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Need to Run?

July 17, 2002

For Susan Burket, running is a means to an end, but

also a way to set an ex ample for her children about women and sports.

“I just love being in shape, and running allows me to play soccer,” said Burket, of Potomac.

“I think it’s a good example for kids and for girls especially to do sports at all ages,” said Burket, who described the slim female sports section of her old high school yearbook. “Girls were not encouraged to do sports at all.”

Running is one of many sports available to girls in school now.

“Running was the best part of high school for me,” said Erin Dunlop, a recent Churchill graduate.

Dunlop and classmate Meredith Dobbs both ran cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track through all four years in high school.

“I started running for social reasons, but I actually started falling back on the athletic aspect of it,” said Dobbs.

It was running that saw Dobbs through difficult parts of high school and a painful falling out with some friends.

“I could always count on the sport… Running saved my life,” Dobbs said.

Dunlop will count on running as part of her transition to college as well.

“I can’t imagine myself giving it up,” said Dunlop, who plans to join a recreational running group at William and Mary this fall. “I find myself running just because it’s fun… If I’m having a bad day, I can blow off steam for 45 minutes.”

And she says it could help with transition into high school as well. “I’d recommend it to any rising freshman,” said Dunlop. “It makes you feel so good about yourself, hitting that goal that you set.”

“All my best friends run,” she said. “It’s such a positive thing, and there’s so much positive energy.”

Pearlsa Bintomana, 30, began running after being diagnosed with Type I (insulin dependent) diabetes. Running helps her body absorb the insulin she needs to inject.

“It’s probably one of the best things to ever happen to me,” said Bintomana, who has begun running competitively and participated in the Cure Autism Now 5K in Potomac on July 4.

For Potomac resident Bruce Gross, inspiration to begin running came in the form of a milestone birthday last year.

“I was approaching my 40th birthday, and I thought this would be as a good a way to get in shape as any,” said Gross.

After putting together his own cross-training program, Gross, a Potomac resident and vice president of GE Capital, Potomac Federal, aimed to compete in one race each month. He is now running some annual races for the second time. Running has become an important routine to Gross that follows him wherever he may travel.

“My body is definitely in the mode where if I don’t do it, I don’t feel right,” said Gross. “It’s also nice to bring a pair of running shoes with you when you travel. I pretty much run all over.”

Maintaining what he describes as a moderate fitness routine, a typical week finds Gross running 20-25 miles, three or four days of weight training and seven days of calisthenics.

“It’s more relaxing than I thought it would be,” said Gross. “You forget about work and everything else in the world.”

Eleni Clark, a physical therapist from Potomac, began running after having a baby earlier this year, making it a goal to get back in shape. She has since run in two competitive races.

“I’m not one of those people who loves running,” said Clark. “It’s the quickest, easiest form of exercise.”

Jane Luxner, a 16-year-old from Potomac, was originally a tough sell on the virtues of running. “My dad took me out running and tried to get me to do 5Ks,” said Luxner. “They did not look fun to me.”

At Holy Child, where Luxner runs cross country and track, her opinion changed. “I’ve had good experiences with the people I’ve met,” said Luxner. “We always seemed to have more fun than any other team.”

Now she’s a true believer.

“It’s almost addictive to me,” said Potomac Luxner, a rising junior at Holy Child. “Even if I don’t want to run, I need to run.”

For as many reasons as there are to run, there are places to run.

Jack Beatty of Potomac describes himself as an occasional runner, who enjoys running in Cabin John Park and in the Gold Mine Loop across from Old Anger’s Inn.

John Holten of Gaithersburg prefers Seneca Creek State Park.

“The trails aren’t paved; there are roots and it’s rocky. It takes some work to run it, but it’s worth it.”

Dunlop likes running on the C&O Canal towpath. “It’s pretty soft,” said Dunlop. “We run on asphalt for so long.”

Dunlop also likes running on a path near the “Quad Towers,” the radio towers near Democracy Boulevard, and the trails in Cabin John Regional Park.

“The new Churchill track is so amazing,” said Dobbs, who with Dunlop and their track teammates, waited two years for the track to be finished during renovations to the school.

Now Churchill’s track is open to the public when it is not being used by Churchill teams, said school athletic director Mike Carroll.

“We only ask that we don’t have everybody walking on the inside lanes… and not to ride bicycles, use strollers and other things that tear the paint off the track.”

Potomac resident Ronnie Greenbaum said, “I really enjoy the [Capital] Crescent Trail… I’ve gone from Bethesda to National Airport.”

“I like to mix it up,” said Luxner, a rising junior at Holy Child who runs on the track and the treadmill, alternating between the tracks at Bullis and Churchill.

Newcomers to a running routine may be tempted to overdo things in the beginning. The advice of area fitness experts is unanimous: Don’t.

“We [are tempted to] start running too much too soon, or going too fast too soon,” said Amy Ackerberg-Hastings, 32. She leads the MCRRC Coed Beginning Runners Program to teach beginning runners a healthy initiation to running. “You want to make sure you start slowly,” said Fred Foster, a personal and group athletic trainer from Gaithersburg. “Walk a few miles and see how it goes.”

Even those adept at other sports are wise to start slowly. Bethesda triathlete and marathon runner Al Navidi advised that those who are starting to cross-train, “let muscles get used to the new activities.”

“If they’ve never run before, I think people need to start stretching and start small,” agrees Elini Clark, a physical therapist from Potomac. “They don’t want to run through a lot of pain.”

Stretching after exercise, not just before, is essential, said Ackerberg-Hastings.

“Stretching after their workouts lengthens muscles and helps reduce the chance of injury… It improves both flexibility and strength” she said.

Former Churchill track coach Dan Reeks stresses “hydrating before, hydrating after, and on super-hot days, hydrating during practice.”

“Have a great pair of shoes,” said Foster, who led the stretching exercises before the Cure Autism Now 5K on July 4. “If you’re ever going to overpay, overpay for your shoes.”

Help Getting Started

The Montgomery County Road Runners Club (MCRRC) offers a several training programs for runners, including a Coed Beginning Runners program. One-year single membership in MCRRC is $20, a one-year family membership is $25. See http://www.mcrrc.org/program.html

Coed Beginning Runners Program prepares runners for the Rockville 5-Kilometer run in October. It begins with an orientation meeting on Saturday, July 20 at Ken-Gar Park Recreation Building at 8 a.m. Participants meet in groups with coaches twice weekly and are expected to train on their own twice per week.

Contact Amy Ackerberg-Hastings at aackerbe@erols.com or 301-984-5645.

First Time Marathon program offered by MCCRRC runs April though October; registration for this year’s program is closed.

The six-month-long program trains first-time marathon runners for the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, but is applicable to other fall marathons. Participants must have been running for at least one year, run an average of 10 miles per week for four months prior to the program and be able to run six miles without stopping. For marathon training tips see www.mcrrc.org/ftm/index.html.

OTHER PROGRAMS include Beginning Women’s Runners, Racing Team, Runner Development, Speed Development and Experienced Marathoners. See http://www.mcrrc.org/program.html.