Teens turn out for “Ultimate Tag” in Silver Spring

It’s not your mother’s yoga class. Think Bourne Ultimatum.

by Sandy Moore
photos by Mark Felsenthal

Post it on Facebook, and they will come.

Ask Aaron Kozloff.  In late May the 19-year-old organizer sent a Facebook invitation to his friends promoting “a race/chase through the streets of Takoma Park and Silver Spring,” called Survive TP-SS.  It would begin at night, to beat the summer heat.

Three weeks later, on June 12th, 250 teenagers showed up at the fountain in downtown Silver Spring, eager to join the 6.5 mile chase.  What game participant Sam Jacobsen described as a game of “ultimate tag” was also an endurance test, with some elements of street theatre thrown in.

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Players on the “Zombie Apocalypse” team that competed in Survive Takoma-Silver Spring included (from left to right): Jacob Wellner, Kahlil Lindsey (with mini-sombrero), Aaron Fellows, Ryan Fuoco, and Aaron Weckstein.  In front, in the mask, is Justin Taft-Morales.

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Many teens, like Justin Taft-Morales, came with a posse of friends. His team, “the zombie apocalypse,” incuded a friend visiting from Guatamala.  A group of young actors from Lumina smeared their faces with paint.  There were runners with purple spiked hair — and shaggy lime hats. Plus a whole lot of gym shorts. Race organizers Tyler Kelly and Francis Louvia tied blue ribbons on the arms of “players”, and also issued each person a pink ribbon to wear, should they be tagged and forced to join the army of chasers.

The adrenalin-rush crowd included young men like Motuma Teramu, a rising senior who runs track at Northwood high.  Said Motuma at the start: “I’m going to win!  At least I want to be in the top three.”  The majority of participants were high school students, with a smaller number of 19-25 year olds. It was a racially and ethnically diverse crowd, but heavy on testosterone.  Exceptions included female participants like Corey Rowley, also a high school runner, who proclaimed confidently: “I can outrun a lot of these kids.  I’ll find the fastest routes, and be sneaky.”

AaronKozloff_cAK.jpgAaron Kozloff, mastermind of Survive TP-SS

While Aaron conceded that many track or cross-country runners would finish near the top, success at “Survive” was not just about running experience.  “It’s also about luck and deception,” said Kozloff.  He continued: “At Survive D.C. (a similar event that inspired Kozloff’s) there was a couple who stopped to make out and others were too embarrassed to investigate whether they were being chased or chasing. They used that trick to throw others off their trail.”

Like many in the crowd, Aaron is no stranger to extreme physical workouts.   In high school he played “parkour” — a sport whose enthusiasts prefer city streets to the gym.  Parkour enthusiasts call
their approach “functional fitness”. They don’t approve of gyms where clients barely break a sweat, or watch Oprah on the treadmill. It’s not your mother’s yoga class.  Think Bourne Ultimatum.

Two weeks before the event, Aaron realized the response was so strong he’d need more of almost everything: maps, water, and volunteers. He drafted both family and friends to help: his parents, Norah and Keith, were among those manning the checkpoints.  Friend Francis Louvis wore a banana suit, Elliot Gold and Mike Mozer donned tutus, Maddy Ruvolo and Lily Felsenthal sported fairy wings.  Just because . . . silliness rules.  Aaron also convinced Urban Evolution (a business that offers parkour, crossfit, and breakdancing classes) to donate expense money in return for promoting their brand.

During the course of the evening, racers criss-crossed Takoma Park and Silver Spring from the Ellsworth fountain to the Adventist Hospital and back.  The first competitor to finish, shortly before midnight, was Rutvij Pandya, a 19-year old native of Silver Spring.  Bruce Baker, was one of few baby boomers competing, finished third.  He’s a marathon runner, and father of race organizer Jershon.
There were trophies and ribbons for the winners, and at 2am, all of the “Survivors” had reached the last checkpoint.

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Friends Spencer Bodian, Sam Blattner, Garrett Jaso, and Thomas Miller joined 250 other teens at the Ellsworth Fountain for the start of “Survive TP-SS.”

23 racers finished the “Survive TP-SS” course, in roughly this order: Rutvij Pandya, Kiran Harris, Bruce Baker, Tom Clement, Noah Hughes

Dunn, Alejandro Newell, Motuma Teramu, Sam Boyer, Will Kubetin, Thomas
Milher, Garrett Jaso, Soren Klaverkamp, Teddy Moses, Sam Blattner,
Spencer Bodian, Alex Monsell, Joe Rosen, Simon Kapiamba, Robin Dreher,
Ricky Edwards, Samir Hazboun, Emmett Cummings, and Joe Hammer.

A comment posted on Facebook after “Survive” captured the enthusiasm expressed my many players:

“That was intense!  I was running on two hours of sleep and one hotdog. I was about a block away from the 5th checkpoint, sneaking in the back way, when I had to be picked up.  I was chased so much. I had to climb and vault over one of the taller chain-link fences and scale a picket fence to get away from some crazy chasers. I even crossed that Sligo Creek hopping from rock to rock!  This must happen again . . .”

Stay tuned on Facebook.  There’s a rumor that “Survive Alexandria” is next.

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About the Author

sandymoore
Sandy Moore, the Kids' Voice columnist, writes for young readers and is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Sandy is also a past contributor to Washington Parent magazine, a Board member of Lumina Studio Theatre, and resident of Silver Spring.