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Marathon Maya

By Maya Leo

Photo credit: @gnp_photos

I honestly never thought twice about doing a marathon. Earlier this year, I realized how much I was driven by my fears rather than my goals. I would overthink everything until I would talk myself out of whatever idea I had been meditating on for months. I was limiting myself into a box when I truly just wanted to experience these ideas. I was in this constant anxiety of:

What if?

Am I wasting my time?

What are others going to think?

Will I fail?

Will I even make it?

I was over allowing my fears to dictate my destiny. So, in April 2018, I decided to run my first marathon in my favorite city–The Chi.

My marathon training was 18 weeks long, and I broke it into three “quarters”.

The First Quarter: Elevate

The first seven weeks, I had a really hard time adjusting to the 4+ workouts a week. Also, I normally would run alone. I learned quickly I couldn’t do my training alone. Joey and Brandon really kept me under their wing once they saw I was struggling with my training.

Nutrition-wise, I started craving things I’ve never really cared for–carbs and sweets. One week, I ate mac and cheese just about every day. Lol! I definitely was not eating enough, so I started eating everything. Lol! I did not hold back. Of course, the majority of the time I was eating the healthier options, but I was not strict with the carbs. I also started focusing my research on nutrition for long distance runners which really helped me.

You truly do sacrifice your summer for fall marathons! But like Traci Scott told me, “It will be worth it!”

First quarter required some discipline..

No late Friday night outings…

No crazy drinking…

No Saturday morning brunches…

It’s definitely a lifestyle adjustment, and it forced me to elevate.

The Second Quarter: “Oh, We Talking Teams?”

I adjusted well cutting back on the drinking and sacrificing my Friday nights/brunches–It was easy. However, it was difficult to remain consistent with the training plans on vacation. Let’s be real–Our family and non-runner friends already think we are crazy for even running these long distances. My first vacation was with my family. They weren’t helpful. If anything, they gave me every reason to not run. After one week of not running, I started waking up early to get my runs in. My second vacation was with my girlfriends. They respected my workout schedule and were even asking me, “Maya did you run?”. I also woke up early before anyone and got the runs in. I was back by the time the crew was up and ready for breakfast. I had my DRC fam I was training with (the pact) text me to make sure I was on my stuff and not just chillin’. Everyone back home really held me accountable by simply just checking on me.  Major tip: You are only as strong as your accountability. Make sure you have a really big team.

The Third Quarter: Started from the Bottom Now the Whole Team Here

My bib was through a charity entry. Yeah, that’s right. Not only was I doing my first marathon, it was also my first fundraiser. The last quarter I started to get worried I was not going to reach my fundraiser goal. I remember it hitting me one day like, “Pause…If you don’t raise this money, you are not going to be able to run this marathon you’ve been training for”. Thanks to Stephani who gave me a dope idea for an event that I went with! With over 80% of the donations coming from my DRC fam, not only did I meet my goal, I exceeded it! Many thanks! Y’all really held it down!

During the third quarter, the long runs were really intimidating. I’d never run past 13 miles. Another major tip: Never do your long runs alone–ever. It’s hard enough to get your feet on the pavement and get going; when you have a pact, it’s easier.

The Race: What a Time to be Alive

My hotel was about 0.8 miles away from the start line, so I started my day with a warm up run to the start line. I would recommend this to anyone because it helped me get my nerves out and get mentally ready to tackle what I had never done before. As I ran, I had the mental conversation with myself, “Damn. This is it. You trained. You cried. You sweat. You raised the money. You prepared. Leo, you BELONG here! Now do it! LET’S GO!”

I zoned out, and I ran without my music or my phone. I wanted to be present and embrace my fears. My heart was full of joy. I just took my first marathon in–millions of spectators and the joy of this sport. I didn’t care about my time. I just wanted to not get injured and finish.

Mile 13 – “This is a breeze. I have done this before.” Tay texted, “Stop being afraid and run!!!”

