Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Wooden Stairs at Fletcher's...

A Little Run on the C&O. This morning the TMG which I direct for my club passed its halfway mark, six weeks done and six more to go before Army. I "led" the middle group, and we went eight miles on a grand loop through Georgetown starting at Fletcher's Boathouse on the dirt C&O Towpath, going over two bridges in the process. Since the morning was cool, a rarity in DC in August, the running wasn't onerous. Still, I could tell it stretched the endurance of the group, after going from a base of three miles to seven in the first five weeks, so next week we'll stay an additional week on eight miles before we resume our march to a ten mile base.
We ran down the C&O to Rock Creek Park, then down to and over the Memorial Bridge. The halfway mark was midpoint on the bridge. The back stairs of the Lincoln Memorial go down to the bank of the Potomac River just before the bridge, a series of maybe 100 low marble steps. I ran down them three at a time and then back up for a little bit of extra work. A group of seven or eight athletes were down there also working the steps, carefully balancing on a step, bending low, then leaping, both feet together and knees raised towards the chest each hop, three steps at a time. When they emerged on the veranda leading to the back of the Lincoln, they swigged some water stashed up there in backpacks and turned to go down to the bottom of the stairs again. I asked them what sport they were preparing for.

"The sport of life," said the leader, looking at me hard to see if I was a heckler.

"The grandest sport of them all," I said agreeably.

He invited me to join them. "Every Saturday morning we're here," he said.

It certainly looked hard. I was tempted to try it. All of the athletes were perspiring but even better, except for the leader they were all women. But by then I was on another task.

The two runners at the back of the group hadn't come by yet. While the rest of the runners went over the Memorial Bridge and then cut up the Mount Vernon Trail on the Virginia side to the Key Bridge to return to Fletcher's by running over that back to the C&O, I had to backtrack to find the missing pair, last seen running together. The main group was being led by their regular volunteer coach.

I'm a terrible person, I admit it. While there are 63 persons in the TMG, I can assign a name to a face to only about twenty of them. Embarrassingly, they all know my name. I find myself saying, "Oh, hi!" a lot. Everybody on the planet knows that's shorthand for, "I'm sorry but I haven't bothered to learn your name yet!"

There were a lot of groups out this morning in Rock Creek Park. Montgomery County Road Runners, some Team in Training types, GW Road Runners. I chatted 'em all up as I leapfrogged from group to group, but no DC Roadrunners except for one stray from the program who was independently doing ten miles on her own as she gets ready to do the The Parks Half-Marathon before doing Army. She wasn't a stray that I was looking for. I ran all the way back to Fletcher's by reversing the first half of the route, arriving several minutes before anyone from the main group. The last two miles on the C&O I pressed the pace and practised picking runners off. I was probably doing straight eights by then. In all I did about eight miles in about 69 and a half minutes.

The two missing runners were there, having turned back early. Soon athletes from the other two groups showed up as well, the fast group, which did nine miles on the blacktop Capital Crescent Trail, and the novice group which ran seven miles between the bridges on the C&O.

A Scare. There was some excitement at the hydration point. I had brought the groups' replenishments to the starting point of the run in a backpack, which I left there, unzipped with the bottles of water and Gatorade showing, along with empty cups. Some scared witless American had called the Park Police to report a suspicious package at the top of the wooden stairs leading down to the boat rental shack. Of all the vast array of soft targets available in America, the wooden stairs next to the jogging trail at Fletcher's Boathouse must be at the top of the list! Threats to America are real, but do you remember when we weren't all scared of everything all the time?

Are we following these guys? Here's a clip from YouTube you might like, the Great Bird Hunter presciently calling the occupation of Baghdad a "quagmire." In 1994. Uhh, I think Darth and his sidekick the Decider had something to do with American scaredy-catness.

Odds & Sods. Metro Run & Walk, a good running shoe store in the area, had a signing at their Falls Church store on Thursday night with Alan Webb and Samia Akbar. I got Webb, the American mile record holder at 3:46:91, to sign something for a running friend of mine who is looking to overcome a longstanding time barrier in a race later this year. I had Akbar, who placed twelfth at New York last year in her marathon debut in 2:34:14, sign something for another running friend who is overcoming injuries. Akbar was only, umm, one hour fourteen minutes and twenty seconds faster than me.

She is absolutely lovely and a warm person to boot. She reflected a moment on what little I told her about my friend's adversity and then wrote something very personal and thoughtful. She's not going to get rich quick if she starts attending autograph sessions for money because she added something personal to every signature she gave out, beyond the usual good-luck stuff.

I hope each inscription is inspiring to each friend. Local legend the bionic Ted Poulos was there getting his picture taken with Webb. Three great runners in their own rights (did I say that right?).

I donated blood yesterday for the fifth time this year. I'm still a boring stick-in-the-mud because I haven't done anything wild yet to get booted off the donor list like getting a tattoo or a body piercing or traveling to a Channel Island or having a wild night of...uh, never mind.

Thanks. I want to thank my friend and running mate Beth for her generous support of my effort to run Chicago for a charity, A Running Start. Thanks, Beth! I'm sorry I insulted the Bosox.


Danielle in Iowa said...

Our coolers just get stolen, not called in as terrorist threats :-) Granted, I am in Iowa, not DC :-)

jeanne said...

why do i always miss all the excitement??!

i CANNOT believe someone called in a backpack at FLETCHERS! that's nuts.

sounds like a grand workout though. love the hopping ladies. Sorry you had to run all the way back to find the missing persons.

The other day while at the bus stop, a bus roared up with its sign saying "HELP, CALL 911." No one moved. It roared right past us. We all treated it like a car alarm.