“You don’t become a runner by winning a morning workout. The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many day, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”
There are few sports as egalitarian as running. The cost of access is negligible. The price of success is your own effort and discipline. The facilities are everywhere. We all have our own goals, our own reasons for running. And yet, we are united, as noted in the cult classic novel Once a Runner, by the ‘trial of miles’. There is, literally, no other way. You might be training for a marathon, like I am aiming for Berlin in September. You might a novice, looking to lose a little weight and get back in some shape. You might want to run a fast 5km, or a slow 10. There is only the miles of trials and the trials of miles.
And yet, we must admit that some places are better habitats for runners than others. Washington D.C., as the winter rolls over into spring, is a joyful place to grind out miles. Winter running, especially in the north east of the United States, is hard work. The most determined of us, those who actually do make it outside amongst the sleet and snow, are wrapped in all kinds of strange gear. Face masks, gloves, beanies, leggings, jackets, compression tops. But the only other option is spending hours a week on the monotonous ‘dreadmill’. Sometimes 30 minutes meticulously rugging up for a 45 minute run seems worth it. As you might imagine, after a few months of hellish winter, spring is really something else.
Right now, the cherry blossoms are out in force down at the Mall and the Tidal Basin. A nice route is to scoot down by the Potomac, past the Kennedy Centre and then along the Mall down to the Jefferson Memorial. Weekends are getting busy, however, so this is probably best attempted on a nice weekday morning. Even for non-morning people like myself, the early quiet of an area normally teeming with people is well worth it. For variation, you can cross the river a little earlier and head up the gates of the National Cemetery at Arlington. Or, you could do repeat laps of the ellipse behind the White House, or laps of the Reflecting Pool. There is almost no end to the places that you can both run and feel you’re in an episode of The West Wing.
At the same time, I mostly prefer to feel like I’m getting out DC a little. Stroll a few miles down by Rock Creek, and you’ll have forgotten the city (and maybe your troubles) completely. A favourite route of mine is to cross the bridge at P Street and 23rd and head down to the creek via the steps on the left. Take a left and head along the creek. The trail goes for many, many miles, but I like to go just past the zoo and turn back for around a 6 mile run. The good thing about this run is that you can make it as short or long as you like, depending on how you feel.
The same goes if you take a right instead, and run next to the motorway. After about half a mile, you turn off to the right and head down along the boardwalk in front of the Swedish Embassy. After about another half mile, you’ll reach the start of the C & O Canal Path. This is a beautiful track to run on – it tracks the Potomac for a couple of miles and then heads off up into Montgomery Country, Maryland, all the while surrounded by lush trees and grass.
If you fancy a workout with a little more speed, nothing beats a proper track session. The closest track to ISH is in Georgetown at R and 38th St. The track is only 320m, rather than regular 400m, and can get a little busy. However, with relative lack of public tracks in the District, this is a pretty decent option.
Really, it is little wonder that Washington DC has been ranked the fittest major city in the United States. So what are you waiting for? Get out in the sun and do some miles.