Running in Washington, D.C.

My Vacation, part two: Washington DC, Running in a Tropical Storm, and Hanging Out on a Hotel Room Bed.

I last wrote about my 3.5 days in the marvelous city of NYC with the Gentleman (who had never been!). 

We caught a bus out of Manhattan for the 4.5 hour drive to Washington D.C. in the wee hours of Saturday morning the weekend before last, as buzz about hurricane Sandy's approach spread.  I thank my lucky stars we didn’t plan our vacation in reverse, something we had considered, which would have had us in our old, dirty, fragile NYC hotel instead of our much more comfortable (and out of harms way) D.C. hotel during the hurricane.

I don’t think we really caught wind (har har) of the seriousness of the hurricane rumors until Saturday afternoon.  It became increasingly clear that the storm would hit right when we were supposed to fly home – Tuesday – and for fear of being stuck in DC for who knows how many days, missing work and paying for a hotel, we scrambled to try and get out early.  Everything Sunday was sold out, so we picked 6:00 a.m. Monday morning.  Spoiler alert: that flight was cancelled.

Who cares about your vacation, talk about running!

The Washington DC Run:

I was giddily anticipating a run or several in Washington DC, because during my semester there as a college student intern I ran...a lot.  A lot a lot a lot.  Back in college I ran 7 days a week, barring weather, probably somewhere between 8-15 miles each day (pre-Garmin days y'all. I never knew what distance I was running).  

It had been a solid 8 years since I last visited the many sidewalks, bridges, steps, trails that I regularly ran over, so my memories of my favorite routes were blurry and dreamlike.  I didn’t know if I’d be able to find and retrace them,  or if they'd be as magical as I remembered.  The city layout always confused me and made running difficult (with its star shaped streets that burst out of “circles” instead of a simple tic-tac-toe grid). 

Happily, I was still able to find some of my favorite paths.  I ran around Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle, my old temporary neighborhood; I ran through Georgetown, running by and trying to cheer for all the Marine Corps Marathoners (had no idea this was on that weekend!); and my favorite of all, I ran over the leaves and boardwalks of the Theodore Roosevelt island.

A little drowned from the Storm, but that boardwalk is dreamy to run on

I would love to run the Marine Corps Marathon one day, if I can ever convince myself to travel for a race.  It seemed pretty spectacular.  It's like a trip through American history while you run, how nerd cool is that?

We tried to cram our planned 3-days of activities around D.C. into one day, before our earlier flight home (or unbeknownst to us, before our hotel hibernation).  One of you recommended a morning kayak adventure around the Potomac river, and oh man I was excited to do that (great recommendation!). Until, of course, water became the thing that everyone was supposed to stay very far away from.   

We picked it up to view most memorials, the Capitol, hit three museums on the Mall, ate a lot of food (the fry bread in the American Indian Museum is scrumptious), and watched the Giants win the World Series.

West coast taking over
Relevant, cause this dress was just re-elected for First Dress

We learned our flight was canceled, booked an extra two nights in the hotel, ran in the early bits of the hurricane (pictures in the linked-post are fixed), I posted about it to entertain myself. 

In all honesty we had a fun-ish and memorable time adjusting to our vacation.  It was a sight to see all the hotel mates milling about in the lobby, the hotel restaurant earning the BEST business it had ever seen when all of its occupants were on lock-down inside.  Lights flickered but never shut off; the food thankfully did not run out; the bar was hopping.  The tiny hotel gym, with 3 treadmills and 2 ellipticals, was packed with people happy for a hamster wheel over sitting in their beds. 

I ran on the treadmill one morning, and it was depressing how slow I feel I’ve gotten from the past several months of running, then taking a break, then running, then taking a break.  Maybe it was a bad run, but when I tried to hover near 8.8 mph (close to the 6:50 mile pace that earlier this year I was gunning for as my goal marathon pace) I felt like I was wheezing!  I couldn’t handle it.  I’m hoping it was just a very broken and challenging treadmill. 


