Monthly Archives: April 2009

Ethiopian girls get a lift from DC-based Girls Gotta Run

Washington resident and former women’s studies professor Patricia Ortman was reading The Washington Post in her rocking chair one morning in December 2005 when her life changed course.

She read a story, “Facing Servitude, Ethiopian Girls Run for a Better Life,” that detailed the plight of young women in Ethiopia, many who find that running provides a bridge from poverty and teenage childbirth to education and independence. Among the hurdles was shoes, which girls described borrowing from their older brothers in pre-dawn hours so they could train.

“I thought, ‘It’s just shoes. There’s got to be a way to get girls some shoes, even in Ethiopia,’” Ortman says. “Ethiopia isn’t across the street, but it’s not solving the Middle East crisis, either.”

The resulting nonprofit organization, Girls Gotta Run, has raised more than $24,000 in the past two years to buy shoes, training clothes, food and other training essentials for Ethiopian girls training to become professional runners. Among its fund-raising events is an immensely popular art exhibit in which local artists design and sell artwork related to shoes, running and motion.

The organization has enriched the lives of not just Ethiopian girls, but of Washington women, such as board member Sheena Dahlke, who ran the 2009 Boston Marathon yesterday on behalf of the girls.

If you’re looking to raise money for a nonprofit during your next marathon, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more deserving than this one.

Remember to visit my DC Running Examiner page for some pictures from the Girls Gotta Run art show, and check back here later today for my take on running in Florida, where I lived for four years and am now visiting after a four-month hiatus.

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Boston connection:Girls Gotta Run

I was thrilled to learn that my marathon time of 4:34 in 2007 qualified me to run the coveted Boston Marathon. That is, it would have qualified me on the age-graded qualifying scale if I were a 75-year-old woman.

In the meantime, I live vicariously through other Washington-area locals running the mother of all marathons, which starts its notoriously hilly race through Boston this morning. Among them is Sheena Dahlke, who’s running to raise money for Girls Gotta Run, one of the coolest non-profit organizations I’ve heard of. Washington resident Pat Ortman founded the all-volunteer group a few years ago to raise money for Ethiopian girls training to become professional runners. The girls use running as a bridge out of poverty, not to mention teenage marriage and childbirth, and to a better life.

Stay tuned for more about this fabulous organization in future posts. For today, send your best wishes to Sheena and other runners from the greater Washington area who are running their hearts out as we speak. Check back here later for results.

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Post-race report: Earth Day 5K

For a review of today’s Silver Spring Earth Day 5K, I’m going to refer everyone to my DC Running Examiner page.

For those interested in knowing how their favorite middle-of-the-packer finished, read on …

Let me start by saying that 5Ks are in many ways my toughest races. Whenever I look up my times on race-pace equivalent charts, which tell you what you should run for a 5K based on, say, a half-marathon, I’m shocked to see how fast I’m expected to get through 3.1 miles. In other words, I’m scrappier than I am speedy.

Still, like any challenge, the fact that I’m not very good at 5Ks makes me even more determined to get better at them.

I wasn’t expecting much from myself on Sunday morning, as Steve and I spent a lovely weekend drinking delicious things in the sun at various parties, from the Tiki Bar opening in Solomons Island to our dear nephew’s first birthday party in Annapolis. I know runners who have placed in their age group in half marathons after being stumbling drunk the night before. I am not one of those runners. I have to treat my body pretty well if I want it to perform well, and a diet of Mai Tais, Pinot Grigio and birthday cake doesn’t qualify as treating one’s body well.

At least for the first two miles, this morning, I surprised myself byhow decent I felt. I let myself fall behind the last mile, as my dehydration suddenly became acute and a giant hill (one participant described it as “murderous”) mocked my efforts to rally. But I still ran 23:46 — an average of 7:38-minute miles, which is a good 5K time for me in general.

Still, after the race, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by being unable to suck it up that last mile. What’s seven minutes of pain compared to feeling great the rest of the day?

As I told one of my running buddies this morning, I’m mostly motivated by internal cues. Pass me, and I’m likely to smile and wave rather than try to catch you. But feeling disappointed in myself after what could have been a better race had I just been a little smarter … that’s motivational for me. Stay tuned for a faster 5K in the near future.

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New route for a spring run

Sligo Creek Parkway Trail is lovely, woodsy and flat.

Sligo Creek Parkway Trail is lovely, woodsy and flat.

On Wednesday, I wrote about the
Alaska route favored by our Pacers Silver Spring fun run group when the weather is roughest. Today, I’m happy to introduce the one we do when the weather is nicest, the 4.5-mile Sligo/Ritchie Loop.

It starts in downtown Silver Spring, then winds through Sligo Creek Park, which happens to be one of my favorite places in the Washington area to run. Sligo Creek Trail offers 10.2 miles of paved trail along Sligo Creek. It’s lovely and flat and woodsy, and feels all the world like a run through the backwoods, though you’re never far from the Beltway.

Our Sligo/Ritchie loop leaves the lovely, flat trail for a steep, quad-eating hill up Ritchie Avenue, then follows Sligo Avenue back to downtown Silver Spring. The hill provides a great workout. And a run along the creekside portion makes even the most beautiful of spring days even better.

