- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 2, 2005

Just in the last decade, New Year’s races have started sprouting in the Washington area.

Before then, the only popular New Year’s Day celebration on foot was the Ed Barron Hangover Classic, an 8K race around the Reflecting Pool. The noon run died suddenly in the early ‘90s when the National Park Service no longer would allow race officials to collect entry fees at the site on race day, which is when most participants entered.

When the MADD Red Ribbon Run 5K took root in 1996 in Alexandria, runners were back in business, this time on New Year’s Eve afternoon.

The Rotary Resolution 10K Run in Leesburg, Va., was established in 1998, and other races have popped up, too. These events have developed quite a following, much like the Turkey Trot races at Thanksgiving. But as with the Turkey Trots, the weather can be downright unpredictable.

This weekend’s warm temperatures are a welcome relief after frigid cold had settled into our region for the previous week or so. You only need to think back three years ago on New Year’s when the conditions were crisp — 25-degree crisp.

Many runners do either the Red Ribbon Run on New Year’s Eve or one of the New Year’s Day races. However, some do both.

For instance, Michael Wardian of Arlington, the human equivalent of the Energizer Bunny, did not get his fill of racing with his third-place finish at Red Ribbon on Friday afternoon. So he traveled to Loudoun County the next day to win the Rotary Resolution Run.

Other runners have been fixtures at these races. The winners at Red Ribbon — Chris Banks and Susannah Kvasnicka — are prime examples.

Banks won his third Red Ribbon title since moving back to Alexandria three years ago after graduating from Princeton. His time Friday was 15:09, just 15 seconds off his event record set in 2001. He also took the title in 2003.

Kvasnicka, 32, competed at Red Ribbon for the first time Friday after years of racing at Rotary Resolution, closer to her Great Falls home. After winning Rotary in 2002 and 2003, she opted for the 5K distance this year and notched a 13-second victory at Red Ribbon with a 17:04.

Other frequent fliers would include Chuck Moeser, 53, who in the mid-‘90s trekked from Sterling to Alexandria for the Red Ribbon run; in 2000, he started running closer to home at Rotary Resolution and has competed every year from 2002 to 2005. Moeser usually finishes in the top 10 overall, which he did again this year with a seventh-place effort.

Courtney Miller now lives in Champaign, Ill., but when she was 18 and home from college during break, she started running Red Ribbon. Her progression has been inspiring, from 19th place in 1999 to 16th place in 2000 to 11th place in 2001 to fifth place Friday.

Equally inspiring is that masters runner Monica Grillo from Arlington has maintained her top-10 finishes at Red Ribbon from 1999 to the present. Now 40, she placed fourth overall Friday in 19:37, after being sixth in 2003, fourth in 2002 and fifth in 1999, when she ran 18:52.

Harsh winter ahead? — The Farmer’s Almanac predicts stormy weather for January and February in our region, with heavy snow in the last week of January as well as in much of the second half of February.

It may be worth it to make contingency plans now so that when the snow hits, you will be prepared either to weather the conditions or move indoors to alternative forms of exercise.

But by the time the snow is predicted, all those people who turned over the new leaf at the first of the year and promised to flock to health clubs to train will be ready to give up the dream and the clubs no longer will be so crowded.

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