The GDS running programs have produced championship-winning teams, trained world record-setting athletes, and given the gift of running to hundreds of GDS alumni. Under the leadership of head coach Anthony Belber, William Miezan, and many others, the program has done far more even than that: athletes from the cross-country and track & field programs have carried the lessons, values, and “Run Good” motto of the program with them into countless successful careers in and outside of athletics. Many of these athletes stay in touch with Anthony and former teammates. Some even return to coach year after year.
This year will be Anthony’s 20th year as head coach of all GDS running programs: men’s and women’s cross country, winter track, and spring track. In honor of his incredible dedication to our runners over the years, we are sharing this ongoing series Run Good and Keep Going, documenting some of the stories of those alumni coaches. In the coming weeks, we hope you’ll follow the stories, share with our alumni families, and join us in expressing gratitude to Anthony for all these years of helping GDS “Run Good.”
Here is the first installment (followed by links to the rest of the posts in the series)…
A Nice Long Warm-Up For What Follows
Mark Berenson ’00 set out early on the morning of November 2, 2013, running from Upper Northwest DC down to the Lincoln Memorial, around Hains Point and the Capitol, down Pennsylvania Avenue, across the Anacostia River, and finally up to Fort Dupont Park. His 18-or-so-mile meander led him through all four DC quadrants and finally onto the site—onto the course itself—of the second annual DC State Cross Country Championships. Mark’s noteworthy arrival to the meet as a GDS assistant XC coach was made all the more memorable by what followed.
Not only did GDS men’s cross country win the meet by 23 points—and the women’s team finish third—but the men’s 5K race featured perhaps the most “famous” finish in Hopper cross country history. Teammates Tristan Colaizzi ’16 and Aiden Pillard ’15 led the field over the final hill and spontaneously clasped hands to finish side by side. After months of training side by side, it seemed only fitting the Hoppers would win that way
His years as a GDS runner taught him—and the 2013 race reminds us—“the way something can be both an individual endeavor and a team sport,” Mark explained. “Some people view running as an individual sport—while that's technically true, it's also a sport where you constantly rely on your teammates. You need others to reach your potential and get the most possible from yourself.”
When it comes to the individual effort, nothing has taught Mark more about discipline and mental toughness than the GDS running program. “I can think back on the many workouts in high school where I started out convinced that there was no way that I could do it (‘How many times do you want us to run up Mass Ave to Ward Circle???!’), and yet I learned to take it literally one step at a time, one repeat at a time, and eventually I had accomplished what I had thought I couldn't do. There were many times when I had that same feeling at work (‘How am I possibly going to accomplish this???!’). And yet, I knew I could and would do so.”
In his professional consulting work with McKinsey & Company, Mark has found a similar balance, overcoming a huge professional challenges with the grit from a hundred hill climbs and the trust in teammates to see him through to the finish. “Being able to look at my professional work in the same light as a cross country season was incredibly helpful in allowing me to be as successful as possible in that environment.”
Per policy at McKinsey, Mark has been an unpaid volunteer coach at GDS for 14 years. “It’s been a great way to give back to a community that I care deeply about while combining two passions: running and teaching/coaching. I really do feel I'm getting as much from the program as I give, if not more.”
This year’s team has outstanding potential, Mark said, and given what he has seen over the summer, the season proves to be one to watch. And Mark certainly won’t be the only GDS alum watching. The “Run Good” community keeps close. Alumni runners stay in touch with teammates and coaches, and some of the athletes Mark has coached have even come back to coach themselves. Plus, Mark said, the meets in store for the team this year looks like a ‘best of’ collection of his favorite courses. Let’s just hope that when the team races in Delaware, Mark rides the bus.
...Keep Calm and Run Good
features a falling tent, mind reading, and alum coach Leah Snider ’12.Running, Racing, and Balance
features skateboarding convert and alum coach Peter Silverman ’03.The Long-Distance, Long-Distance Coach
features postcards from Bosnia, shrubbery, and alum coach Matt Simonson ’04.Putting in the Work
features 900 tons of concrete, record-breaking throws, and alum coach Maya Braxton ’10.Inner Strength
features broken everything, grit, and alum coach Lauren Silberman ’08.A Grateful Coach
gives Coach Anthony Belber the last word as he leads GDS through year 20 and beyond.