Danny Dreyer might have found the answer to the age-old question, “How can I make running enjoyable?” The solution: Don’t use your legs.
There’s more to it than that, of course, but the claim—plus curiosity and a bit of doubt—was what brought me to Dreyer’s Chi Running workshop last Saturday in Chevy Chase. I was a sprinter and jumper for ten years, but long-distance running and I just never really clicked. Ask me to choose between a 20-minute run and 100 squats, and I’d choose the latter.
I had spent the last month reading about Dreyer’s running technique, which is a blend of T’ai Chi principles that allow for efficient, painless running. Dreyer, an ultra-marathon runner, was inspired to change the way he ran after taking a class with T’ai Chi master Zhu Xilin.
“My instructor told me how alignment really works to support your body weight,” Dreyer says. “In T’ai Chi, all the movement comes from your center, so I started playing with this concept and applying it to running. It totally rocked my boat.”
Chi Running relies on two things to transfer our “chi,” or energy, elsewhere: body alignment and relaxation. A person’s alignment, posture, and lower core—not the legs—should do all the work. So this was a chance to learn how to run without waking up to wobbly legs the next day. And no shin splints, to boot? It all sounded to good to be true.
If Steve Carlson had to describe his first triathlon in one word, it’d be “miserable.”
Here’s what the former rower remembers about that September 2001 race in Manassas: flying through the swimming and biking portions and then, during the 2K run, dry-heaving—repeatedly.
“My run became a jog . . . then a walk . . . then I stopped to dry-heave,” Carlson wrote in a recent blog post. “I dragged myself across the finish line, beaten by my roommate (he passed me while [I was] dry heaving).”
Since that first sprint triathlon—which Carlson completed without any preparation—he’s learned a lot about the sport, particularly how to pace himself. Ten years later, he’s the president of DC Tri Club, a group of local triathletes who train and socialize together.
Carlson is just one of the thousands of Washingtonians who fell into the sport by chance and have been sucked into the challenge. The Mid-Atlantic has seen a huge interest in triathlons over the last decade; it now has 22,857 annual USA Triathlon members—the highest concentration in the country.
Update (2 PM): The Dragon Boat Festival has been canceled this weekend due to high river waters. Organizers are working to plan a make-up date.
If you go to the Washington DC Dragon Boat Festival in Georgetown on Saturday morning, don’t be surprised if you see lots of pink. Those pink-and-purple-clad paddlers on the Potomac are breast-cancer survivors.
“Breast cancer made me think, ‘I gotta do something different in my life,’ ” says Brigid Krizek, 63, a breast-cancer survivor and dragon-boat paddler. “I had never been an athlete, never been on a sports team. But I called and went down there, and I was hooked.”
The connection between breast-cancer survivors and dragon-boat paddling started in 1996 with a Canadian sports-medicine physician named Don McKenzie, who wanted to do research on whether lymphedema, the swelling that often results from surgery for breast cancer, gets better or worse with upper-body exercise. He formed a group, Abreast in a Boat, and coached the women through exercises and training. While his research couldn’t quite prove that it helped with lymphedema, he did determine that the swelling didn’t get worse. McKenzie had set in motion a group of women who suddenly had a positive way to deal with a breast-cancer diagnosis.
I’m running single file in a line of runners that bobs through DC like a dragon in a Chinese New Year parade. I watch the legs of the man in front of me and move my own in unison. The congenial conversations, the clapping beneath the underpasses, the Howard University pep band—all are miles behind. A few oohs and ahhs greet us as we pass Nationals Park. Then only feet slapping on pavement.
The aid station comes into view—the 20-mile mark. The clock reads 2:58, and I feel the chill of the early-spring air on my arms. I’m going to finish the National Marathon in less than four hours.
But I’m unprepared for the loneliness of the next five miles. No one cheers us on as we run alongside the Anacostia River. My legs begin to ache.
It’s 2008, two months shy of my 26th birthday. A year before, I decided I needed to achieve something beyond the 9 to 5, to prove to myself I wasn’t moving in circles. So every morning before work, I put on my sneakers and ran the streets around the Columbia apartment I shared with my husband. Soon I began entering road races. Within months, I registered for the National Marathon.
Runners, set your alarm clocks: General-public registration for the oh-so-popular Army Ten Miler race opens Sunday, May 15—at 12:01 AM.
The race, which will wind through DC and Arlington on October 9, accommodates 30,000 runners: One-third of the slots have been reserved for US service members and participants who’ve run at least seven Army Ten Miler races in the past. It's part of the race’s new “priority” registration system. Registration for priority bibs opened on May 1, but a post today on the race’s Facebook page says those slots have been filled.
The remaining two-thirds are for the general public on a first-come, first-served basis. General registration ($55) opens just after midnight on Sunday. We weren’t kidding when we told you to set an alarm: The 2009 race sold out in six days, and last year’s filled up in just 35 hours.
If you miss the registration window, there’s still hope: From June 1 through August 19, race organizers will open up a registration-transfer page on the Army Ten Miler Web site. Last year, more than 2,500 runners were able to score bibs through the program.
In 2009, journalist and running enthusiast Christopher McDougall published Born to Run, a look at the “superathlete” Tarahumara Indians of Mexico who for centuries have run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. During his reporting, McDougall discovered that part of the tribe’s natural success might lie in its affinity for running barefoot. The book and its theories caught on, inspiring many to reassess the way they hit the pavement.
