Long-Distance Lovers

Washington Running Club

Mar 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

WRC members gang up to tackle the loneliness of weekly distance workouts.

WITH 120 MEMBERS, ranging from former professionals to four-and-a-half-hour marathoners, the Washington Running Club is the D.C. area's ultimate prescription for the malady that plagues every runner: the dreaded performance plateau. WRC members are by no means running despots, but club president Jim Wadsworth has fostered an atmosphere that helps runners focus on a specific goal—and keep after it. "A lot of people use [the club] for motivation," he says. "They figure if they pay some dues and commit to something it'll make them get out and do it." With runners of all speeds, members form pace-specific groups at almost every workout. Tagging along with stronger runners can push you beyond your comfort zone and into the next performance category.

Veteran and rookie marathoners will discover a secondary bonus from club membership. Group distance runs, like those held every Sunday by the WRC, will be your elixir for the acute boredom and dire loneliness of the weekly two- and three-hour runs you'll be hoofing to get ready for a marathon. Members meet in Georgetown at 8 a.m., break into groups based on distance and pace, and then run between 10 and 20 miles with conversation buzzing over the entire route. After continued yapping at the postworkout coffee social, a sore jaw will replace the misery of tired legs.
The WRC's Sunday runs are popular during fall's marathon season, but to clean the cobwebs off this spring, try coach Dave Keating's infamous short-distance speed sessions:

1) Start with 15 minutes of stretching and warm-up jogging.
2) With a group of runners of roughly the same ability, run a fast-paced mile (i.e. about 45 seconds faster than your marathon or long-distance pace).
3) Run a slow-paced quarter-mile—about two minutes—to recover.
4) Continue running fast miles with quarter-mile rest periods until you reach a total of three miles.
5) Try the routine once a week, aiming to increase your distance to five miles over the next two months.
Contact: www.washrun.org