It has a catchy name, Monday Night Footmall. Sasha designed it.
Each Monday night while half the adult population in America is parked on couches or barstools sucking swill and watching Monday Night Football, a dozen runners in the nation's capital are toiling down the National Mall while looking at passing national monuments shrouded in shadows.
Sasha created an alternative mid-week medium length run for the Saturday long run in the Reebok SunTrust National Half Marathon Training Program we both coach in. She directs the show out of the Fleet Feet location in the District.
She created this Monday night Mall crawl last year during the first year of the Program. The 6.5 mile evening run along the Mall leaves from her apartment building near the Watergate at 7:15 p.m., runs down 23rd Street to the Lincoln, up to and around the Capitol and comes back.
It started its second season this past Monday. I left my work late, 2 miles from its starting location, intending to join in. With only 15 minutes in which to get over there, rather than do 7:30s (traffic lights? What traffic lights? I'm a runner!) to try to get there in time, I ran over to Judiciary Square, grabbed a Smartbike, bicycled over to nearby Foggy Bottom where I dropped the bike off at a return rack over there, and ran up just as the group of twelve other runners was heading out under Sasha's tutelage. A pretty good first turn out.
We were a pretty tight bunch all the way to Lincoln, aided by the need to wait for lights at busy intersections, but on the Mall the group started to string out. It was a delightful night to be out running, cool, crisp and clear.
Up the Mall we journeyed, passing close by Vietnam and past World War Two, the Washington Monument, the various Smithsonians, the Statue Garden, and the Museum of Art. One of the group turned back here, frustrated at her lack of conditioning and the fact that she was last by a lot. I was running with her, and gave her explicit directions on how to get back, using the well-lit Constitution Avenue to achieve the diagonal street Virginia Avenue so as to travel back to near the Watergate by the most direct route.
Then I ran hard for a bit to catch up with the next couple of runners further up. Up ahead further I could see three more of our group, running together. Sasha and the lead pack were long gone from sight.
I ran with the couple the rest of the way. Both lawyers, I think they married but I'm not sure. They both were married, that's for sure. It's funny how conversations with strangers both give you information and don't.
In any case they went to law school together. And the woman had run in the same snowy marathon I had, the Inaugural Frederick Marathon in March, 2003, when it had snowed six inches during the race. My memory of that difficult run is very delightful, hers was very non-delightful. It's funny how perceptions differ.
The man was having real difficulty with the distance, so our progress was slow. The woman and I kept doubling back to collect him again. Eventually we made it up Capitol Hill, around the Capitol, and back down the Mall, cutting over to Constitution Avenue near the White House and using Virginia Avenue ourselves to shorten the distance a little. The man took a nasty tumble on a broken piece of sidewalk in the dark and, running with two lawyers who were probably married, I started thinking about liability as he lay on the ground for a bit holding his knee. But he professed to be okay and after awhile we proceeded on to the end of the run where everybody else was waiting for us. I loaded the injured party up with gratuitous advice about icing the area of discomfort, taking anti-inflammatory agents, resting the offended appendage, applying heat after 48 hours and making sure to call his doctor as a precaution. I told him my name was John Brown and I lived at 100 Main Street in Anytown.
Six and a half miles in seventy three minutes. It was a Mall crawl. I hadn't broken much of a sweat but my real workout was in getting over there on a bike, timing my pedaling on each block to make each light. DC has lights that count down the seconds left in the cycle, a device that absolutely promotes red-light running (you know, if you see the counter showing three seconds, you floor it).
I didn't get to chat with anybody in the front pack, but I sure got to know the folks in the back pack. It was fun.