Mile 15 – “Face your fear”…The pouring rain…I absolutely hate running in the rain…

Mile 18 – “Sh*t happens!” I should have listened to Matt” (upside down smiley face)

Mile 22 – Cheer Squad!!! I still can feel the energy of everyone there! Screaming at the top of their lungs, “LET’S GO!!!” Every pain, ache, and doubt disappeared. I remember Stephani, Ashlee, and Brandon there. Ashlee saw me about to breakdown, “Let’s go, Maya!!! Let’s go!!!” She was right…“Let’s F*&%ing go!” Why am I so afraid?

Mile 24 – “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” -Philippians 4:13

Mile 25 – “Don’t stop now! Let’s go! It’s a cool down!”

Mile 26 – “This is it.. You ARE here.. You DID this!”

Everyone was tracking me the whole race. I just kept feeling my Apple watch go off. I got every message and every call, even the international ones. I just was embracing all the love that sometimes I do not realize is around me. This was the craziest thing I’ve ever done, and it was the most euphoric feeling I’ve ever felt. I have never felt so ALIVE.

Recap: Look What You’ve Done

I originally started this journey to set out to do something that was I was afraid of. Little did I know how much this journey would shape me for a lifetime–how much it would test me, discipline me, and show me my own determination. The journey is the goal. I had to stop focusing on the end product and embrace the journey of it all. I learned to push myself beyond the limitations I have created within my mind. I learned to challenge myself, stop overthinking, and just execute. Lastly, I learned to face my biggest fears because it will lead me to my destiny.

District Running Collective, I want to thank each and every one of you who was a part of this marathon journey with me. Without you, this would have been impossible. I am beyond grateful.

#MLxChi26point2

Marathon Maya (out.)

 

Photo credit: MarathonFoto

DRC Ran Ragnar!

By Scott Bibbins

Deciding to run a Ragnar relay with DRC was a quick thought for me, as I have been training to complete 18 half marathons this calendar year. I’ve always wanted to run a Ragnar since my running career started last year. I began seeing people on social media talk about how cool the experience was. I was excited to join a group of 11 other runners and two drivers on a 200-ish mile relay from Cumberland, MD to Washington, D.C. non-stop.

I figured it could not be that bad, as I had been running half marathons four straight weekends for a month at a time. Well, this was when the fun began. We formed a team, and then the planning started. There were so many logistical items that I never thought of when there are 13 other people involved (It is easy to prepare yourself for a race). We had to get a team name, buy food, buy drinks, order gear, book two 15-passenger rental vans, book hotel rooms for the night before for 14 people, find two drivers, and train our bodies and minds for this epic adventure.

We had meetings, discussions, polls, group text message conversations, and personal text message conversations to accomplish this one goal. That one goal was to successfully finish the 2018 Washington, D.C. Ragnar. It was not an easy task, and it was difficult at times trying to get 14 people on the same page, but I think as a team, we made it happen.

We came together as a team and pushed each other, encouraged each other, complimented each other, and helped each other through the struggle. I think we all had run many miles before, but few of us had run many miles with few breaks on tired legs with little to no sleep. Running in the middle of the night was probably by far the hardest part. It was dark outside, and there were not as many runners running with you. I think running in complete darkness was definitely a first for me and many others on the team.

The drivers, Brandi and Jessica, were very valuable assets to the entire operation. As a team, we discussed having drivers versus not having drivers. We decided to have drivers, and that was truly the most invaluable team decision we made collectively. Most of us had never done anything like this before. Both drivers drove us all over to the many different exchange points safely and without any fuss. I can be assured that it would have been a much more difficult experience if we had to run and rotate drivers. The genuine encouragement and motivation they provided were invaluable assets to the entire operation. We are forever indebted to the two of you.

Spending 36+ hours in close proximity to 13 other people taught me the true definition of camaraderie. I thought I knew what it meant before, but I gained a whole new respect for its true meaning. I have heard over and over that DRC is a family, but I really learned what type of family DRC truly is. Everything might not always go as planned. We might not always see everything the same. We might not always like the way things are done. We may have been offended unintentionally. We may be late at times. But those are all aspects of family, and the true love we have for each other was evident at the end of the journey. There is no other family I would want to have this experience with again. I will value the time, memories, experiences, lessons, and conversations for the rest of my life.

