Sunday was the 30th running of the Capitol Hill Classic 10K, a race which suffered a course change last year due to concerns the U.S. Capitol Police had about the hordes of runners circling the streets encircling the U.S. Capitol during a race. The old CHC course went down Capitol Hill on Independence Avenue along the south side of the Capitol in the fifth mile, turned right to run across the front of the Capitol, and then went back up Capitol Hill on Constitution Avenue along the north side of the Capitol.
This rearing proclivity was tough because of its length, a third of a mile, and its lateness in the race, during the sixth mile. In the 2007 race, while climbing this interminable hill in a fog of fatigue, I experienced what it felt like to be "running underwater." (Right: The 2007 CHC course.)
In 2008, the course changed. The start and finish line remained in Stanton Square, but the hill climb became a down and back up on the south side of the Capitol, during the fifth mile. Climbing Capitol Hill this "early" in the race, especially right after descending it, just didn't provide the same system-shocking challenge. Last year my time improved by over a minute. (Left: The 2008 CHC course.)
Local running legend Jim Hage, two-time winner of both the MCM and the ATM, described the change for the Washington Running Report in its May 20, 2007 issue:
"For 28 years, the charge down and then up Capitol Hill in the final mile has presented the 10K's signature challenge. But the course [will] be changed next year according to the race director due to security issues; one cannot be too careful when thousands of men and women in short pants troop around the nation's legislative brain center early on a Sunday morning."
The CHC has a companion 3K race, which is run an hour after the 10K race and doesn’t involve any hill. Its course winds around the flat streets behind the Capitol. I have run the 3K race three times, twice after finishing the 10K race.
Although I wanted a unique personal challenge this year, I didn’t want to mislead any racers in either the 10K or the 3K races who might follow me by mistake if I strayed off the race course. I decided to incorporate the old charge around the Capitol into a bastardized version of the 3K run, and initiate my virtual 3K race at the start of the 10K race. I would run the 3K course, but add the old 10K version of the charge down and back up Capitol Hill which circled the Capitol. This would incorporate a hill into the 3K race and lengthen it by a mile.
I took off with the 10K racers from Stanton Park and ran down Massachusetts Avenue with them to Lincoln Park. Here the 10K race heads out further east to encircle RFK Stadium before turning back towards the Capitol, while the 3K race turns back towards the Capitol right away. I had to do a lot of sideways running that first half mile in the crush of 2,100 runners, but then less than four minutes later I was all by myself as I turned west on East Capitol Street while everyone else continued east towards RFK.
Volunteers were busy setting up water stations as I ran by without a number, trying to keep my speed up now that I was running alone. I ran to the back of the Capitol and turned left on 3rd Street SE to Independence. There I turned right, just like the 3K race does, but instead of turning right a block later to run north behind the Capitol to the finish line in Stanton Park, I kept on going straight and plunged down Capitol Hill. At the bottom, I turned right and ran across the front of the Capitol, and then headed back up towering Capitol Hill on the other side.
I was definitely focused and having fun on this solitary run. My feeling that I was in a "race" kept my speed up and I attacked the uphill. Attaining the top, I ran the last half mile to the finish line in the park. I was careful to veer off before I got there, however, so no one would mistake me for a racer.
My time was 21:47. For a 3K race that would suck, at 11:43 M/M, but for a 2.86 mile race, it wouldn’t be too bad, a 7:37 M/M solo effort with a hellacious hill thrown in.
My very own Virtual CHC 3K Plus One. I finished barely nine minutes ahead of the actual 10K winner, though.