Inexplicably, people in D.C. really like to run around. I don't mean in a get-from-point-A-to-point-B kind of way, or even in a get-hot kind of way (pro tip: That pretty much stops once your body gets used to the miles). No, we just like... running around. At least, I do. I spend a disgusting amount of money on socks, sports bras, Vaseline for chafing and weird vanilla-flavored goo (Gu, I love you) to further my career as an elite athlete. (By "elite" I mean I once ran a marathon in a record-breaking four and a half hours. Whatever, haters, it was raining.)
I've been running in this city for about a year and a half now and I have learned some valuable lessons about where to go —and where not to go. I present these to you just in time for a 100-degree heat wave, because I know you're all lacing up. Run for life, guys.
Click maps to enlarge.
Don't go here unless it's the middle of the goddamn night. There are herds of slow-moving tourists, clutching their selfie sticks and DSLRs, giant packs of hostile high-school students that spread and contract like mercury, cloying popcorn trucks and the occasional asshole running a 6-minute mile who somehow seems to dodge all of this effortlessly (fuck you, 6-minute-mile man).
That said, this is awesome late at night or early in the morning. The scaffolding around the Capitol makes it look like it's shrouded in ectoplasm and the Washington Monument is exactly as advertised lit up in the dark.
This is one of my favorite routes in the District. You hop on in Georgetown, run past where the boys are fishing carp out of the canal, then head towards Pittsburgh. (I'm serious, it actually goes to Pittsburgh.)
You can stay on the Towpath all the way to Pittsburgh if you want, or you can split off on to the paved Capital Crescent Trail. This has a nice, steady uphill climb that I love and offers some really spectacular views of the Potomac. 'Gramming is acceptable.
Admittedly, I am not big on running in town. I hate stopping for traffic, pedestrians make me angry; also, sometimes when you're running in urban areas you will just randomly smell urine/garbage and that really harshes my vibe. But if you want to do it, the Admo/Meridian Hill Park/Woodley area isn't a bad way to go, primarily because most of the bars in Admo are perfectly appropriate places to patronize while sweaty. Madams, what?
Get out of town every now and again! This is a pretty, well-maintained paved trail along a creek with an absolutely soul-crushing hill at the trail-head. Highly recommended, although I would not run this at night. Landmarks: Lots of cool dogs and an old stone mill.
Parking on the weekends: The principal's spot at Roscoe Nix Elementary School is usually open...
Ugh, if I must. Let me just say, when I first arrived in D.C., I was all: OMG, Rock Creek, it's going to be my replacement Central Park, it's so convenient, it's so green and pretty and there's lil' spotted fawns frolicking, I'm going to run here every day!
And I did... for about six days, until I realized that unlike Central Park, pretty much all you can do is out-and-backs, which are boring as hellllll. Also, you can see NO ZOO ANIMALS from the trail, which seems like an enormous waste to me and also super unfair. THANKS OBAMA.
That said, Rock Creek is mad convenient, so if you need to hop on for a quick 5K after work, this is the place to do it. I also like scrambling up and down the trail entrance at P and 22nd after a big rain storm because it makes me feel like I'm in Jurassic Park. The first one guys, not the new one.
Props to Charlotte, N.C.'s Mary Gross for this idea! If you're in Charlotte, you should read her guide to roads to run.