The Marine Corps Marathon is a challenge for many runners. Capitol Hill Running Club members receive support from their group.
Another of the club’s organizers and longtime members is Col. Ray Celeste, who recently ran his 50th marathon. He began running marathons in 1986 and helped create the Capitol Hill Running Club in 2000, as part of his job in the House Liaison Office.
“Where most people work 9 to 5, we don’t,” Celeste said. “It’s part of our duty and our responsibility.”
Most members of the running club are not veteran marathoners.
Matt Lloyd, communications director for Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., ran his first marathon this year and said the club played a pivotal role in keeping him focused on his training.
“It’s a good support group,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do the marathon, and it’s really been an honor to do it with these guys [the Marines]. I couldn’t ask for any better group to do it with.”
He added that running with a group made a big difference in his training because it’s hard to stay motivated past nine or 10 miles when he runs by himself.
“You make friends, when you’re putting yourself through torture like that. It’s a little bit similar to being in the military. That’s how they run it, which makes it fun,” Lloyd said.
Club members say the bonds they forge running long distances together help them survive the mental challenges of the marathon, not just the physical ones.
“I finished the Marine Corps Marathon in 2008, and I said never again,” Garner said, “because I wasn’t prepared for the mental challenge. The first 15 miles are training, and the last 10 or 11 miles is all mental. Everybody hits the wall.”
Part of that mental prep is bonding off the track.
The club socializes outside of training — grabbing lunch during the week or meeting at Bullfeathers for happy hour. The group is so close-knit that many runners, including Garner, bring their kids along to the early morning training sessions. Others persuade their spouses to hand out water or snacks.
McKenney summarized his experience with the Capitol Hill Running Club with an anecdote from his eighth marathon last fall.
“Someone was holding a sign at the finish line that said, ‘Some day you won’t be able to do this. But today is not that day.’”