“Is it a loop or an out-and-back?” The constant question for any runner when planning a route.
If you asked me which one I prefer…it’s a tough call. My answer would likely vary day to day. Are there enough cross streets to form a loop? (Or more likely a strangely shaped polygon.) Do I want the freedom to be able to simply turn around at any point and know exactly how far I’ll have to run back? Would I get bored running the same path back? Or is there a destination I really want to get too but know if I ran all the way there, my legs would be helpless to carry me back home.
That last one. That’s been my problem all year.
When I matched to the University of Maryland Dietetic Internship almost exactly one year ago (good luck in the match tonight all prospective interns!) I was really excited about the program, but also about the idea of running in DC. For some reason, although I was well aware the program was based between Baltimore and College Park, I pictured myself running past the iconic monuments on Saturday mornings or during the evenings after work. I had visions of dodging through groups of tourists and stopping for a stretch break on the edge of the Potomac.
When I moved to College Park, I quickly realized running from my house to the monuments regularly was not in the cards.
Key word: regularly.
In the past eight months I have yet to do anything that wasn’t “regular,” but this weekend I employed one of those key tricks (using your resources) and broke the norm.
The Anacostia River Trail runs all the way from College Park through a few other suburbs, Kenilworth Marsh, Anacostia Park and along the river until reaching Navy Yard on the southern side of DC.
From College Park (just North of the University of Maryland campus) along the trail to Navy Yard is about 16 miles. From there, running up New Jersey Avenue, around the Capitol and down the mall to the Washington Monument brings you to 18 miles.
With three marathons under my belt, one way, it’s doable. But as an out-and-back (don’t even suggest a loop)…needless to say I don’t think I’m quite up to that on a casual Saturday morning.
But who said I had to run back? What do you think I purchased a metro card for? (Besides getting to work, seeing friends and just simply functioning in DC.)
Instead of turning around and probably getting lost trying to find the Anacostia trail again while running 18 miles home…I stopped, took a lot of pictures of the cherry blossoms, dodged in and out of tourist groups on my way to the Potomac and propped my leg up for the once dreamed of stretch break…then I ran just one more mile to the metro and used my non-muscle resources to get myself home.
Is there a place, just a little bit too far away from your home that you’d always wanted to run? The metro might not be able to help you (especially if you live 100s of miles away from DC), but I’m sure there is some other resource that can (a loving friend or family member with a functioning car is typically a good option).
So instead of limiting your options to loop or out-and-back, next time toss in the idea for a straight away and enjoy the sights you don’t often get to see.