Best Tribute to Local Sports Heroes
Pitcher Walter Johnson, a baseball Hall of Famer, and Shirley Povich, an award-winning Washington Post columnist, are Montgomery County sports legends. Johnson played for the Washington Senators from 1907 through 1927 and later managed the team. Povich’s career covering sports for The Post began in 1924 and ended in 1998; he was inducted into the National Sportswriters Hall of Fame. Jonson and Povich were friends, and the two are celebrated locally with plaques and building names. Besides Walter Johnson High School, the Bethesda Big Train collegiate summer baseball team honors the right-hander, who earned the locomotive nickname with his size and pitch speed. The team’s home field in Cabin John Regional Park is Shirley Povich Field. And in 2021, a memorial statue of Johnson and Povich was revealed there. Artist Toby Mendez’s life-size bronze sculpture depicts them sitting on a stone wall, looking as if they are frozen in the middle of a conversation. It honors the legacy of each man and the friendship they shared.
Best Race for Perks: Suds & Soles 5K
June 17, 2023. Suds & Soles 5K, launched in 2016 minus two pandemic years, has a fun evening festival vibe. Run the miles that begin and end in Rockville Town Center and you’re handed a beer right after you cross the finish line. The music-filled outdoor party continues post-race with pizza, local brews—five beer tickets attached to each race bib—and awards to the top male and female finishers in open and masters divi-sions, plus age group prizes.
Best for Families: Autism Speaks 5K/1-Mile Walk
July 4, 2023. For more than two decades, families and friends have convened at the Potomac Library dressed in festive gear to celebrate Independence Day on the run. Some have grown up attending the race, whether walking the 1-mile course or running the 5K through shady streets that lead to a long downhill finish. Over the years, runners have raised more than $4 million for Autism Speaks. Participants receive a T-shirt and Autism Speaks 5K medal. Besides overall and age-based winner categories, prizes are awarded to “Most Patriotic,” “Top Child Fundraiser” and more.
Best for Serious Athletes: Parks Half Marathon
Sept. 10, 2023. This scenic point-to-point course begins near the Shady Grove Metro and traverses several Montgomery County parks, including Aspen Hill Local Park, Dewey Local Park, Veirs Mill Local Park and Ken-Gar Palisades Local Park, and then finishes near Beach Drive and Grosvenor Lane in Kensington. Experienced pacers guide runners to reach their race goals, which must be under 2 hours and 50 minutes, a 12-minute, 36-second-per-mile pace. Runners receive a shirt, finishers medal, swag from sponsors, and lots of refuel food from Mamma Lucia, including grilled sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns and fresh fruit at the finishers festival. Awards are given to overall winners, Montgomery County Road Runners Club member winners, masters and age group winners.
Best Park Renovation
Edith Throckmorton Neighborhood Park is one of the county’s smallest, but a $1.2 million renovation completed in 2022 packs lots of unique features and community involvement into a mere fifth of an acre. Named after civil rights leader and educator Edith Throckmorton, the park is located within the historic Ken Gar community in Kensington. A bright yellow, all-weather ping-pong table—only the second in a county park—doubles as a picnic table. A box for a mini library of books serves as a storage bin for pingpong paddles. There’s a paved area with a labyrinth design where kids can ride scooters, lots of seating, and a pollinator garden with native plants. The playground includes two climbing structures, as well as a play area made of boulders and logs. The renovation doubled the usable park space compared with the original layout, added native trees and plants, improved erosion controls and installed a boardwalk through the park.
Edith Throckmorton Neighborhood Park, 3925 Hampden St., Kensington montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/edith-throckmorton-neighborhood-park
Best Zumba Studio
As you approach the sea of neon, spandex-clad dancers and blaring music at Z Sweat Dance and Fitness, there’s no overlooking this high-energy workout space. This is the workout for you if you enjoy booming Zumba music (ear plugs are available), want to get your heart rate up (and keep it up for a full hour), forget that you’re exercising, love a good sweat session, and thrive in a group workout environment. The small studio has one raised platform for the instructor, and there’s one hourlong class offered per day Monday thru Saturday (in addition to regular Zumba, the studio offers Step classes and Sculpt & Tone classes). Although the studio has a limited number of class times, the tradeoff of this smaller-scale operation is the true community feel; there are plenty of regulars who clearly know the instructors and the choreography—a sign of loyalty and a regular commitment to the studio. If you’re a newcomer, rest assured that this is a low-pressure situation; there’s no emphasis on getting a move “correct” or memorizing the choreography—the goal is simply to have fun dancing (with friends and/or strangers), and if you happen to burn 300-plus calories in the process, that’s a win-win.
Z SWEAT DANCE AND FITNESS 4834 Boiling Brook Parkway, North Bethesda, 240-480-6602 zsweat.com