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Running for Fun and Friendship

For nearly two decades, the Capitol Hill Running Club has brought marathon runners together

Participants in the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon run south on Third Street through the National Mall. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Participants in the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon run south on Third Street through the National Mall. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Capitol Hill Running Club, which brings staffers together three mornings a week to train for the Marine Corps Marathon in October, kicked off its 19th year this month.

Ray Celeste Jr., a military legislative assistant to North Carolina Republican Rep Walter B. Jones, joined the club 18 years ago while on active duty in the Marine Corps’ Office of Legislative Affairs at the Pentagon.

“It is a great club to get in shape or maintain your fitness,” he said in an email. “It helps create a health and wellness culture. It is also a great way to network for positions on the Hill or off the Hill.”

The program is organized by the Marine Corps’ Liaison offices, and this year, the office on the House side is in charge. The role swaps between the House and Senate Liaison offices each year.

Maj. Gen. Tony Corwin and Maj. Gen. Mike Regner, now both retired, started the club “as an outreach program to congressional members and staff,” Celeste said.

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Under Celeste’s leadership, more staffers have joined the club, including Cody Uhing, who wanted to cross “run a marathon” off of his list.

“I joined for the couch-to-marathon training, and I stayed for the friends I made,” Uhing, communications director to Arizona Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran, said by email. “It gives Hill staffers and other D.C. folks a reason to come together and do something fun. People from different backgrounds, jobs, and political parties are all sweating and suffering together.”

The group runs very early in the day, but Uhing said that shouldn’t discourage newcomers.

“For those of us who enjoy running, it is a chance to meet others with similar interests and make friendships. It may seem torturous to wake up before dawn to run before work, but we all seem to enjoy it,” he said.

Shaefer Bagwell, a legislative correspondent for California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, joined last year because he wanted to attempt a marathon, but he wasn’t an experienced runner.

“I thought the club would give the accountability I needed to make sure I was training the right amount and in the right way. After I went to the open house, I found out that the club also has resources for runners if they get hurt, trainings on nutrition and recovery, and a good community of runners,” Bagwell said in an email.

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“Unlike the Hill intramural sports leagues, the running club isn’t necessarily competitive — it’s an environment where you’re cheering each other on and helping each other do better,” Bagwell said.

Another newer member is Madison Sparber, a staff assistant on the Senate Armed Services Committee. She ran recreationally in college and wanted to keep doing it.

“Joining the club has been one of the best decisions I’ve made since moving to D.C. last May,” she said in an email. “CHRC has motivated me to push my limits and challenge myself to become a stronger runner, despite having no prior experience running a marathon.”

She is thrilled with the people she’s met since joining. 

“Through countless morning runs on the National Mall, I’ve met some incredibly inspiring people, and I count myself lucky to be able to run alongside them (or behind them, depending on the pace!),” she said.

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