In a poncho

To hug you

Now that it's way less relevant, less saucy, and less helpful, I'll take a small bite at all the discussions last week.

I'm a mere bystander (not a "by standard"—I can’t tell you how many people I know who think “bystander” is “by standard”) to the hurricane and cancellation of the NYC marathon.  My cousin/aunt/uncle/brother/parents didn’t lose a home, and I wasn’t signed up for the marathon, so I have no dog in this fight.  I merely lost two days of my planned vacation to the innards of a hotel room.  

(Boo-hoo, I know.  Surely having emotion about a failed vacation is even more reprehensible than being sad that a marathon you were training for is cancelled.  We’re all terrible insensitive people! Unless you are physically doing something RIGHT NOW like handing over money or food or repairing damaged property, in which case, the internet approves of you).

However, in the wake of the NYC marathon cancellation, a race which may forever be tainted even though people will claim it came back stronger and better than ever next year, I have two thoughts/observations.

1) Runners are Individuals and Not a Herd of Rude Stampeders

From the chatter of non-runners (and maybe even some runners) last week, you’d think running was among the seven deadly sins, right in between gluttony and greed.  You’d think these runners were insisting that all of a sudden, they wanted to fly to New York City, buy a box of donuts, and sit on a luxurious couch with a front row view of people trying to clean up the streets of New Jersey, while a cabana boy feeds grapes (and donuts) into their mouth.  Do something celebratory while others are suffering.

Running is a hobby or a passion just like any other.  It may be considered a selfish one, at least compared to the hobby of volunteering at the hospital or food kitchen or tutoring inner-city kids.  But running makes people happy, and physically and mentally healthy. Running is stress relief for many people.  They may feel the need to run even more so than usual in the wake of a catastrophe for a little breather away from the stress.  Not particularly ill-intended to run amidst hard times, on an individual level (clearly the complication here was the massive number of runners and resources they would require).  Nonetheless, I heard some real disgust with runners, even as individuals last week.  

Every time you run or indulge in your selfish hobby of choice, there is probably a local cause you could be devoting time to instead.  The best you can do is to try to balance your life between how much focus is on "me me me" and the people you love, versus people you don’t know.  For example, you can vote in a way that supports the good of the community rather than your own pocketbook (did ya!?).  

But in general, it is normal to spend the majority of your days thinking about things that immediately affect you and your family and friends.  It is normal to want to run a marathon that you trained months for.  It is not despicable. Helping others in a way that is appropriate to you is wonderful, but I don’t fault people for focusing on themselves.  It’s our nature.

This observation is not related to whether the NYC marathon should have taken place--a doomed prospect with the vision of hindsight.  My observation is strictly about the noise that was directed at "runners" in the wake of the stress, desperation, and frustrations last week. “We don’t need you running! It’s disgusting how selfish you are! If you run, it better be to transport gas or food!”  

I just hope the bad taste from the messy marathon decision doesn't linger on runners, individually or as a group (unless a given runner really is a jerk, then hate on).  They're already so unlikable with their snot rockets, their stinky 'pits, their short shorts, their chunky watches, their Gu wrappers, their lies about running a two-fifty-somethin' marathon, their chatter about splits.  Let's not add city stomping conspirers to the list!

2) The Power of Complaining on the Internet

I don’t know if the marathon would have been canceled without the fervent feedback.  Maybe they would have discovered the impossibility of the task on Friday evening no matter what.

But I assume the decision to cancel was heavily based on the feedback that NYRR and Mayor Bloomberg received, and in massive part, from the internet.

Pretty cool.  The internet allows voices to spread and be heard, and in mass, it is powerful. 

This almost makes me think I need to step up my internet complaining.  Who, me, complain? Who's with me!?

So sorry for dredging up this outdated topic of the marathon cancellation.  Talk to me about something else instead.  
What kind of reputation do you think runners generally have?
Do you miss old running routes from a place you used to live? 
Do you run when times are hard or do you curl up on the couch with brownies instead?
Is this the most questions I have ever asked you?