- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2003

If somebody from Dominion Virginia Power is reading this column, please send a truck to my house and restore power.

It is difficult to write in the dark — although many readers have been telling me I’ve been writing in the dark for decades.

All-in-all, though, Isabel was quite the lady to the running community. Her timing was perfect for the average runner, hitting us overnight. I saw many runners on the bicycle paths around the metropolitan area Thursday before the storm, then again Friday after the wind and rain moved north.

Nobody had to miss a day of training, and many had the luxury of missing a day or two of work.

The hurricane did interrupt what had been a string of beautiful days. And the sad part of being in a modern society like ours is that while I was running Wednesday — on what was arguably the most beautiful day of the year for outdoor activities — my mind was more focused on the carnage that could be left by Isabel the next day as she swirled toward our area.

A century or more ago, you could have been running on Wednesday and been perfectly content with life, not knowing what horrible weather was coming the next day. Or you could surround yourself with friends like the former Iraqi information minister, who would have serenaded you with a rosy weather forecast all through the week and into the weekend.

In the end, the storm made a mess of the Potomac bicycle paths and many other paths and streets that once were lined with trees and now obstructed by fallen timber. But life goes on, and so do our running schedules, detoured a bit but not deterred in the least.

Charity begins at home — It is a pitifully small amount of money, but Road Scholar grants are better than nothing. Promising national class runners are given $4,000 toward living expenses while training to make the jump to elite status and possible corporate sponsorship.

Deena Drossin earned one of the grants a few years ago and now she is the American marathon record holder.

One of this year’s grants went to a former local runner, Chris Graff, who put himself on the map at the 1999 Army Ten-Miler, then moved to Palo Alto, Calif., with his coach Frank Gagliano to join the Nike Farm Team.

Graff, a two-time NCAA All-American at St. John’s (N.Y.), was running for the Reebok Enclave in 1999 when his teammates ran head-to-head with the top distance runners from the Army’s World Class Athletes’ Program. Graff upset them all at the Army Ten-Miler with a dazzling 48:21 victory.

He has since lowered that time to 47:09 in a convincing triumph at the 2003 USATF 10-Mile Championships in Louisville, Ky., in March. He also placed seventh in the USATF Marathon Championship in Birmingham, Ala., in February, a 2:18:45 clocking that qualifies him for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on the same course in February 2004.

Graff’s $4,000 grant was one of four, in a joint effort by the American Association of Running Clubs (AARC) and the ailing Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). The other three grants went to Adam Wallace of Madison, Wis., and Yale’s twins Kate and Laura O’Neill of New Haven, Conn.

Board members from both associations solicited funds to continue the program because RRCA was unable to donate funds. Financial assistance came from some races like the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.

Millions of dollars are so easily raised in races for charity but it seems ridiculously difficult for the sport to come up with $16,000 to support athletes.

Still on — The Paul VI Runfest 5K, scheduled today in Fairfax, has not been canceled. Registration and packet pickup were brisk at the Falls Church Metro Run & Walk location, according to a staff member there.

But the Ebenezer 5K in Upper Marlboro that was scheduled for yesterday was postponed days before Isabel visited. The folks at Watkins Regional Park, the site of the race, decided early on that post-hurricane conditions would not be conducive to a road race. No makeup day has been set.

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