Length: 10.8 km (6.7 miles), terrain contains one gentle hill
Washington Running Routes:
National Mall and monuments
For more running routes, see the Route List.
Sometimes I'm overcome by a usually dormant feeling of hope, a stirring of pride. It doesn't happen often, but, suddenly, there it was when I checked into my hotel in Washington last week. Washington is back to life.
The city had seen dark times as the murder capital of America (a difficult honor to achieve in the drug-fueled gang wars of 1980s American cities). But a coalition of urban pioneers who risked their lives and fortunes to bring back one seedy neighborhood after another has breathed new life into this city, and the results are a livable community full of breath-taking sights.
|Row houses in Foggy Bottom|
A wide swath of beautifully restored row-houses also provide pleasant running streets from Georgetown eastwards past the Capitol, and southwards towards the Southwest Freeway.
In my opinion, there are three top running routes from central Washington:
1. A tour of the national monuments surrounding the Mall.
2. A run along the riverfront from the triangle to Georgetown.
3. A run up the park-lands of Rocky Creek towards the zoo.
This run will concentrate on the national monuments in Washington's federal heart, also the town's main running area. Unfortunately, I last ran it in winter, in the dark, as the pictures witness.
NOTE: This was only my second trip to Washington. The first was 38 years earlier, as a student reporter following a group of protesters at Richard Nixon's second inauguration, back during the last phases of the Vietnam War. At the time, Nixon was attempting to win a better bargaining position at peace talks by means of a massive bombing campaign, blanketing Vietnam's neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos with B-52 raids.
A group of Zippies was protesting by marching to the Lincoln Memorial with a giant papier-maché rat with Nixon's face, with a blood-soaked doll in its mouth. Their motto was "Rat-ify the peace treaty now" for a counter-inauguration of the "Coronation of King-Rat". At Constitution Avenue, police confiscated the rat. The scene was surrealistic, but the bizarre humor fit the troubled spirit of the times.
The DC National Monuments Route
We'll start the route just north of the Mall, in Foggy Bottom, a neighborhood dominated by George Washington University. There is a Metro station here, so it's easy to get to. The Metro Station is at the corner of I Street and 23rd St. NW., right in the middle of the university campus. The university was founded at the behest of George Washington, as an academy for future leaders.
Just run straight south on 23rd Street, through campus and then past the US State Department (which has the nickname "Foggy Bottom", after the neighborhood).
In 6 blocks, you come to the Mall, a long east/west park going from the Potomac River to the Capitol building. You will see the Greek-temple styled Lincoln Memorial directly ahead. Run towards it. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is on your left side, and you might want to take a detour to take a look. It is a simple depression in the lawn, bordered by a wall covered with the names of fallen soldiers, simple and moving.
|Lincoln Memorial at night|
The Korean Veterans Monument is off to the right. Even at night, you'll find people silently visiting and photographing the war memorials. I felt humbled by their reverence.
|Looking towards the Washington Monument|
After running through the World War II Memorial, you'll come to the Washington Monument. If you lean against its stone walls and look up, you're guaranteed to feel some vertigo.
After the Washington Monument, the Mall will become narrower, with a row of museums lining it on both sides. The Smithsonian Museums on the right side are my favorites, especially the Aerospace Museum. You can look in several of its giant windows to view the main exhibits as you go. You can decide to either run close to the buildings on the right side or stay in the middle of the park.
|Looking into the Smithsonian windows: wow!|
This side is also completely free to public access, and you can run around the east side to the main entrance steps. Now turn your back to the Capitol and run eastwards again, through the last bit of park. You will run straight towards two of Washington's most imposing buildings, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court.
|The Capitol Building main entrance|
This side has several art museums, and the Natural History Museum. In the winter, the sculpture garden is full of ice-skaters.
|The ice-skating rink, with the National Archive in the background|
Run to the left (west) along the street (E Street). In just a block, you'll come to another little park, Rawlins Park, which you can run through.
At 21st Street, turn right to run north through the George Washington University campus again. At I Street, turn left and run the last 2 blocks back to the Metro station.