On the Run: Enjoying the D.C. Area's Trails and Parks

I have always enjoyed running, and thankfully both Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., have a bunch of excellent places to escape the world and go running for a couple of miles. While I have tried to go experience all different place to exercise, two runs in particular have by far been my favorite: running along the Mount Vernon Trail and completing a run along the National Mall.

From where I am staying in Arlington, an entrance to the Mount Vernon Trail is only half a mile away, so I am able to head to the trail a few times a week in order to clear my mind and enjoy the scenery. The Mount Vernon Trail is an asphalt bike trail that is 18 miles long and connects George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate with Theodore Roosevelt Island. While a the path is filled with cyclists, I have only used the path for running so I must admit that I have never travelled in one direction farther than three miles or so, because I have to run back just as far as I ran out! Still, even though I have only seen a few miles of the trail at a time, the sights are great. I have been able to pass through Gravelly Point, which is a field right by the Ronald Reagan International Airport, and I have been able to see airplanes take off and land from the area. The Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove is another area I have been able to run through, and with beautiful flowers and full trees everywhere along the grove, I understand why the Grove is called a “living memorial.”

The Trail also goes along the Potomac River, so it can actually feel quite cool and breezy. However, not everything about my runs have been perfect. Once, I was still out my run a little too late in the night, and some type of bug (maybe flies or gnats) were out and about it clusters by the river, and they proved to be quite the nuisance as I wrapped up my evening run. I have been careful not to be by the river when those insects are active ever again.

While the Mount Vernon Trail is a conveinent location for me, I have also taken time to be a bit more adventurous. On of my favorite runs took me through the city of D.C., particulary through the National Mall. Although half of the National Mall is currently under construction, one Saturday morning I hopped off the metro at Foggy Bottom and looped around the monuments and memorial half of the National Mall. By the end of the run, I had completed six miles and I definitely want to repeat the run before I leave the area. I had the opportunity to circle the Washington Monument, run alongside the Reflecting Pool, and sprint up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

During my run at the National Mall, I also pass quite a few memorials, including the World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and Vietnam War Memorial. After I had finished the run and cooled down a bit, I went to check out the memorials up close. The most striking one for me was the Vietnam War Memorial, as the glistening black walls of the memorial slowly delved into the ground, representing all the soldiers that lost their lives in the war. I had recently completed a novel titled Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, and so it was very humbling and sobering to see the names of so many Americans that lost their lives in a foreign war, many of which were my age or younger.

All in all, it has been great that every activity I have taken part of in D.C., running included, has been able to connect to the history and culture of the area. While I have loved the trails and scenery in D.C., I am excited to continued my habit of running in Williamsburg in just a few weeks.