Nineteen eager runners and walkers showed up Saturday for my club's twelve-week 10K Group Training Program, which I am directing. After checking in with the Half-Marathon Training Program in South Arlington at 8 a.m., I hot-footed it out to Falls Church (in my car) to greet the newbie runners of the 10K Program at 9 a.m.
There were some hesitant newcomers out there already when I arrived, sure they'd come to the wrong place, the top of a deserted parking structure. I set up the first meeting and sign-up site on the top level of the sole parking garage at the West Falls Church Metro Station. It is six levels, the tallest structure in Falls Church. I figured if a DC runner couldn't find his or her way there, well, the training group would probably do better without such a directionally-challenged person.
Last year we met for the first time at the Lincoln Memorial. Easy to find for DC residents, right? Think again. Most people were with the main group on the east side of the mausoleum, overlooking the Reflecting Pool (think, I Have A Dream speech). However, a mini-group was on the west side overlooking the Potomac, wondering where everyone was. (Above: Last year the Park Police kept a close eye on us. That's returning coach Bob on the right.)
That site was no good. It was so cold last year that the ink in the pens froze. When I looked at the sign-up sheets later all they contained were heavy scratch marks. I felt like I was examining hanging chads in Florida as I held each one up to the light to try and make it out. You can't collect money on National Park Service land so the Park Police were there watching us closely. Our cars were parked a quarter mile away. Did I mention it was freezing?
So I tried a new approach this year. If we met on top of the WFC parking structure, there would be plenty of room to park and stretch on the deserted parking deck. I could spot any renegade groups. There was a beautiful view overlooking, ahem, the picturesque George Mason High School athletic fields, which included the second tallest structure in Falls Church, the baseball diamond backstop. We could wait in our warm cars until we got underway. It was only half a mile from my house.
My friend D accused me of setting the meeting place there so I could make the runners run up the six levels of the parking structure at the end. I denied this but thought, What a great idea! (Below: The view from the top. To the right are the poles of the high school's quarter-million dollar backstop, designed to prevent foul balls from smashing into fast moving cars on the Interstate a mere sixty feet away.)
Six volunteer coaches came, the life blood of American recreational running. We took the elevators down to ground level and then ran to the W&OD Trail a mile away. There, some runners in a state of near-collapse returned with some of the coaches for a two-mile outing. The rest went down the trail half a mile and returned for a 5K run. And yes, a few runners ran up the ramps to their cars at the end, adding 0.6 miles of hill work to their morning.
It was a great start.