Speaking of beautiful spring days, the National Weather Service forecast for the Washington area calls for “abundant sunshine” this weekend, leaving us with no excuse to be inside on the couch. Hope to see many of you at the Silver Spring Earth Day 5K on Sunday, which follows part of Sligo Creek Parkway Trail. Don’t worry — the 5K course skips the quad-eating hill, and heads back to Silver Spring on the trail instead.

In running-culture-meets-pop-culture news, turns out a minor celebrity will be at the race: NBC’s Season Five Biggest Loser contestant Bernie Salazar, who lost 130 pounds on the show. Salazar will be on hand after to talk about his challenges, and his eventual triumph. There’s some motivation: I don’t have to lose 130 pounds. I just have to run three miles. Easy, right?

Remember to visit my DC Running Examiner page. Happy weekend!

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Race preview: Earth Day 5K in Silver Spring

Basic CMYK

Earth Day is almost here, and with it, its mandate to do something fun, enriching and crunchy-granola outdoors.

Thanks for the Silver Spring Earth Day 5K, sponsored by Pacers Silver Spring, I’m covered on all counts.

The inaugural race starts 8 a.m. Sunday in downtown Silver Spring, which means you can save a car trip by taking Metro there and back. A large chunk of the U.S. Track and Field certified course runs along the lovely, woodsy Sligo Creek Parkway Trail, which will let D.C. urbanites get their forest fix. The race benefits The Nature Conservancy, and race-packet freebies include Feetures! Bamboo socks and reusable grocery totes (I told you it was crunchy-granola). The first 350 people to register even get organic T-shirts.

By the way, I have on good word that the bamboo socks are extraordinarily comfortable, and posses odor-killing properties most runners could use.

5Ks are perhaps my slowest-distance race. Whenever I look at those pace-conversion charts that tell you what other race times should be based on one time, I learn that I’m way behind my own personal bell curve for short distances. I’m scrappier than I am speedy, I guess.

I don’t have huge expectations for this race, time-wise, as it follows the opening of the Tiki Bar on Solomons Island on Friday and my darling “nephew’s” first birthday party on Saturday night (and when they’re that little, it’s more a party for the grown-ups than anything else). But I’ll keep you posted. Wish me luck!


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Introducing the new DC Running Examiner

Exciting news: I’ve been named the DC Running Examiner! This means several time a week, I’ll post articles of interest to DC-area runners on my Examiner page.

You’ll recognize some of the content from this blog, such as favorite running routes and race reports. Other stories will be new, and will be a little newsier and more Washington-specific than those on this blog.

That said, my aim is to make this a really cool resource and procrastination tool for runners from all over the place, so please pass the link along to anyone who might be interested. Among my plans for the site: Interviewing fancy DC-area running coaches, physical therapists and other experts to find out their favorite playlists, post-run snacks, pre-race meals and local running routes.

For now, I’ll be maintaining my training blog as well. I’ll keep you posted on how this all evolves, but for now, check both locations for tips and tricks to help your running (or to find out how my own training is going).

In other news: Remember how I bragged a week or so ago that it’s gloveless running season again? Apparently, I jinxed myself and the rest of the greater Washington area, which is suffering a bout of rainy, chilly weather this week.

The Alaska route's well-marked street signs make it easy to follow.

The Alaska route's well-marked street signs make it easy to follow.

For our Pacers Silver Spring fun run group, this means our much-run Alaska route, which is well-lit and easy to follow even in the nastiest weather, with visible street signs at every turn. It starts at the Pacers store in downtown Silver Spring, winds through downtown, then crosses over the Maryland-District line into Washington’s quiet, charming Shepherd Park neighborhood. It then follows streets like Kalmia Road North Portal Drive along Rock Creek Park back to downtown. Though it’s easy to follow, it includes some challenging hills of the long and gradual variety. It’s great for a rainy day like today.Our Alaska route inclues well-marked street signs.


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Looking for a good masseuse

When I first started training for half-marathons in Gainesville, Fla., I happened to live a few blocks from a friend of a friend who was a massage therapist. Every few weeks, she’d magically knead out the kinks and strains that inevitably pop up during training. Her office was a lavender-scented cocoon with Asian fountains, calming artwork and sleepy-time music involving flutes.

When I moved to Jacksonville, I cycled through the following: A runner who was a gifted massage therapist but talked about his latest ultra the whole time; a woman who squinted in confusion when I asked her to work on my IT band; and a woman  who was so aggressive, she left bruises. The last one, an older woman with drawn-on eyebrows, was my personal favorite. Her office had white walls, an exam table with white sheets and a CD player loaded with what sounded like “Flight of the Bumblebees.”

So when Steve asked what I’d like for my birthday (coming up May 20 … mark it on your calendars), I hesitated before asking for a visit to a massage therapist. I want someone gentle enough to make it relaxing, but tough enough to work out all those funky running kinks. I want someone who understands runners, but who doesn’t confuse the massage with a group run. I also want to find someone affordable enough that I can actually consider going back.

Any ideas for someone in the greater Washington area who fits this description? Post a comment below. I’ll be sure to post a review here once I find one.


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