Runner Spotlight: Chris Johnston

When did you begin running and why?

Growing up, I always played sports, especially baseball and basketball, but my middling talents never matched my superstar ambitions. At some point, though, I figured out I could run. I came out for cross country as a high school freshman, got a varsity letter that season, and never looked back.

How did you find out about DCRR and when did you join?

Back in 2002 or 2003, I read an article in the Washington Post magazine (I think) about running clubs who were doing organized track workouts. At the time I was only running recreationally but this really got my attention. Then, a few months later, while heading to an adult education class at Washington-Lee I actually saw the club workout taking place on the track. I stopped and talked to someone for a few minutes. We had a nice chat and that inspired me to join the club and start coming out. I’ve been a member ever since, and now my wife Lynn is a member, too!

What are you training for right now?

Currently, I am taking a break from marathon training and going to the other extreme, training for the mile. I haven’t been a miler really since high school, but now I’m signed up for a bunch of open meets this summer, and of course I will run in the DCRRC Mile and 3K track championships, plus Bunion Derby races. My “goal” meet will be the Potomac Valley Games on Labor Day weekend, where I will compete in the masters’ mile.

What is the toughest run or race you’ve ever participated in?

Well, a couple stand out here, but my first marathon, Philadelphia in 2006, takes the cake. I really had no idea what I was doing. I was undertrained, didn’t eat breakfast that morning due to nerves, went out too quickly, didn’t take gels on the course with me…and hit the wall HARD at 16 miles. Somehow I willed myself across the finish line in 3:50. It was humbling, but I learned a lot from it and was much better prepared the next time!

What’s your favorite part about being a DCRR member?

I love the camaraderie of the club, the way it welcomes runners of all ages and abilities and provides first-class support to all members. If you run, you are a runner, and if you are a runner, you are welcome in our club. I am proud to be a member, and now a Board member, of this great organization.

What’s your favorite route in the area?

I spend a lot of time on the W&OD Trail. Over the years, I’ve covered every inch of it on foot from Mile 0 (Shirlington) to Mile 30.5 (Leesburg). But usually I’m somewhere along the stretch from Mile 9 (Cedar Lane) to Mile 17 (Wiehle Avenue). It gets crowded sometimes with other runners, walkers, and cyclists, but it’s such a great place to train. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

What’s the most important lesson running has taught you?

Accept yourself for the runner you are, but challenge yourself to always get better. We can’t all be Olympians, but I can be my best me, and I can inspire others by training well, and sharing what I’ve learned. Never underestimate the power you have to inspire someone else, just by being fearless and running.

What race day traditions do you have?

Mine are pretty boring, really, the same ones most other runners have. Lay your gear out the day before the race. Eat a good breakfast. Get to the race site with enough time to do a proper warmup. It’s all about preparing for success. As I tell the high school runners that I coach, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. And all those little things count!

What’s your proudest running moment?

Running a new all-time marathon PR in the 2014 Boston Marathon. I had run Boston the year before, and in the wake of the bombing I was determined, like so many others, to come back and run my very best. For me it was what I had to do, to honor those wounded or killed by the bombs, and to be part of a very large statement, that we are Boston Strong, and will not be stopped by those who try to spread fear, ever. I trained hard and smart all winter and ran 3:18:25. I’ll never forget that day.

What’s your life like outside of running?

These days, it’s pretty busy! I am a self-employed business development consultant, which means I’m always either working on assignment or looking for my next gig. I also own a small business, Breakout Running, that provides 1:1 training to other runners, and I am the head cross country coach at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield. When I’m not doing those things, I love spending time with Lynn doing all the things we enjoy doing together.

What is one thing you wouldn’t run without?

A good pair of socks! I don’t know how some runners go sockless. I just can’t do it! I have to have my nice performance socks (Feetures, Injinji, Point6, etc.) even if they are pricey.