 

Goodbye Comfort Zone, Hello Half Marathon!

By Breana Pitts

Perfect training regimen. Perfect route. Perfect pace.

Those are just a few factors I needed to be “perfect” for my first half marathon. I soon found out perfection is just an illusion.

I was introduced to running exactly one year ago when my friend ran the 2017 Navy Air Force Half Marathon and posted several post-race photos and videos with his running crew. I’m not sure if it was the culture or the confetti, but I knew I had to learn more. He invited me to a DRC Wednesday run, and the rest is history.

I started training for the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon in July, one month after I completed my 5K-a-day in May challenge. “If you can run 140 miles in one month, you can run a half marathon.” My DRC family was encouraging, and because I’d already grown so much as a runner, I felt confident that I could finish the half with flying colors. Everything changed with my first run during the heatwave; I was rudely reminded that Washington, D.C. is home of horrendously humid summers. After a handful of struggle runs, I decided not to run the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon because I needed my first half to be perfect, and my subpar summer training, I believed, would result in a subpar race.

“I’ve barely trained over the summer…”

“My long runs are only at 9 miles. Can I even do 13?”

What if my body fails me?”

Despite my self-doubt, I took a risk and accepted the bib.

Over the next five days, my anxiety magnified to the point where I was looking for any excuse not to run, and the weather forecast seemed to be working in my favor. When it became clear that the D.C. region would escape Hurricane Florence, I leaned into my best friend and soon-to-be marathoner, Maya, to be my accountability (and race day) partner.

To get the full half marathon experience, I participated in the shakeout run, secured the freebie bag at the official expo, and attended the pre-race DRC dinner. At the dinner, Matt advised me, “Just keep going. There will be times when it gets hard and you want to stop, but just remember there is always an end, a finish line.”

When I arrived at the DRC meetup spot the next morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A few friends knew it was my first half marathon, and they offered much needed words of encouragement. I linked up with Maya at the starting line and moments later, we were running.

Mile 1 – Oh my gosh, I’m running a half marathon. What did I get myself into? At least Maya is running with me. 

Mile 3 – Okay, one 5K down. Four more to go (plus a cool-down). 

Mile 6 – DRC Cheer Squad is coming up! This energy boost is right on time! We’re almost halfway there! 

Mile 10 – My legs were dead during the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. Today, I feel strong. I’m confident I can run three more miles. 

Mile 11 – Cheer Squad is back! Yes, confetti! Pain is temporary, but these race photos will last forever!

Mile 12 – I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt on a long run before. I’m even pacing Maya at this point. We’re almost done! If I squint, I think I can see the finish line.

When I reached mile 13, I practically sprinted through the finish line. I was anticipating tears of joy, but, instead, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of gratitude – for God protecting my body, for friends who push me to test my limits, for my District Running Collective family for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.

Leading up to the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, I was so worried about being inadequate that I failed to realize running is mostly a mental sport. Over the course of the race, my self-doubt, anxiety and fear were replaced with confidence, exhilaration, and pride. Life lesson: Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being excited about what could go right.

With that mindset, I am unstoppable.

 

 

It Is Your Race – Not Anyone Else’s

By Aurélie Mathieu

Whether you are preparing for a job interview or training for your first race, people will always have a wealth of advice to share. Most of it is beneficial, but a handful of the “sometimes requested, sometimes unsolicited” advice that may land in your lap may be the breeding ground for doubt and anxiety. 

There were plenty of horror stories from last year’s Vermont race that made me feel reckless about signing up for this year’s race weekend. First, I was not running consistently so even running a 5k could’ve been risking it. Second, I never went to any of the DRC trail runs, so this would be exposing my body to entirely new territory… I thought. 

