- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 10, 2005

Chris Graff was circling the track at Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School in January when the thought crossed his mind: What was he doing out on a 12-degree day with half an inch of snow under his running shoes when just a month before he was running in 65 degrees in sunny California?

The answer came as quickly as he runs. He genuinely enjoys living in the D.C. area, even if it means giving up the primo training conditions he experienced at Stanford for the past few years.

“I just like it here,” Graff said Friday at Reagan National Airport en route to the Papa John’s 10-Miler in Louisville, Ky., where he finished third yesterday in 48:09.

“My wife and I got married in 2001, then I went to California to run with [coach Frank Gagliano of the Nike Farm Team at Stanford] and the guys out there,” Graff continued. “With my wife and I both coming from New York, I knew we could only handle California for a limited time. I was planning on being out there through the Olympic cycle. So we came back here [in December] to find a place to settle for a long time.”

What’s the appeal of the Washington area?

“We grew up in Long Island,” said Graff, who moved to Arlington for the first time in the fall of 1998 shortly after graduating from St. John’s University in New York. “The D.C. area is what Long Island was like when we were growing up there 20 years ago. I lived in Arlington when I first moved down here.”

Just three weeks after moving, he ran his first road race, the Army Ten Miler. Graff ran cautiously and placed third in that race, his longest competition to that point. Then he put himself on the map the next year, beating two-time defending champion Dan Browne and winning the 1999 edition of the race.

Though he worked mainly on the track in Palo Alto, Graff did win the USA 10-Mile Championship in 2003 and was second to Browne in 2004. Events like the Papa John’s race keep Graff connected with his former training partners and friends from the Farm Team.

“It’s interesting being a part from that group socially and as running partners,” Graff said. “But it was hard to leave this area years ago, with all the people I know here. But the good part is that I know I will see these guys at races throughout the year.”

Graff, 29, said although his two-year Asics contract is nearly enough to cover living expenses, the solo training here has been somewhat challenging.

“Training on your own, you just can’t run as fast,” he explained. “The distance part never is a problem for me. I just run and focus on my races and I don’t even see the scenery. With the track workouts, it is getting the intensity that is the hard part. It is not having the world-class guys running the 1,200s, the mile repeats, with you.”

Graff still is in touch with Gagliano every week, but he also has been talking regularly with coaching legend Jack Daniels as he prepares to step up to the marathon distance.

“We are working on building a program to run a marathon in the fall,” Graff said. “I haven’t made a decision yet on which marathon — the national championships in the Twin Cities, Chicago or New York.”

Marine Corps sellout — It took a surprisingly long 62 hours and 19 minutes before the Marine Corps Marathon closed its online registration Friday with more than 25,200 entries accepted.

“We thought it would be filled in 24 hours,” said Beth Cline, public relations coordinator for the event. “The site’s been up and running the whole time.”

Cline said the Marine’s Web site accepted one entry per second for the first hour, which began first thing Wednesday morning.

“In the first hour, we had 3,220 registered, 410 in the first five minutes alone,” she said. The first entrant was Richard Holt of Tuscaloosa [Ala.] at 12:01 a.m., she added.

When the Marines take into account all the entries they are guaranteeing at a number of races around the nation, plus the charity relationships, more than 30,000 applications will be accepted for the 30th running Oct. 30, according to Cline.

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