Sunday, March 14, 2010

Not Bad for a Lunch Break

Good evening! Things are going quite well at this end. Our fundraiser is making significant progress, thanks to many of you, my faithful readers. My training is also going well, I'm up to 8 - 9 miles on my long runs now, and speed is slowly returning...this week's runs of 8 and 9 miles were both about 7:45 pace, so I'm getting back into shape.

This week's 8-mile run was a wonderful runner's tour of DC, and I just had to share it with you...if you're local to the DC area, I highly recommend it!

Starting at the Pentagon, I headed out through Ladybird Johnson Park (by the way, in the fall this place rocks the fall colors), and hit the Mount Vernon Trail just opposite the Pentagon. Heading north, the two-mile point is marked by the bridge to Roosevelt Island, which makes a great five-mile loop by itself -- but not today! Struggling up the steep switchback to the pedestrian overpass, I cross George Washington Parkway and head over the Key Bridge into Georgetown. The Key Bridge hits Georgetown right on M Street, and as you reach the end of the bridge you're staring directly at The Georgetown Running Company, a local icon...and a great pit stop if you need a gel, some socks, or a new pair of shoes...check their blog for some great advice on the DC running scene and local race reports. Pulling a quick 180-degree turn at the east end of the Key Bridge, a quick jog through the Francis Scott Key Memorial (located just feet from where his home used to stand in old Georgetown) lands you on the C&O Canal Towpath, right at mile 3.

This little trail is worthy of a blog all it's own, but for now just know that you're actually running on an old cartpath -- when mules pulled barges down the C&O Canal, and occasionally still do during tourist season. Nowadays, it's a great running trail, and nine days out of ten I'm the only one on it. You can see from the photos above and below -- on a beautiful spring day at noon, in the middle of downtown DC, there's not a soul in sight. Love it! The path crosses under several pedestrian overpasses, and even winds its way through a few restaurant courtyards and business patios, but still makes a great and historic section of the run, taking you from mile 3 almost to mile 4.

A hard right at the end of the towpath puts you on the Rock Creek Park Trail -- familiar territory to any Marine Corps Marathoners, who spend almost half of their marathon time on Rock Creek Parkway (at least, they did when I ran it in 2006). By the time you reached the halfway point at mile 4, turn around and look behind you -- historic Georgetown University and the Key Bridge on the left, the Georgetown waterfront on the right, and the Potomac waterfront you just ran in between.

Don't miss the fact that at this point, only halfway into the run, you've encountered no less than five National Historic Landmarks, and even ran through two National Historic Parks. Turning around and looking ahead toward the Rock Creek Park trail, the scenery gets even better and more historic -- that's the infamous Watergate Hotel complex on the left, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the middle, and barely visible in the distance is the Lincoln Memorial and the Memorial Bridge.


The trail takes you along the Potomac, and eventually up a gradual incline to the Lincoln Memorial.

No matter what bridge you run over in the DC area, you're bound to be greeted (or chased) by "the guardians." These towering (and often intimidating) statues sit on either side of the bridge, on both ends, and were usually gifts to the United States by foreign dignitaries or nations. The two greeting you as you reach the top of the hill -- one called "Music and Harvest" (pictured below) and the other called "Aspiration and Literature" -- were gifts to the United States from Italy in 1925, and both bronze mammoths stand nearly 20 feet tall, peering down on miniscule runners below as if to say, "Better keep moving, boy..."

On the other side of the Memorial Bridge, take a right on the footpath just past the Arlington Cemetery Metro stop, and wind down the hill into Arlington National Cemetery. This stretch of the memorial bridge is a popular place for protests, by the way -- almost as much a DC landmark as everything you've seen so far. This one was for the crisis in Darfur...but tomorrow it will be something else. I just smile and keep running.

Arlington National Cemetery is a humbling and majestic place. On this run, at times you can look up the hill to Kennedy's eternal flame and The Arlington House, other times you can see gravestones that stretch to the horizon...and about 50% of the time I run this route, you can see the long processional from a military funeral.

Just past the 6-mile mark, you approach the Netherlands Carillon. Not a common or well-known landmark, it's really quite impressive....from its twin bronze lions guarding the entrance to its 127-foot bell tower, it commands quite a presence. With a little forethought and accurate pacing, you can schedule your lunchtime run so that you run under the carillon as it's ringing -- it didn't happen today, but I've been lucky a few times. The Netherlands Carillon is perhaps best known because it is rumored to have one of the best views in all of downtown DC -- standing between the lions, you can see -- from left to right -- The Old Post Office, Union Station, The Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol building.

The path from the Carillon leads to one of the most famous DC landmarks, The Marine Corps War Memorial. I love this part of the run. I always slow down, and for my first year here in DC I would always stop, kneel and pray for my buddy Steve, a Marine who just returned from Iraq. Even now, I still slow down to pay respects to what Steve -- and Ty, and many others -- have done for us and for our country. God be with you, my friends, and thank you for your service.

A quick loop around the Memorial send me over the seven-mile mark and points me straight "home" to the Pentagon. Grand total -- 8.09 miles, 1:02.28, 7:43 pace. In one hour -- 8 miles, 11 National Historic Landmarks, one National Historic Park, 3 National Monuments, two angry horses, one protest, along with Watergate, the Kennedy Center, the Georgetown Running Company, and some great scenery. Not bad for a lunch break.

13 comments:

ShanonRenee said...

I'm so glad that you are getting back in shape! I'm sure that would be an amazing run (or walk in my case since I refuse to run!) I hope you continue to recover at this great pace. Hugs to your family!

jen said...

What an incredible route! Wow. I would love to do that someday! I've never been to DC and that would be a really neat way to sightsee.

So glad you are feeling well and the running is progressing. You are such a freakin rock stoar. Thank you for being such an inspiration!! :)

RA said...

Parece un sititio estupendo para entrenar. Sigo escribiendo en castellano y la verdad no se si me entiendes o si tienes a alguien que pueda traducir. Ánimo, y a seguir entrenando.

jkhenson said...

Haven't been to DC yet, so I really appreciated the tour! And I'm happy for you getting back in shape! I'm trying, but not as successful as you! :) Keep it up!

Michael said...

Thanks RA, I use Google Translator and can understand your comments...but thanks for asking! Glad you enjoy it, and good luck with your training.

權選 said...
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怡如 said...
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tagskie said...

Nice blog you got here... Just droppin' by to say hi! http://www.arts-and-entertainment.info

家銘 said...

Well done!........................................

Ben said...

Wow, great running trail! I especially like the bit along the river. Next time I visit DC I'll have to work a run in. Thanks!