When I got to Vermont, I quickly realized that it was the same type of environment I grew up in in Haiti. Haiti is a mountainous country, and I had my share of climbing hills and hiking mountains when I lived there. I also did not feel troubled by the change in altitude. My body was used to it, and I did not feel limited by the elevation.

I, however, had to be very vigilant during the race. On my regular runs, I am usually able to observe the scenery and reflect on life. This time, all I did was dodge rocks and calculate which spot my foot would need to land on to prevent too much mud from getting on me. I almost tripped on a few tree roots and steep hills, but I thankfully made it to the finish line with all my teeth and no injury. 

What made this trip most memorable is that everyone came to run their own race. The crew was so supportive of every member, and it definitely caught everyone’s attention. We came to Vermont and definitely represented. We also bonded and left Vermont fulfilled because we all ran our own race and accomplished our own goals. For me, this was a comeback to running after my brief hiatus. Vermont may have been a reckless decision, but the memories and the experience was definitely priceless. 

Running Copper Mountain? This Finna be a Breeze!

By Jason German

If I had to choose one word to describe this trip to Colorado, it would be “underestimated”.

I am not the biggest traveler but I’ve done a decent amount of traveling domestically. I have some family in Utah I would visit during the summer while in grade school, and we would road trip around the Midwest and West Coast. I was hoping my body would remember those summers spent in Utah and its 4,000 ft of elevation.  I underestimated exactly what I had gotten myself into…

My ascent to Copper Mountain started Friday morning. This trip would be the farthest I would travel for any type of running event (to say I was a little excited would be an understatement). I packed my bag twice Thursday night to make sure I didn’t leave anything important and set three alarms to wake up. Thanks to my wonderful fiancée, I made it to the airport on time to meet up with fellow captains Matt and Tosha.

The flight to Denver was smooth and uneventful as every flight should be. Once we make it across the airport, we met up with the LDN Brunch Club who also made the trip for this trail race. After, we hopped on our charter bus to pick up about 40 members of Electric Flight Crew who had arrived earlier that day and took the train into the city to have lunch at a brewery. Starving from six hours of flying, Matt and I ran inside in an attempt to grab some food for our two-hour ride from downtown Denver to Copper Mountain. We didn’t get any food, but we did manage to get some beer and almost got left while waiting for our beers to get canned. We underestimated how long it would to take to can two 32 oz. beers.

After flagging down the bus before it could fully take off, we were back on the road to Copper Mountain.  Traffic would cause us to arrive late and miss the scheduled shakeout run.

The elements were beginning to rear their ugly heads shortly after our arrival. Walking up the two flights of stairs to check into the resort resulted in some heavy breathing usually reserved for something a lot more physically taxing. While checking in, we noticed that you could buy small tanks of oxygen. Why would I need to buy oxygen?, I thought to myself.  I’m not going scuba diving. I underestimated the significance of this product offering.

Matt, Tosha and I decided to skip the impromptu secondary shakeout run organized by Electric Flight Crew in favor of dinner. While at dinner, we watched the fellow run crew test the course and got some feedback about the course and elements. In a nutshell, everyone thought they were going to pass out before completing their one-mile shakeout run. Yup, one-mile run.  We decided to call it an early night in anticipation of our race the next morning. Well, we attempted to call it an early night. I learned that I took the abundance of oxygen D.C. has to offer for granted. It’s pretty difficult to fall asleep when every third breath you take feels like your soul is grasping for O2 like a toddler chasing bubbles. At this point, we realized how much we underestimated being 10,000 feet above sea level would affect our breathing.

Race day has arrived. The crew is excited. It feels like we are adjusting to the elements a bit. Pre-run pics and social media post done. This 10K finna be a breeze! Wrong, wrong!

Two minutes after the start, I thought to myself, This was a bad idea!  Why did I start at the front of the pack with all the elite trail running veterans? Why did I take off up this mountain like I was running up 18th Street in Adams Morgan? Why do I feel like Rick James when he got kicked in chest by Charlie Murphy? How many camera guys did they set up during the first mile of this race? Am I about to pass out 1/4 mile into this run? Should I just lay down by this tree and die so I don’t get in anybody’s way? These are just a few of the questions I asked myself during the first mile of my ascent up Copper Mountain.

