After a one-year hiatus, some 1,500 runners will again tie jingle bells to their shoes and gambol about the streets of Washington on Dec. 11. While perhaps not the manliest of holiday traditions, tradition it is and runners owe the revival of this unique event to Acumen Solutions, a business consulting firm headquartered in Vienna, which has partnered with the Capital Running Company to sponsor the event.
For more than 25 years, the Arthritis Foundation sponsored December races in downtown Washington and in Fairfax; the foundation's national series of Jingle Bell runs continues in Baltimore and elsewhere. But after hitting a peak of more than 3,600 registered runners in 2003, last year's withdrawal left a cheerless quietude on the already tranquil winter calendar.
"As an awareness event, the race was terrific," said Calaneet Balas of the Washington chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, which discontinued its sponsorship last year. "But the cost of having a race start and finish on Pennsylvania Avenue became exorbitant."
Enter Acumen: "It's our big event for 2005," spokeswoman Amee Bertenwerfer said. "The company CEO is a triathlete and we had been involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation triathlon. But a 10K run allows more of our employees to participate and our goal is to be directly involved with the community."
Rather than run downtown, the new venue is the usual Hains Point-East Potomac Park course, which creates minimal traffic impact, requires much less police assistance and as a result costs much less.
Proceeds from the race will benefit the SEED Foundation, a national nonprofit that provides opportunities for high school students in the District and other urban environments.
* TICK, TICK, TICK: And in case you don't think having a title sponsor is important, check with the folks at the National Marathon; less than four months before its scheduled March 25 race date, the event has not yet announced one.
* CHERRY PICKING: The Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, scheduled for Sunday, April 2, opens online registration on Dec. 12 at 10 a.m. Last year's race, which expanded to 10,000 runners, reached capacity within three days. Mail-in entries, with forms available through the mail and online, will be accepted beginning Dec. 5. The 2006 race will for the first time feature a separate start for elite women and drug testing for top finishers. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency will conduct tests for performance-enhancing drugs, including EPO, at all five Professional Road Running Organization events throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.
-- Jim Hage