In a city focused on team sports, individual athletes can often be overlooked. For every Redskin, Wizard, or Capital who comes to Washington from out of town, there’s a professional runner, swimmer, or triathlete already here. Great Falls resident Susannah Kvasnicka may not have begun competitive running until years after her Langley High School and George Mason University days, but the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon winner is making her mark, one step at a time, on Washington and the world. She was recently the first female to cross the line in the June 2007 Baltimore Women’s Classic 5K (17:33) and the second woman home in the October 2007 Army Ten Miler (59:11). She will increase her distance in April 2008, when she heads to Boston for the Olympic Marathon Trials.
How did you get into competitive running?
I got into competitive running at the age of 29. I always knew as a child that I had some running talent, but other than running one season of high-school track, I didn’t pursue it. After the birth of my first son, I decided I wanted to run a marathon. I picked up a running book that a friend had given me, and I loosely followed a schedule. I completed the marathon and enjoyed it but didn’t decide to run another one until three years later, after the birth of my second son. Unfortunately, I tore a calf muscle during my second marathon. I decided to see a chiropractor who treated sports injuries. That chiropractor, Dr. Ronald Kulik, turned out to be a runner himself and a coach. After several weeks of treatment, he convinced me to train with him. After five months of training with him, I took 45 minutes off my marathon time. I have been training and racing competitively ever since.
What is your preferred race distance?
My favorite race distance is the marathon. I enjoy doing the long runs in training, and I love the challenge of racing 26.2 miles. I have two marathons that I would call my favorites. One is the Marine Corps Marathon. I have run it twice, and it holds special meaning to me because it was where I won my first marathon. The other is the Chicago Marathon. It is a fast course and has the best energy of any race I have experienced. The spectators are awesome!
What is your biggest achievement to date?
I have two achievements that are special to me. One was winning the Marine Corps Marathon, and the other was qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon. [Kvasnicka’s time in the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon was 2:47:07. She qualified for the Olympic Trials at the 2006 Steamtown Marathon (2:45:06).]
What do you eat the night and morning before a big race?
Usually the night before a race, I eat a pretty simple dinner. I usually will have chicken and rice or pasta and maybe a salad. If I am running a marathon, I make sure to get in extra carbohydrates. The morning of every race, I eat a banana and toast and drink grape Gatorade.
Where do you do your long runs around here?
I try and stay off pavement for most of my long runs, so I run either at Burke Lake Park or on the C&O Towpath.
What advice do you have for people who hope to run a marathon someday?
The advice I would give to someone planning to run their first marathon is to find a reputable training plan and follow it as closely as possible. I would also recommend finding a training group or partner you could run with. A marathon is a long distance, and you need to do the proper training to be able to accomplish your goals and to avoid injury. Also, if this is your first race of any distance, I would recommend starting with a 10K or half marathon.
What are your personal goals for the future?
I am now training for the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon, which is in Boston on April 20, 2008. All of my training at this point is building up for that race. I do plan on running several shorter races leading into that race, but the trials is my main focus.
How have you combined your running life and your family life?
Balancing my family life and running life can be challenging. Fortunately, my family is extremely supportive of what I do. I do most of my training while my kids are in school, and I choose out-of-town races sparingly.
What’s special about Northern Virginia?
I have lived in Northern Virginia my entire life and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. My entire family is here, and that certainly is one factor that keeps me here, but I also find that Northern Virginia has so much to offer. We are right outside a great city, and we are close to both beaches and mountains. We get to experience all four seasons and have beautiful areas to enjoy them.
What is your favorite spot in Washington?
My favorite place in the Washington area is Great Falls Park. Although I grew up here and have been there more times than I can remember, it is still such a special place. Every time I go and see the falls, I am amazed. There are great trails around the park and great scenery. In DC specifically, I love all of the monuments. I just ran in DC a couple of weekends ago and did my own running tour of several of the monuments. I was reminded of what a great city we have.