Around 1.5 miles, I started to adjust to the elevation.  Three miles up, I realized that I did not adjust to elevation, and one of the oxygen tanks would have been clutch. But…I had reached the mountain top, and the views did not disappoint. Now that I scraped the basement of Heaven, all I had to do was make it back down the mountain. The descent from 13,000 feet above sea level was pretty easy actually…or maybe the ascent was just that hard ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Nevertheless, all three of us made it back down to the base of the mountain and lived to talk about it.

Of all the things I underestimated about this weekend, a few things stuck out a bit more than others.

I underestimated the impression we made on the running community when we went to Vermont last year.

I underestimated the difference in elevation between Mt. Killington and Copper Mountain.

I underestimated what I could accomplish by putting one foot in front of the other.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” – T.S. Eliot

Cheerio, Hackney Half in London!

I’ve been to Europe twice, and both trips were planned around races.

My first trip was in 2016 for the Paris Marathon. I did not run, but because I’m such a good friend, I made the long trek to cheer on a college roommate (the museums, palaces visited, and the wine and croissants consumed were ancillary).

The second trip was a couple of weeks ago for the Hackney Half in London.

When DRC captains first mentioned taking a crew over for the race, I thought it sounded like fun but quickly decided not to go. I had excuses for days: I didn’t have enough PTO days, I already went abroad in 2018, I wasn’t super close to anyone going, etc., etc.  

Fast forward one month, and I was on the phone with April and Tosha picking a place to stay and buying plane tickets to London.

Fast forward a couple more months, and I was standing at the Hackney Half start line on a very overcast morning.

How’d I get here? / Training for London

I’m not ashamed to admit that most of my running is done on a treadmill in my apartment’s gym after 10pm. So, in gearing up for my first ever international miles, I spent many post-work, post-dinner, post-acceptable-time-to-get-ready-for-bed hours in said gym. 

There are not enough songs or audiobooks in the world to distract from the boring and repetitive activity of running on a treadmill.

That being said, I lowkey love it. After a long day of work and other obligations, it’s nice to stop (thinking) and run. There are no lights to worry about, pedestrians to avoid, weather conditions to take into account, or routes to figure out. There’s just running.

I began “training” in April but really ramped things up in May. My plan centered around running a 5k a day (shout out to DRC Ladies’ 5k a day in the month of May challenge). If I felt really good, I pushed it to five miles. I only made it 13 days in May (t-minus seven days until the Hackney Half) before needing a break.

Six days passed before I laced up my running shoes again. This was not part of the plan but, alas, not everything always goes according to plan (if there was a theme for my time in London, this would be it).

The day before the race, London Brunch Club hosted us for a breezy 5k run through central London. And per their name, the run ended with brunch. I am a big fan of this group. I am also a big fan, in general, of running towards food.

The rest of the day was very touristy, ending with ramen, girl talk, and an early bedtime (aka a perfect pre-race night ritual).

Race day!

The DRC crew met up before the race for a quick #crewlove session. It’s always great to pray, hype everyone up, and remember that this group is bigger than any one individual.

It’s about community.

It’s about representation.

It’s about pushing boundaries.

I jogged over to my corral a few minutes before the start time and positioned myself behind the pacer running 1:55:00. I didn’t really have a goal time in mind but decided that it was totally possible for me to run a sub-2 hour half marathon that day.

I stayed AHEAD of the 1:55:00 pacer man for at least 10 miles. And, then, I faded. I blame the hills that popped up at mile 10 (why?!) and good ol’ anxiety. 

I struggled, fixated on how much I hated running hills, how my right knee hurt, and how unusually bright the sun was. With my new “your race is going downhill” mentality, the pacer I’d been ahead of for most of the race passed me by. He looked over his shoulder, gave me a disappointed look (I may have imagined this) and, then, disappeared around a corner.

