My club has a Saturday Long Run (SLR), which I rarely go to because I am usually busy with coaching duties on Saturdays. The hard-core SLRers speak reverentially about it though, almost like it's a mystical experience. I know of several runners who have taken apartments near its starting point at the Iwo Jima statue in Arlington, so important is it to them. There must be something liberating about a long run through the nation's capital early on a Saturday as the city is starting to stir, followed by twenty minutes of conversation with tired, sweaty and happy like-minded people before getting on with the rest of the weekend's activities. I know its a place where enduring friendships are forged.
Because I am between training programs currently, I went to it on Saturday. The schedule called for 13 miles, the Piney Branch Route, up north through the District from Arlington past George Washington University, through Dupont Circle and up by the Scottish Rite Temple near McMillian Reservoir before turning back down Rock Creek Park to achieve Arlington again via the soft dirt track of the C&O Canal Towpath in Georgetown and a different bridge. (Right: 13 miles of meandering delight.)
It was 1:48 of magical running all right. I ran with tall T for awhile talking about club people we both knew, until he donked himself on a low lying tree branch and dropped back (he was alright). We ran by the cascading fountain in Meridian Hill Park and the statue of Joan of Arc in Malcolm X Park up on 16th Street, which I hadn't seen for years. I chatted up B, recently moved here with her husband, who recently ran a 4:00:20 marathon. Diplomatically, I asked how that felt. She had gone through the various stages of grief (shock, disbelief, denial, anger, acceptance) at just missing breaking four hours for the marathon, but now she was cool with it. She repeated a wise aphorism that tomorrow is always another day. She lost at least three minutes waiting on a port-potty line late in the race. Use the bushes next time, I counseled. (Left: The Scottish Rite Temple on 16th Street.)
(Right: Joan of Arc provides inspiration for weary SLRers.) I ran the last five miles on my own, pushing the pace, running by people. It felt good, my best long run since February, when I hurt my toe on a 12 mile run and my running fell off a cliff as a result. Maybe my base is finally back to something decent again. I bonked the last mile and ran it very slowly, although I saved enough energy in reserve to turn and wave back to a trucker who unnecessarily gave me a long blast of his air horn (and sped up) when I dashed across an intersection as the light turned red for me and green for him. Territorial imperative, I guess, and his rig started to slow after my return salute to him but, in traffic, he then kept on going onto the highway. I watched out for his truck the rest of the way, though, so as not to be surprised.
Afterwards I spoke with a person from work whom I didn't know and who was at her first SLR, and a few other people. Then it was off to the office to spend the rest of the day editing the club newsletter, a duty that fell to me when nobody else would take it on. Yesterday was a day of travel and preparation for work, for a deposition in Florida later this morning. Yep, it was a good start to the weekend all right. (Left: Running by the fountain in Meridian Hill Park provides stairwork.)