Nate Rathjen

naterathjenWhen did you begin running and why?

I was always vaguely athletic, but no sport ever really stuck. I played a lot of golf in high school, and basketball earlier than that, and was just okay at both. When I arrived at UVa, I joined the quidditch team (yes, seriously) as it seemed like a decent way to play a chill sport and stay in shape. Then someone started group conditioning runs, so I went along. That was 8 years ago, and frankly if you told me then I'd be a multiple-marathoner at 26, I wouldn't have believed you! I kept running on my own all through college and really can't pinpoint a time when the bug bit me for real. I just discovered I had a talent and kept at it. I guess I'm a little unique in that I never did track or XC or had any prior connection to the sport.

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

I've been a DCRRC member since December of 2019 - just long enough to get ensconced in the group, but this still may serve as an introduction to a lot of you! As with everyone else who writes these, I wanted a nice big group at my pace that I could do long runs with. One google later, I just showed up to SLR on a freezing morning and started talking to people. Later on I joined the Thursday morning track group, which has been incredible for building speed - shoutout to Big Guy and Rich! Although I really miss both groups, I enjoy staying connected with everyone on Strava and Instagram. If you haven’t found me yet, say hi!

What are you training for right now?

Well, it's hard to plan for any races in advance right now. My A race of the year, the Charlottesville 10 Miler, is going ahead in March on a horse-racing track. Now that's guaranteed to be unique. I'm hoping to do marathon #3 in the fall as well. My original plan for 2020 was to do #2, #3, and #4 all in places I haven't visited before, so I'm betting on finding one cool and safe fall race somewhere new. I've kept mileage up in the meantime. Instead of marathon training last year I set a goal to run more than 2018 and 2019 combined (2,190 miles) and actually hit it with a few days to spare.

What is the toughest run or race in which you have participated?

Easily my craziest race day ever was marathon #1, in Burlington, Vt. in 2019. It's a long enough story that it's best told in person on a run. Highlights are evacuating the corral before the start, thunderstorms, searing humidity, the von Trapps (yes, those von Trapps), and a beer-related surprise at the end. I've never DNFed a race, but for most of that race I wasn't certain I was going to make it, the conditions were that challenging. I highly recommend VCM, though. It was so neat to do my first marathon in one of my favorite cities.

What is your favorite route in the area?

Can't pick just one. Can anyone pick just one? My Instagram feed is full of pictures I take running the back roads of Loudoun, where you can assemble a route for any distance and challenge you want. Horses? Check. Civil War history? Check. Mountain views? Check. Want to run over the mountain instead? Also check. It's true soul food, just as long as you don't fall victim to missing signs or flooded early pandemic goal was to run as much of the runnable back roads of the county as possible, which I've mostly accomplished. At the same time, I have really enjoyed exploring DC and Arlington, and the change of scenery and difficulty is sometimes appreciated!

What is your proudest running moment?

Last March - my last in-person race to date - I was itching to race one more time and picked up a small half in Chambersburg, Pa., about an hour from me. This was literally the weekend before everything shut down, but it went ahead. The course was unfamiliar but seemed decently fast. So I set an arbitrary goal of 1:30, not really thinking I'd hit it (PR was 1:34 at the time) but it would be a nice carrot. Every passing mile I did some quick math and knew I was still under the target pace, but I didn't grasp just how far under I was. I dropped some out-loud swears when I came around the last corner and saw 1:27 on the clock. For someone who's always harbored sub-3/BQ dreams but always thought it seemed a little out of reach, that was a huge moment where I realized maybe it might not be. That was also good for my first age-group award, which itself is a pretty funny story. For some reason the directors didn’t give it to me and I almost left without it!

What is your life like outside of running?

First, my running life outside of DCRRC: I'm on the board of directors of the Loudoun Road Runners (, and a director of the annual Jim Schatz Memorial Trail 10K in Leesburg on Veterans Day weekend - which I highly recommend to anyone who wants a very gentle introduction to trail racing!

I live in wonderful downtown Leesburg, Va., with my dog, Ellie. I work here as a jack-of-all-things IT guy for a small government contractor. Another passion of mine is civic service to my community, and to that end I'm also on the executive committees of my church and the county Democratic Party. After weekend runs you'll probably find me fawning over my beloved Browns, Hoos and Caps, or at a soccer game or a brewery, depending on the season. I was also a radio DJ all through college and still have that eclectic taste in new music. I miss concerts, a lot.

A random question I often get from people I meet: how does one pronounce my last name? I'll answer to anything that makes me think you're talking to me, but correctly the "h" and "n" are silent, reflecting its origin in Germany. Trust me, if you think about it, it makes sense!

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The DC Road Runners Club is a member of the Road Runners Club of America and is also affiliated with USA Track & Field. We provide a year-round schedule of running events that offer everyone a chance to participate regardless of age, gender, or athletic ability.