I kept with my self-pity party for probably a mile before snapping out of it. I was blessed to be running in London (!!), surrounded by people politely cheering me on and, most importantly, I was soooo close to the end.

I crossed the finish line slightly after the 1:55:00 mark and was greeted by a fake Duchess Meghan of Sussex who put a finisher medal around my neck. It was over! I was done! I could cross running an international race off of my bucket list!

The rest of the trip was a whirlwind. London is a beautiful city, only made more beautiful by the amazing people I had the opportunity to travel with and meet.

I will forever be appreciative of DRC for planning the trip, the run groups who hosted and cheered us on, and the random jaunts around London that took me from Buckingham Palace to Harrods’ tea room to Borough Market to Queen of Hoxton (where I lost the keys to our flat for a night; thank you, Tosha and April, for not leaving me in London).

Cheerio!

Give Her An Inch And She’ll Take A Mile

By Latosha Thomas

Growth is such a funny thing. You may not be able to see or feel it happening, but you look up one day and see all the progress that you’ve made.

I guess my running journey officially started when my co-worker asked me to do a fun run with her in August 2014. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad since I didn’t die :). Fast forward to March 2015. District Running Collective is hosting a 5K with Broccoli City, and I decide to try it out. Why not, right? The experience was challenging, but I decided to try a Wednesday run the following week.

And can we talk about that first Wednesday run? I don’t remember a lot of it. What I do remember, however, is that I forgot my running shoes. Back then, I was boxing five to six times a week. On that day, apparently, my gym bag thought I would be hitting a heavy bag instead of the pavement. All I had were my boxing boots. Guess who ran three-ish miles because they were that pressed to run with the crew? This girl! I remember hoping that no one would notice. Lol.

I kept coming back every Wednesday. Transitioning to running wasn’t as hard as it could have been for me because I had spent a couple of years conditioning my body through boxing. It was still tough though (Those runs through Rock Creek Park were no joke because stoplights are nonexistent).

Here we are three years later, and I’m still there every Wednesday. Since then, I’ve completed two ten-milers, six half marathons, and one marathon. I NEVER thought I would be a runner. It wasn’t something that I viewed as fun, and I looked at it as difficult (still is). But life has a way of laughing at us…

As far as areas of growth in my running journey, I can say I’m a consistent runner. It’s a habit for me. I may not run a 7:30-mile, but I’m out there on the pavement multiple times during the week, every week. My consistency is what allowed me to run the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler last week and snatch a PR (I decided to run at the last minute…Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready).

Running has given me confidence and discipline in other areas. When you’ve put your mind and body through the rigor that training for a marathon requires, that can transfer to other areas of your life. You had this goal, you accomplished it. Now you can take that belief in yourself and apply it to other places.

Become better than you were yesterday. Who knows? Maybe you’ll look back one day and shock yourself from all of the things you’ve accomplished.

“Redefining our impossible every single day”

Photo credits: Taina V (first) and Matt G (second)

Run and Get (LIT)erature

By Joey Frye

When you give your time, that expression of generosity generates a feeling of gratitude and appreciation that goes far beyond what any tangible gift could ever provide. But ultimately, I believe the realization of your impact creates an even more significant series of emotions. Giving can be contagious, and if you allow yourself to be susceptible to giving, you will find yourself being happier with less, as you provide others with more.

DRC’s Run and Get (LIT)erature campaign is an example of how being receptive to a charitable cause can far exceed original expectations. What began as a simple fundraising idea via miles in the Marine Corps Marathon, the #RunAndGetLit project exploded into a $5000 fundraising effort leading to a 350+ book donation that will undeniably enhance the learning experiences of 350+ early childhood aged students—providing a resource beyond the school and classrooms to grow and learn through reading.

Results of our fundraising efforts are not typical though. It takes a group of dedicated individuals, who are passionate about their community, coming together as one unit to accomplish what the #RunAndGetLit project achieved. That is what makes DRC so unique and so special. We’re not an average group of runners and fitness-minded people. Our dedication goes beyond the miles and beyond the sweat. We channel that passion into a much larger purpose than our own goals which creates a culture that not only supports our crew, but our community as a whole.

