- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

Does the week between Christmas and New Year’s present obstacles or opportunities for running?

That’s what I asked runners at yesterday’s weekly Potomac Runners group run.

For background, the club was founded by running enthusiast Phil Davis about 10 years ago. He has attracted a core group of runners who come to Alexandria’s Belle Haven Park on Saturday mornings. They also run together on weekday evenings in the District and Wednesday evenings at the track.

While many people conserve much of their energy to face the mall brawl synonymous with Christmas Eve, a few dozen faithful gathered yesterday and ran six miles and longer along the Potomac River bicycle path through Old Town.

But with consecutive Monday holidays off from work and traditional New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day races on the schedule, most runners did not intend to alter their typical running program too much.

“I’ll probably run my normal amount, which is three times a week, anywhere from four to six miles,” said Susan Straight, an analyst with nxtMove Consulting in Reston. “My Saturday run is always six miles.”

Told that Potomac Runners will be running as normal on New Year’s Eve as well as the club’s 10th anniversary New Year’s Day run the next day, Straight said: “It’s Saturday and Sunday. I don’t know. I might. I run strictly for the mental health reasons. I just really like running. I don’t have any specific goals. I feel like I am an anomaly in this group.”

She is. Many Potomac Runners have specific goals, and the holidays can take away from their training.

“I plan to run the same, that’s for sure,” said Nadia SanLuis, a French woman who combines running with her career as a Long & Foster realtor in Fort Washington, Md. “I run three to four times a week. I am training for the Arizona Half-Marathon [in Phoenix] on Jan.15. I’ll probably run Saturday and Sunday here.”

She said she also plans to run tomorrow when everybody is shopping, but she may have an appointment or two Jan.2 to work into her running schedule.

Tony Chukwumah does not plan to alter his program this week. The Nigerian-born runner is down to once a week — the traditional Saturday morning run — because he has a hard time fitting exercise into his financial career at Immix Technology Group in McLean and because “I burned myself out. I run once a week now, and I am not happy about it.”

Between 1997 and 2000, he said he ran seven marathons, four in 1999. “With Mondays off the next two weeks, I think I’ll try to run as much as I can.”

Running is a must for Tim English, 39, because he loves to eat and drink.

“I started running five years ago because I was 35 and 205,” he said. “I lost 35 pounds in seven months. Running for me is personal quality time — I just put the shoes on and go. I’ve gone from a non-runner guy to sitting at the GW Parkway race talking about marathons.”

English has run five marathons, including Philadelphia in November 2004 and Disney some six weeks later.

He said he was running four times a week and 20 to 25 miles back then, but the mileage slipped this year and so did his height-weight ratio.

“I stepped on the scale three weeks ago and saw 2 [as the first number] again,” he said. “The good news about the holidays is that I don’t travel much. As a bachelor man, my schedule has so much flexibility, so I will be able to run more this week.”

English has set his sights on the Dublin Marathon — don’t they make Guinness there? — on Oct.30, so he knows he needs to get back on track.

“If I don’t have a race to think about, it’s hard to stay focused,” he said. “I’m just like any other runner. Plus I don’t want to look [overweight] anymore.”

The need for speed — The Potomac Valley Track Club and DC Road Runners Club have scheduled three Sunday morning indoor track meets for 2006 — Jan.8, Jan.22 and Feb.5.

All three meets run from 7:45 a.m. to noon at Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington. Though the meets only hold track events, there is a shot put clinic on the schedule.

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