The Marine Corps Marathon is a challenge for many runners. Capitol Hill Running Club members receive support from their group.
Mac McKenney never thought he would run marathons. When he joined the Capitol Hill Running Club nearly 10 years ago, he could barely jog three and a half miles, the club’s shortest run.
Last month, the 58-year-old tax lobbyist ran his ninth marathon — the Marine Corps Marathon. He credits his success to the running club’s supportive atmosphere and its dedicated volunteers, many of whom are members of the corps.
He began training with the club in June 2003, when he was working for Rep. Amo Houghton, R-N.Y.
“I was overweight and out of shape,” he said. “Everybody else got a timing chip and I got a sundial, I was that slow. But I was made to feel as much a part of the club as anyone else.”
After his sixth marathon, McKenney had surgery to repair extensive cartilage damage in his knee. Doctors told him he would never run again.
For six months he didn’t. Then, for a year, he was limited to short distances.
Eventually, though, he was able to return to distance running. And the running club’s help and the friendships he developed there helped him pull through the hardest part of his recovery.
“There was a gunnery sergeant, Lorenzo Chance. He told me I looked strong, and I knew it wasn’t true, but I was so glad he offered me that encouragement,” McKenney said.
Doing Your Duty
Marines from the House and Senate Marine Corps Liaison Offices man the group’s water stops, plan their runs and educate them on injury prevention.
At the beginning of their marathon training season in May, the club organizes an expo for new runners and brings in nutritionists, sports physicians and the owners of Pacers, an Alexandria running store.
Longtime members, including White House Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu, outline the challenges of training for the marathon and how much fun the running club has.
Staff Sgt. Charles Aaron, a Marine from the House side who has volunteered with the club for three years, runs warm-ups at every one of the group’s practices — at the very Marine-like hour of 6:20 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 6 a.m. on Saturdays. It also offers yoga classes at 6:20 a.m. on Fridays.
Maj. Janine “Atis” Garner, a mother of two girls, plans the club’s routes and sends out weekly email blasts and Facebook updates.
“Staff Sgt. Aaron will be very modest, but he’s the backbone of the club,” Garner said. “He’s the one who’s out there with the water and the tables and the gear — he’s the one who, no kidding, makes it happen.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.