As a teacher at KIPP DC: Discover Academy, I can speak firsthand on the impact DRC’s book donation has had, and will have. The gesture alone has created a feeling of appreciation amongst teachers and gratitude from families. We, as teachers, very seldom receive the praise and recognition for the everyday grind and stresses that come with educating young children—not that our motivation derives from the attention, but it’s always refreshing to know that you have support from others outside of the school environment. So, DRC’s action to provide this library as a resource served as a symbolic representation of gratefulness for the service and work that teachers do. And vice versa, our staff and administrators are extremely thankful for DRC’s efforts.

Ultimately (and most importantly), the greatest beneficiaries of DRC running and getting (lit)erature are the students of Discover Academy. The importance of having this library at our school is priceless. Our kids have access to books that, for a number of them, they would otherwise not have access to. When transportation and lack of information is an obstacle to obtain resources, it’s crucial that those who can help actually step up and help. That’s why DRC is so special. A need was identified, a group came together, and an idea came to fruition.

Not all charities have to be national or international, we can make significant contributions to those in need right in our own community. It was so awesome to see DRC members inside Discover Academy offering up their Saturday morning to ensure young children had a library full of books to enhance their learning—and not just any books, but books that told stories of characters who look just like them.

DRC promotes and supports running and the importance of being physically active, motivating everyone to reach for and work toward their individual goals. And as we all do what it takes to achieve these goals through synergy and holding each other accountable, one constant that remains above all else is that no one gets left behind. Preserving this ideal beyond the miles, through the #RunAndGetLit campaign, DRC assured that none of the students at Discover Academy will get left behind.

 

#MIAMIFAMOUS: With a Little Help From my Friends

By Christina DeBianchi

Real talk: I never ran more than 12 miles and hadn’t run anything farther than five miles since I was 19 years old.

Coming back to the running scene tested my asthma and my stamina to no end. But, last July, I needed to run because it brought much peace to me. This is where my journey begins with training for the Miami Marathon.

Experience during training:

I ran every week over the summer. I religiously came to the Saturday runs because I loved learning about different scenic running routes, enjoyed meeting new people who loved to run, and loved the after-workout conversations. Over time, I became acquainted with the various pace groups and wanted to push myself to run with the Flyers.

During the fall, I started accumulating mileage that was out of the norm for me. I wasn’t accustomed to running over 100 miles a month, but found that over time I was collecting miles because (a) of the weekly runs with DRC, (b) of my desire to outpace myself, and (c) it felt amazing. At this point in time, I was not an official member, but I made sure that I collected information on how to improve my speed performance to stay with the Flyers after mile 2. When a couple of people chimed in about Keshia’s “Track Tuesdays”, I started to attend because of the high recommendations from her workout plans. 

Keshia was one of the main people who encouraged me to go after the full marathon. I was apprehensive about this because I had never run even a half marathon, so how could I possibly skip this crucial step? Yet, her encouragement (alongside some others’) proved vital for me to run in the cold, windy, snowy, and icy winter weather on the track and in these D.C. pothole streets.

Additionally, despite the cold weather, Keshia encouraged Allison and me to run the full marathon since we were tacking on mileage every week before our training plan schedule. We met up on Saturdays and Tuesdays to run our hardest, while the rest of the week, it was our responsibility to do solo runs. Training was something I looked forward to daily, but those bitter cold nights were exceptionally tough. Thankfully, I had other ambitious running friends who were about that life (Gaftie, Allison, Keshia…).

Race:

On my AirBnB couch, I had the following clothes to wear:

  • Miami bib
  • Grey shorts
  • Hot pink bra
  • Birthday sneakers
  • Watch

I had salt tablets and jelly beans stuffed in my bra. I was ready. I had been training for this since October. It was all or all.

