Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gregory on Seven Marathons on Seven Continents

"I have been fortunate to have two great jobs in a row in this city. First, I worked as Mayor Williams' Deputy Chief of Staff. When we came in, the mayor did not have control over most of the government. We had rotary phones and nothing worked. When you look at this city almost twelve years later, I have tremendous pride in the progress. Then, I went over to the Nationals and became the Vice President of Government and Municipal Affairs. I am not a sports person by training, but I believe that the stadium has the capacity to be an incredibly positive civic expression for this city. Every world-class city in America has a baseball team. It is part of the American tradition. We have had a whole generation of kids who grew up without a baseball team after the Senators left. That changed with the arrival of the Nationals.

"You know, there is an impression that D.C. can't do anything right, but, lo and behold, the ballpark was built on budget and in record time. The stadium has the capacity to mix people of all colors, ages and incomes like very few places in this city. Sometimes, you see three generations of a family coming to a game together and you realize that you are helping to create memories. I remember vividly going to see baseball games with my father. I think that the ballpark has the capacity to do that for this city.

"While I work in baseball, my other athletic passion is running. I started running marathons in my forties. In 2002, I was training with Phil Fenty and he had an extra entry for the Marine Core Marathon. With six weeks' notice, I decided to enter and then got hooked. Marathons are a great way to see a city. When you live in D.C. for almost thirty years and then you run a marathon here, the perspective is totally different. First of all, when you run and are not driving, you become very aware of how far things really are from each other. Also, you see things from the middle of the road. Normally, you view things from one side or another, but how often do you have the luxury of seeing the vista of a city and its streets from the middle of the road? Also, when you go east of the river, you realize that it is the first time that many people are going to Anacostia. I had been there before, but many of the runners hadn't. There are some beautiful parks and neighborhoods over there and the people are so friendly. I would hope that the marathons encourage people to go back to visit those areas.

"My own marathon running has taken me all over the world, including, most recently, to Antarctica. Now, I have run seven marathons on seven continents. There is a really special feeling when you travel to these international cities and meet people from all around the world. You are all equal. You don't need to speak the same language because for 26.2 miles you are all doing the same thing. There is such camaraderie.

"In Antarctica, other people were there for their country and I wanted to be there for D.C. I wanted to do it for the running community here and to represent our city. I wasn't sure if I was the first D.C. resident or not to do it; there remains some dispute. It was an incredible experience. The race that I did has been run by fewer than 80 people. I had no idea it would develop into such a big deal, and I was surprised to see that the Washington Post article written about me made the front page ahead of Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize! I guess my story appealed to people's sense of adventure. What does a middle-age guy do to be different? I recognize that I got all of this attention because I have a passport and means to travel. My reason for going was not solely about athleticism, but about the unknowing part of someone's mind that wants to do something different and seek out adventure."

Gregory is pictured with his medal from the 2009 Antarctic Ice Marathon. Read about Gregory's trip to Antarctica in the Washington Post here and here.

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