Let go of the computer’s mouse at the desk.  Remove fingertips from the keyboard.  Relax face muscles, shoulders.  Unclench your toes.  A journey begins.  To a time not far removed from the here and now, to places we know, we love, we honor.

It is an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday, 2006, during a remarkable month, September, a period often welcomed by runners for its seasonal baton grasp from August heat.

Roommates, neighbors, friends- workaholics with a running problem- conscript an agreement.  The time is nigh for a group run.

“I think it was Kerry who planned it” says Keith Knipling, one of the original four clansmen of a running group later to officially name themselves Woodley Ultra Society, or WUS.

The others included Kerry Owens, Kirstin Corris and Amy Sproston.  At the time “Keith wasn’t fast,” says Kerry.  At the time Kerry burst with running prowess, knocking out 100 milers before breakfast.  Nor at the time had Kirstin yet to adopt the surname Corris, or was she yet known, globally, as “ultrarunnergirl”.  Amy reportedly sported a few dreadlocks.  At the time.

Kerry, Amy, Kirstin and Keith stood anxiously on the hard pine floors in the front hallway at 2711 Woodley Avenue, NW, Washington D.C.  The polyurethane finish peeled and cracked beneath their trail running shoe lugs.  The finish, dried out and tired from the many trail running shoe lugs it had equally supported over the years.  Digital watches turned over from 7:29:59 to 7:30:00.  P.M.  The runners departed through the front door into a new world, an undecided route, on a run that would later prove defining.

“That’s about the earliest I could run” said Kerry, hazily remembering why they left when they did.  Into the Washington D.C. night.  “I’m pretty sure we had flashlights.”

“We left from [2711] Woodley and ran along Rock Creek.  Valley and Western Ridge.  We probably did six [miles],” follows Keith, providing answers to all important questions.   Where was the first WUS run?  How long did you run for?

“All I remember was having no idea where I was,” says Keith.  An unlikely admission from such a runner whose course knowledge spans the gambit from routes, to elevation charts, from trailheads to exact GPS coordinates of moonlight-shimmering quartz rock, submerged beneath the earth almost completely like giant glaciers, found in secret locations along Rock Creek Park’s Valley Trail.

“Keith is right about the route,” chimes Kerry.  “At the time, Kirstin knew the trails better than Keith, and Amy and she used a little bit of clever bush whacking to keep up.”

Thanks to Kirstin and Amy’s dutiful whacking of bush the run was a success.  “It was nearly dark when we finished,” says Kerry.

The effort, however, came at a cost.  Glycemic indexes for each runner had reached scary lows.  Caloric intake was a priority.

“We dropped in on Quebec Street,” says Keith, as he recounts the direction to recovery.  The Cleveland Park Bar & Grill, or CPBG.

All four runners emerged from the trail, sweaty.  Civilization, discovered.  The sidewalks beneath their feet, hard packed, felt otherworldly.  Uncommon to their adjusted, preferred surroundings of earth, rocks, trees.   Moments passed.  Acclimatization eventually ensued.

The door to CPBG swung open and a banquet feast of the senses rewarded the hungry foursome.  Half-priced brick oven pizza.  A roof top deck.  Draft beer.  A veritable Currier and Ives styled utopia of earthly delights.

Keith’s memory, stymied by the remnants of a bonk, heeds “I bet we got a pitcher of beer.”

“I think we had four pizzas and drank Sierra Nevada,” corrects Kerry.

To this day, facts on caloric replenishment are not entirely known.  There are stories.  There are rumors of stories.

What is known is that these four runners- Kerry, Amy, Kirstin, Keith- on a Tuesday, in September, 2006, at 7:30 p.m., had carved a new trail.  At the beginning of the trail lies a trailhead.  An inscription.  “WUS”.  The trail has no mile markers.  No mileage total.  This trail has no end.


3 Responses to A moment in time. The first WUS run.

  1. Doug says:

    I like it. It’s hard to recall a time when Amy and Keith were not tearing up the trails. Good stuff. Thanks Neil.

  2. Kirstin says:

    It’s hard to believe we were ever that young and that the pace was ever that social.


  3. amy says:

    It’s really hard to recall when Amy had dreadlocks, being that she’s never had them….

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