Distance runner Samia Akbar was a 2003 All-American at American University. Last fall she won the Army Ten-Miler, finishing in 55 minutes and 25 seconds.
I’ve lived in Herndon all my life, and I love running here and in Reston. There are so many trails to choose from. The Washington and Old Dominion trail (nvrpa.org/parks/wod) has a bunch of little offshoots that are fun. You can run through the woods for miles and miles, and it’s really beautiful.
Potomac River Running (11911 Democracy Dr., Reston; 703-689-0999) feels like home because I have a lot of friends who work there. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly. It’s a busy store, but they give you individual attention.
There are a lot of cute little shops in Reston, like Edibles Incredible (11917 Freedom Dr., Reston; 703-709-8200). Their cupcakes are the size of your face.
One place that I have to give props to is Cafesano (11130-M South Lakes Dr., Reston; 703-391-2100), which has Mediterranean food like falafel and kebabs. Everything’s very healthy and fresh, and you can see it all being made.
Jimmy Cirrito is owner of Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern in Herndon. In 1994 he won the Fastest Bartender Contest, beating 79 contestants from across the area.
JJ Deli (909 Ferndale Ave., Herndon; 703-467-0850), at the Herndon Centennial Golf Course, has the best barbecue in the area. You wouldn’t think to go to a golf course for dinner, but JJ’s is very popular, and once you find it you’re a regular.
If you have kids, you have to go to At Play Cafe (2254B Hunters Woods Plaza, Reston; 703-391-6131). It’s great for kids’ parties where everyone gets to make clay things and paint on plates and whatnot.
If you want to shoot pool, go to Sully’s Restaurant and Lounge (14513 Lee Jackson Hwy., Chantilly; 703-818-9292). It’s been around forever, and it’s real pool—the kind of place where you put your quarters on the table and the winner stays on. The best players in the area go there because they know they’ll find some competition.
There’s always something going on at Frying Pan Farm Park (2709 West Ox Rd., Herndon; 703-437-9101). It has a petting zoo and pony rides and an area where you can have picnics.
Mystery writer Donna Andrews has written 15 novels, including the Meg Langslow and Turing Hopper series.
For hearty Italian food, I like Cantina d’Italia (150 Elden St., Herndon; 703-318-7171). It’s a small local chain, not haute cuisine but very kid-friendly—the sort of place where grownups can enjoy themselves and kids can wander around. I love the arrabbiata pasta and the spaghetti with beef sauce.
I often take my two nephews to the Reston Zoo (1228 Hunter Mill Rd., Vienna; 703-757-6222). When I was working on a book that featured a small, private zoo, I did a lot of my research there. There’s a big petting zoo—they have goats and sheep and chickens that you can feed. You can have a pony ride, and there’s a big meadow where they keep the buffalo and ostriches.
If you go down Lawyers Road, you’ll see this little old house with a rundown barn and an open meadow. That’s the Margaret Thomas Perennial Gardens (12410 Lawyers Rd., Herndon; 703-860-3378). Margaret is now in her eighties, but she still sells flowers and she’s working with local preservation groups to transform her garden into a park. It’s a great local hangout for anyone who loves flowers.
John Sullivan is a retired CIA agent and author of two books. “Gatekeeper,” his memoir, recalls his 31 years as a polygraph examiner.
I love the Reston Regional Library (11925 Bowman Towne Dr., Reston; 703-689-2700). I do quite a bit of research there, and the staff is extremely helpful. I’m a big mystery reader, and they have a really good collection. They also have reading programs for kids.
The Silver Diner (11951 Killingsworth Ave., Reston; 703-742-0801) has a friendly atmosphere. The breakfasts are excellent, and I love the apple pie with ice cream. I worked in a diner as a kid, so it takes me back.
My grandchildren love Reston Town Center’s ice-skating rink (1818 Discovery St., Reston; 703-689-4699). It’s not Rockefeller Plaza, but it’s really pretty.