A week ago yesterday, I did 16.3 miles in SE DC and PG County with a couple of friends. I'm not sure either one is still talking to me.
I’m adventurous. At least once a year I like to do a long run in SE along the back half of the course of the first National Marathon. I didn’t run that inaugural race but I paced a friend through its last six miles, along some hugely rolling topography that I call the seven hills of hell. I admire her for finishing that marathon upon encountering that stretch.
Since abandoned, that part of the course snaked through SE DC and Prince Georges County (MD), over some serious hills and past some terrible urban blight. Nobody, especially irate, delayed motorists, was happy with that part of the course. They don’t see a lot of runners over there. As in, maybe, none.
After being a slacker all summer, traveling by boat down the Grand Canyon for a week and then running short distances with 10Kers in training, I wanted to see if I had a base of 16 miles. I asked Emily and Sasha, both fellow coaches in the training program I administer for my running club, to come along.
We set off on our 16.2 mile run from MP 10 of the old course, on the north side of the John Philip Sousa Bridge over the Anacostia, and ran into SE where we turned up Minnesota Avenue. Our first uphill started there, a gentle incline up to Fort Dupont. A detour into that park picked up a hill going in and coming back out, and was the only naturally scenic part of the run. Otherwise, the run was in a concrete jungle on a highway wasteland. Broken glass and other rubbish littered the ground everywhere.
Mounting a severe hill once out of the park, we entered PG County. Attaining Pennsylvania Avenue again, we ran east for miles on a four lane divided highway that passed apartment complexes that inexplicably bore signs proclaiming "Breathtaking Views."
"Maybe they mean the view is so bad it leaves you breathless," muttered Emily as she surveyed the endless procession of cars whizzing by us on the barren expanse of blacktop we were running on.
I missed our turn to the north. Apparently the road I was looking for changes its name a short ways before it cuts across Pennsylvania Avenue out there.
I soon could tell we were lost, miles from the District. I discussed with the others how we could cut north to Central Avenue and hit a Metro Station and hop aboard a train to return to the District. I had brought fare cards, just in case. Both my companions were looking more than dubious. They were looking pissed.
We asked for directions and got some wild suggestions about where to go. Everyone was really polite but nobody seemed to know much about the roadways other than from a driving perspective. Since I had run over there at least twice before, I had a vague idea of where to go. Finally we hit upon the road I was looking for and made our way up to Central Avenue, over near FedEx Field.
Turning west, we headed back towards the District, running on the narrow shoulder of the busy four lane highway filled with tailgaters heading out well before eleven a.m. to the Redskins game. Several honked at us to get out of the way. I guess they were worried that we might delay for a few seconds their arrival hours early at an empty parking. Less drinking time, you know. Or maybe they were already drunk. We sure didn’t see any other runners over there during the entire three hours.
We ran by the last Metro Station 14 miles into our trip. The hills out there were just as hellacious as I remembered, but soon RFK Stadium hove into view. We ran under a highway overpass, across the Anacostia again and gratefully pulled up at RFK, footsore after running 16.3 miles in 2:52:59 (10:37).
Man that run sucked! Running over there is always an adventure. But I know two friends who aren’t running in SE with me ever again.