At a glance: Rick Amernick

»  Founder of the D.C. Capital Striders Running Group

»  36 years old

»  From Baltimore; lives in McLean.

»  Has run in four marathons.

"Cool guy. Good Runner. One Tuff Hombre."

That's just one of a handful of positive greetings left for Rick Amernick, the founder of the D.C. Capital Striders Running Group, at his meetup.com profile.

Amernick, 36, a school psychologist who lives in McLean, started the running group in 2006. Since then, its ranks have swelled to about 2,000 members.

"I honestly just wanted to find people to run with," he said.

As the group grew -- and grew -- Amernick said his thinking became, "Good God -- where has this come from? All I wanted to do was run with some friends!"

And he does. The group offers a variety of options for runs -- mornings, evenings and different locations around the Washington area. They also try to find places that are Metro-accessible, so runners can go directly from work, Amernick said.

He was a late bloomer, relatively speaking, in terms of competitive running. Amernick played baseball through high school, but turned into a serious runner soon afterward. He has run in four marathons -- the National Marathon and Chicago Marathon in 2007, and the Baltimore Marathon in 2008 and 2009. He said he might run in the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall.

The group started with members and volunteers bringing water cups and coolers to events, and collecting a buck here and there for first-aid kits. Now, though, Amernick and Co. are now looking to turn it into a bigger operation.

The group is making waves to become an official nonprofit group. Amernick has created an associated corporation, complete with official boards and committees -- with himself as president and founder, of course.

The group got "really lucky" in May, Amernick said. It hosted the first Capital Strider 8K, pushing the event with ads for about five weeks and attracting 200 participants. The event also attracted sponsors such as Runner's World and the Georgetown Running Company.

"We collected a pretty good amount of money that way," he said, adding that they would keep the funds in an account until the corporation is finalized. They are planning a second annual Capital Strider race next year.

Amernick also wants to partner the National Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. He's trying to offer the directors training programs for the races, via the Striders group, with the money eventually going toward a society or charity of the Striders' choice.

In addition to the wheelings and dealings in D.C., Rick heads up a sister organization in Northern Virginia, which boasts 770 members.

And he has put together what he described as a "cousin" group -- a D.C. trash running group. Once a month, they visit local trails like Rock Creek Park to clean up. Or, as Amernick puts it, "We basically run and pick up trash."

Amernick says he wants to continue operating the organization.

"The philosophy is always going to remain the same," he said, which is helping people meet their fitness goals in a safe and friendly environment.

"Something for everyone, essentially," he said.

But it's still all about the running.

"It's easy to be comfortable to be around people who understand what it's like to get up early on a Saturday morning and run 12 miles," he said.

dsherfinski@washingtonexaminer.com