In 1991, Ron Kulik and Neil McLaughlin were new grads from New York Chiropractic College who set out - without much of a plan - to open an office in Reston.
Two decades and thousands of patients later, the two are celebrating their 20th year in business at and preparing several runners for Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon.
Along with adjusting spines and caring for necks, Kulik and McLaughlin, both former college athletes, have become known in area running circles as people to see for training and treatment at their accompanying business, Personal Best Running.
Kulik, who ran at Virginia Tech, was among the top finishers in the Marine Corps Marathon in 1991 and was also named DC Roadrunner Club runner of the year during the early 1990s, which helped boost the clinic's profile. McLaughlin, who ran at St. John's (NY), also was a high-profile runner with a 4:15 mile time. Their best advertising in the clinic's early days was wearing neon orange shirts with the CCC logo, says McLaughlin.
Additionally, McLaughlin's wife, Kim, is a former Ironman Triathlete. Between the two families, there are six now athletic kids, too.
"We did not have a clue on how to run a business or practice," McLaughlin says about the first year. "But we could run fast, so the more races we won the more people wanted to know who we were and what we did. It worked out in the end."
McLaughlin says they began Personal Best shortly after starting the practice when they saw that most of the injured runners they treated did not know how to train and recover properly, or were poorly coached.
"The best success story of the program was Susannah Kvasnicka, who started out as a running mom with a time of 3:55 for the marathon," McLaughlin says. "After a few years in the program, she improved to a 2:45 marathon and qualified for the US Olympic Trials. She also won the Marine Corps Marathon."
Kulik and McLaughlin have also treated historic milers Jim Ryun and Alan Webb, the South Lakes High School grad who broke Ryun's record with a 3:53 mile; Georgetown runners John Trautmann, Steve Holman, and Rich Kenah; World Cross Country team member Peter Sherry (who now operates a sports massage business at CCC); and Potomac River Running owners Ray and Cathy Pugsley.
McLaughlin recalls the time the practice was called in to treat a top-secret runner.
"We got a call from a sports agent who wanted us to diagnose and treat the injury of a famous runner," he said. "That runner was an Ethiopian marathoner who had just won the Olympic Gold Medal. The only caveat was that we were not to tell anyone about treating him until after his next marathon because they did not want word on the street he was injured.
"The problem was that he showed up at our office with an entourage, he and his teammate in their uniforms, the coach and the agent as well," McLaughlin said. "Needless to say, they stood out from the crowd. A top U.S. runner was at the office and demanded to know who that runner was. Fortunately the secret was kept, the runner was treated and he went on to run his next marathon."
Commonwealth Chiropractic is running a 20-Year Anniversary special for new and returning patients - even if they don't have an entourage. The special includes a $50 comprehensive Chiropractic and Biomechanical Examination (including X-rays, if necessary); flexibility and range of motion assessment; gait analysis and a digital weight-bearing scanner analysis.
"We do a lot of wellness care," says McLaughlin. "A large part of our practice is running and sports injuries, but we do traditional chiropractic - neck pain, back pain, headaches - as well. Our goal has always been to treat the person, not the symptoms, and get to the cause of the condition or problem."