In looking back on the past year, it’s safe to say I’ve run a bunch… actually a whole lot. Looking back on my MapMyRun, it says I’ve logged over 1,000 miles since April at work alone. While on one hand it’s part of my job, on the other hand I do it because I enjoy it. In fact, I run for many reasons. And so as I do my own year-end introspection on running, I thought I would share my thoughts with you. I really started thinking about the why when I ran this morning, Christmas Eve morning. Though my route was not particularly new, it felt new to me. All I had to do was look, listen and breathe it all in.
Part of why I run is to explore and possibly see something new. It helps to have a trusty companion as I do in my running partner Delilah, my three year old Pit/Hound mix. If you’re a dog person, you get this. Nothing matches the energy and excitement she has for a run through the city or trails. This morning proved no different. DC is a wonderful place to run around the holidays. It’s remarkable how many people are not around and how many fresh faces are here on any given holiday. While the streets may have been the same this morning, if I think about it, they really aren’t. The city seems half empty of the regular cars and people, side streets were desolate and many more out-of-towners strolling their way around the neighborhoods. To me, running allows me to see life pass by at just the right speed. That’s right. Walking is just too slow, has minimal fitness value and doesn’t allow you to cover enough ground. Biking, while I love it, is just a bit too fast to process the little things as they pass by.
In running this great city, it can be hard to find new terrain, something you haven’t seen before. So you have to look at it from a different perspective. Take note how it’s different depending on time of day, season or even temperature. That’s one reason why I enjoy running at night when the city is quiet and I can hear myself breathe. I also enjoy running early in the morning when the city is just waking up and the sun is just rising. I can also really enjoy a run at rush hour where there’s a “frogger” like challenge to navigating traffic and pedestrians. I might be on the same road or trail, but the scenery is different and that’s what’s interesting to me.
This morning’s run took me and Delilah through the neighborhood to Rock Creek which is always a treat. Even though my route through the park was on trails that I’ve run before, I was struck by how different Rock Creek feels in the winter when all the leaves are off the trees. Parts of Rock Creek in the summer can feel as isolated as the Shenandoah when there is a healthy canopy of leaves to drown out city noise and limit your view. This winter morning I found myself looking over a ridge near Klingle Mansion and seeing the other side of the park, seeing something that I hadn’t ever noticed before. Delilah was attentive to everything too. Without abundant foliage, she spotted a number of deer from surprisingly great distances.
Then it was across town, heading down Florida Ave towards H Street, NE and Capitol Hill. It was easy to feel strong, inspired and thankful on this cold Christmas day run. The city streets were quiet; most people were surely in their homes with their families doing Christmas things. But as I neared the back side of Union Station, I came upon a different scene. The station was buzzing with activity and the contrasts could not be more stark. Hordes of happy travelers were spilling out of the front of the station to make it home for Christmas dinner. At the same time, there were also hordes of homeless folks near the station, who were likely not going home to their families that day. As all of this contrasting scenery was passing by Delilah and me, all I could do was soak it in. Each part of the city was completely different from the next.
From there we headed back up Mass Ave, through Chinatown and eventually to the Lafayette Park and the White House. Most of downtown was a ghost town with stores and offices closed. I may have even seen a tumble weed. That changed when we got to the White House. Not everyone has a day off on Christmas, such as the Secret Service standing watch protecting the White House grounds. It was clear to me that block by block this city is one of contrasts that are best observed on foot at a runner’s pace.
One final turn and I was heading back up town to my neighborhood. Ten miles and an hour and a half later, I was back home to put the finishing touches on Christmas dinner. Delilah and I were exhausted but also fully invigorated. We had seen so much and covered so much ground from parts of Rock Creek Park to Capitol Hill to the White House. We had seen people of all walks of life. We had seen the city in rare quiet and empty form. We had explored, which I think is the answer to my question, Why I Run.
Written By: Chris Geier (OutRun Director)