The day before the race, I made sure I found who were the pacers for the marathon. I knew I wanted to run under four hours. Ambitious? Yes.  But I kept telling myself that those winter windy icy nights would not have been in vain if I ran under four hours. So, I befriended some pacers and felt at ease, knowing that they were the people to keep an eye out for while I was running.

So, off I go and head to corral C. I was hydrated and happy that I had familiar faces around me: Rob, Matt and my friend from NY, Mo. During my training, I always played some sort of ratchet music, and this day was no different. I asked Matt to play Cardi B, and I was ready. I spotted the pacer, the guy in the lone United States Speedo, the gun goes off, and we are off and running!

The weather was PERFECT. Breezy dawn skies with the sun rising. I was off on a great start. Maybe running a bit too fast, but I kept a steady pace with Rob and some other pacers. I was feeling comfortable until we hit South Beach. My knees started to feel a bit tight, but I shook off the feeling. I didn’t feel fatigued, hungry, thirsty, or anything. Just the knees.

As I kept running, I found myself struggling to keep up with the 3:40 pacer. She had stamina for days, and I was fortunate that she kept me pushing until mile 16. However, after seeing the half-marathoners run to the left and the VERY FEW marathoners running to the right of the lane split, it felt like a lonely road was ahead of me.

The roads felt unusual. The bridges had ridges, and my sneakers are not traditional in that they are flat. My sneakers have ridges, too. I had to find a way to quickly run over the strangely constructed bridge into the residential area for miles 18 and beyond.

Since I hadn’t seen anyone from DRC since mile 11, I was hoping I would see my cousin at mile 20. I was chafing terribly at mile 17 and had never experienced this in any run before. The pain was so unbearable that I ended up wiping the oil from my hair to the chafing area (talk about improvising!). I was elated that even though I didn’t see my cousin or any folks from DRC, the people in the neighborhood had music, bottled water, fruit, and posters for people they did not know. I felt like even though I did not know the grandmother screaming to me, “YOU ALREADY BOUGHT THE BIB, SO YOU GOTTA FINISH THIS”, I knew I could do it. This grandma was cheering me on. She was determined that I would not walk. She literally begged me not to, so I kept going on even though at that point, my knees were burning. 

Eventually, I couldn’t stand not stretching briefly. I stretched briefly at mile 20 or 21. After that, I kept an eye on a girl from Jamaica who I felt inclined to cheer on. I needed something to take my mind off the gnawing pain of my knees. I screamed, “GIRL, IF I CAN’T STOP, YOU SURELY CANNOT. WE ARE THE ONLY ONES OUT HERE!” Well, I didn’t see many black women running, so I had to encourage her. She smiled, struggled from her walking limps and started to jog.

I finally made it to mile 23. I kept thinking I would see folks from DRC, but I reasoned that they couldn’t get to me soon after their half marathon. I started to get emotional. Like, I’m at mile 23, but my pace went from 8:30 to a sudden 10-minute mile. My knees were begging me to stop. Then, all the memories of those LONG Rock Creek or National Arboretum runs came to me. I remembered that I ran 24 miles before. 23 was nothing. This was all mental. I had no choice but to push myself, even though it hurt. So I ate more salt tablets, drank more water, and started singing Cardi B in my head. NO LIMITS. I recalled all the times I ran in the snow. All the times that Keshia pushed me to finish one more 1600 meters. I kept at it until I realized I was near the crowd. Then, the final gear propelled me to finish with an 8-minute mile. I kept envisioning myself running mile repeats and beating my previous mile time. Before I knew it, I heard the crowd cheer, tears from my eyes forming, and my lungs gasping for more air, and I finally, thankfully, made it to the finish line. All I kept thinking was, “God, was this enough to make it under four hours?” Thankfully, my prayers at mile 23 were answered. I ran 26.2 miles in under four hours!

So thankful for the experience.

Shout out to Track Tuesdays – Keshia, Allison, Forrest, Gaftie…

Shout out to Saturday Long Runs

Shout out to District Tri

Shout out to allllllll the people that let me do slow, long, and track runs. I love you all.

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?