- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pacers Running Stores and Potomac River Running Company are owned by some of the most competitive runners in the region.

These runners are competitive business people who see an opportunity and seize it, and both specialty running stores are opening their fourth locations this year.

Yesterday, Pacers had a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its newest outlet in the revitalized Old Town Fairfax, showcasing the latest expansion for the Farley family, represented on the roads by brothers Chris and Brian.

Meanwhile, Potomac River is schedule to open its fourth location this spring in Arlington near Ballston, not far from Pacers Clarendon digs.

Just a short time ago, Arlington had no specialty running stores, until Gotta Run opened on Pentagon Row in 2003. That store, with another location in Annapolis, was the brainchild of two elite runners — Andre Williams and Peter Sherry. Now there will be three competing stores in the county.

The forces behind Potomac River are Brendan and Margie Shapiro and Cathy and Ray Pugsley. Ray was part of the now-defunct elite runners Reebok Enclave, teammates with Williams and Sherry.

Pacers first opened on King Street in Old Town Alexandria in 1991. The Farleys bought the store in 2003 and then opened one in Clarendon a couple of years later and Silver Spring last year. Potomac River began five years ago in Burke and Ashburn, away from the competition in Northern Virginia. They added one in Reston Town Center a couple of years ago.

There is no doubt that the running boom has been flourishing despite the economy. It will be interesting to see whether the regional market can support so many new specialty running shops.

Level terrain — The course for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler on April 6 could be the flattest since the event moved entirely to the West and East Potomac parks more than a decade ago.

The new start and finish line is at the Washington Monument, and for the first time in a while runners won’t lose an hour of sleep the night before the race.

The debut at Ballou — Ballou High School will hold an all-comers development track meet on April 5 in an effort to show off its new facility, which features a new eight-lane Olympic all-weather track with long jump, high jump and shot put areas.

It’s the first track meet at Ballou, which is in Southeast. The events include the 100 meters, 1,600 meters, 800-meter racewalk, two relays and the long jump, high jump and shot put.

The entry fee is $5 for any or all of the events. For more information, contact David Barmer at 202/491-4825.

Tight finish — Samia Akbar of Herndon, an Olympic hopeful for the 10,000 meters, finished fifth in the women’s 15K Championship race in 52:35 in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 8.

She was just two seconds out of third place. As expected, Deena Kastor dominated from the start to finish in 49:36 for her sixth national 15K title.

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