y’all were live, baby!!

I got back to a slower pace my breathing and tiredness could tolerate while thinking, Who do I need to hound to get those cheer squad pictures? Did I even smile in them, or was I a blur? The anxiety pushed me to finish faster to see them.

13.1 miles!! I ran determinedly to get this medal but, most importantly, for brunch and to continue the fun weekend in NYC. Brunch was great and the experiences of communing with DRC and other run clubs made the clanking of medals and the extra time it took for my meal more bearable. Bonds were formed and strengthened during that weekend, and I appreciate all the other crews. #Crewlove

I flew back  to DC just in time to run my 10k. It was a great run with the squad again, and this time I was hydrated and doing better.

Even though all these things did not happen to me, nor was I ever on a jet plane (#bowwowchallenge), I suffered from severe FOMO. The fear of missing out made me refresh my social media feed whenever possible. I felt like I missed a weekend my friends kept posting about using clever captions for all their run pictures. Yet, I felt like I was a part of the squad but not in any of the pictures from brunch, cheer squad or any of the turn ups. The one thing I felt, though, was the great community of friends and strangers who came out to support runners on both days. It gave first-timers with DRC joy finishing their race and brought more people closer as a crew. It’s crew love, baby! And the crew was definitely live, baby!

Congratulations to all who ran and to all who cheered. It is another medal to the game but an experience worth every moment that no other race can recreate. So, learn from your partying, your underpreparing, your overexerting in the first few miles and get your Cheer Squad mile 11 picture face ready because all these things pass quickly! Brunch awaits!

CREATIVE DESIGN FROM BROOKLYN

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