Since then, many distance runners have ditched their high-tech sneakers for a back-to-basics approach. While some go as far as literally running barefoot, many more are adopting minimalist footwear—shoes that simulate running barefoot but protect your soles from rough terrain. These extremely lightweight shoes have none of the bells and whistles most runners have become accustomed to: no elevated heel, no arch support, no gel inserts.
According to Lee Firestone, a Chevy Chase-based podiatrist who specializes in sports medicine, minimalist shoes actually change the way you run. When people run in traditional athletic shoes, they tend to land on the rear of their foot. When you wear a minimalist shoe—or no shoe at all—you instead take on a mid-foot strike. Some studies indicate that landing on this part of your foot causes less impact than landing on your heel and may lead to fewer injuries.
Did you know May is Bike Month? Thanks to lots of new bike lanes and DC’s now-thriving Capital Bikeshare program, more and more Washingtonians are hitting the streets on two wheels.
You can get in on the fun with bike events throughout May. If you know of any races, classes, or events not listed here, feel free leave information in the comments.
Saturday, May 7
Ride alongside a wounded soldier at the Soldier Ride in Annapolis. The event is an opportunity for the public to log miles with soldiers in rehabilitation in order to honor their sacrifice and help them recover. The ride starts at Quiet Waters Park Amphitheater (600 Quiet Waters Park Road) and runs 17 miles through Annapolis. The ride costs $50 to register, and each cyclist is responsible for raising a minimum of $125 to support the Wounded Warrior Project. Details are here.
The ultra-marathon runner capped off his fifth race this year—more than 140 miles total—last Saturday at the SunTrust National Marathon. For the fifth time in six years, Wardian was first to cross the finish line, beating out a field of 50 elite runners with a time of 2:23:01.
Though a win at home never hurts, the Arlington native was unable to achieve his bigger goal: qualifying for the Olympic trials. “So I guess I failed even though I won,” Wardian says.
He has until January 2012 to shave his time down to two hours and 19 minutes—and a dozen marathons this year to go. He’ll run two races between April and May in South Africa, a total of 90 miles, and one week later he’ll run the 50-mile North Face Endurance Challenge. In September, he’ll try to win the 100K World Championships in the Netherlands. (A third-place finish last year wasn’t enough.)
While Wardian is undeniably a serious athlete, he’s not a professional runner who has the luxury of running full-time. That means he’ll be unable to travel a month in advance to prepare for a 135-miler in Death Valley; he’ll have to acclimate in Thomas Jefferson Community Center’s sauna instead. It also means somehow getting in 15 to 20 miles a day, in between working a full-time job as an international ship broker and helping his wife, Jennifer, take care of their four- and two-year-old sons.
The season of wonderful weather is upon us! If you’re pining for some outdoor time, take a look at this list of activities you can do in Washington and within a few hours’ drive. Put away that gym-membership card and go burn some calories in the sunshine.
Fly and Ride
If the idea of ziplining conjures images of flying through a Costa Rican rainforest, think again. Terrapin Adventures’ (8600 Foundry St., Savage; 301-725-1313) so-called chief adventure officer, Matt Baker—whose enthusiasm for the outdoors has taken him to the glaciers of New Zealand, the Serengeti, and beyond—has brought the zipline to the outskirts of Baltimore. The ride ($15) hoists you 30 feet high for a 330-foot-long flight through the trees. Looking for more of that heart-in-your-throat thrill? Terrapin runs everything from high ropes courses to geocaching to mountain biking.
Get lost without leaving the city limits with a trail ride through Rock Creek Park. The Rock Creek Park Horse Center (5100 Glover Rd., NW; 202-362-0117) is located deep in the woods and offers weekend rides throughout the day from April to October and mid-week rides at 6 pm June through August. Rides are $40 a person. Participants must be at least 12 to saddle up, and reservations should be made six to eight weeks in advance.
David Glover got involved with triathlons in an unusual way. After being diagnosed with a malignant schwannoma, a type of nerve cancer, in 1995, Glover says he turned to the sport to prove that although he had cancer, “cancer did not have him.” He underwent surgery in January 1995 to remove the tumor, followed by radiation treatment in February, then had a second surgery to remove surrounding tissue in April. “I signed up for and did my first triathlon that July,” he says. Glover is currently in remission.
He has since completed more than 100 triathlons, including 28 Ironmans, of which he has won five. He earned his elite (pro) license in 2007, the same year he was inducted into the Vineman Hall of Fame. The Vineman in Sonoma, California, is the oldest independent Ironman triathlon in the U.S. Competitors in Ironman competitions swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and finish off running a full marathon—26.2 miles.
Glover has continued to work to make the sport he loves more accessible. In 2001, with a group of friends, he revived the Reston Area Triathletes. He also began coaching through his company, EnduranceWorks, and founded the Luray Triathlon. Glover is a co-organizer of the She Does Tri weekend triathlon camps for women, aimed at helping women train and prepare for their first triathlons. A typical training session with Glover takes place at a coffee shop, via a Webinar or over the phone; he’s working on developing more training videos and Webinars to create a complete online training resource.