July 7, 2011, Washington, DC: Over time, I’ve learned why I enjoy running. It’s not because I like the feeling of running itself; I don’t. I can’t stand running on a treadmill. But I like it because I like how I feel once it’s over. And I love it because it’s a great pace at which to see a place. Any place, really.
I try to keep this in mind this evening as I embark on an unbearably hot run-turned-walk around Capitol Hill. I venture out only because it’s time to get back on the horse after so much food and drink and celebration. It’s time to get a move on. The honeymoon’s over.
Luckily, (temperature not included), running is not a punishment in this part of town. It is scenic and spacious and green. Ignoring the stifling humidity, Washington, DC is a fantastic city for runners. So is Chicago. So is San Francisco. So is Manhattan.
In each of these cities, I’ve relied on a few go-to routes, typically tread at dusk. On more tolerable evenings on Capitol Hill, I head directly west through Folger Park, then down the House side of the Hill behind the Rayburn building. I cross Independence Ave. in front of the Museum of the American Indian and continue west down the National Mall into the sunset. If I’m feeling extra energized, I’ll head as far as the Washington Monument before turning back up the far side of the Mall and the Senate side of the Hill. Ideally, I’ll cross over the East plaza of the Capitol and head towards the Supreme Court just as the sky dips from bright purple and gold into a deep blue.
On a less ambitious day like today, I choose a more shaded route that keeps me atop the Hill, rounding the Folger Shakespeare Library, running east on the wide, tree-lined East Capitol Street, circling through Lincoln Park, and returning home via one of my favorite stretches of the area, North Carolina Ave. until I reach Eastern Market.
It is different in every city, but the feeling — that feeling of ‘I love this place’ — remains the same. In Chicago, it’s a run along the shores of Lake Michigan. In DC’s Woodley Park, it’s a summer route that weaves through the National Zoo because that’s the only route I can think of with overhead sprinklers. In Manhattan, it’s Riverside Park. In San Francisco, it’s a pine-scented trail through Tennessee Valley, racing the sun to get out to the beach and back before dark. In foreign or unfamiliar places, it’s an adventure, a way to get a feel for new surroundings. I recall a run through Nice, France (where nobody runs)… a run down a country road in Wyoming… runs along the river in Brisbane, Australia alongside the ferry shuttling people to and from downtown.
It’s official: Approximately six miles per hour is a good pace for exploration. And the end of the honeymoon isn’t all that bad.