Why a post on running within a blog that concentrates on business and technology? My first post in this series explained that one habit that I picked up on the road as a consultant over the years is always inquiring about local running paths while visiting unfamiliar locales for the first time. And I find running a pleasurable way to explore new places. Other posts have commented on how running has been a gift to me from an early age by helping me focus and providing stress relief. So in the spirit of a regular spread in Runner's World magazine called Rave Runs, I began a series of posts here to share interesting routes with other runners.
This past March, I was fortunate to visit Washington, DC for the first time. Unlike some other recent travels, such as to a Detroit area client this past month, I had time to check out the area for running opportunities ahead of time, and the Lonely Planet Washington DC City Guide made me aware of the Chesapeake & Ohio (C & O) Canal Towpath and Potomac River waterfront, which includes the recently expanded Georgetown Waterfront Park, a spot that over the course of my weeklong visit became one of my favorite landmarks for this course, which varied a bit but started from my stay at Avenue Suites Georgetown just east of Rock Creek.
The start of this course starts rather unassumingly on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and can either continue west on M Street NW through the heart of the Georgetown shopping district, or south along the ramp for Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway NW. This latter variation is what I discuss here. The first morning I ventured out for a run, I headed through the shopping district. Although I continued my habit of running early, which not only misses all the shoppers and most other runners, I soon unsurprisingly found that I would much rather hit the trails at the beginning of my runs than the uneven historic cobblestone streets running through Georgetown.
While I may be accustomed to my daily runs on the crushed limestone of the Illinois Prairie Path and Great Western Trail in the Chicago area, however, I admit that the varied running surfaces on this course were interesting. The modern cobblestone paths at the entrance to this area, which includes a national historic park, are the first options that present themselves along this course, and provide a nice diversion when touring the waterfalls along the canal for the first time, but these paths are narrow, on uneven ground, and intersect with a number of streets continuing west. If you can plan accordingly, walking along these paths at the end of your runs is optimal because of the meditative water features.
While running surfaces vary, the width of each of the connecting trails is fairly consistently narrow. This narrowness can pose issues to the runner when considering the historic cobblestone streets, and during transitions of one type of trail to another, but once on the canal towpath, provided one is not traversing them during the day, these issues are minimized. In my opinion, the towpath that runs on either side of the canal is so narrow that it can understandably feel as though it was made for the individual, especially when lost in thought midway through a run. The only drawback here is that during the course of my runs these thoughts were only a stone throw away from falling into the canal, which might not seem possible given that the photos here were taken later in my stay as a retraced my route during daylight.
Georgetown Waterfront Park provides a short rendezvous with a boardwalk along the Potomac River, which provides a beautiful view of the Arlington, Virginia skyline before sunrise, and as you can see here, a chance to see rowing teams traversing the waters, at least after sunrise. The grounds of the park are pleasant, although my visit was during the Cherry Blossom Festival season of the year, so much of the vegitation had not yet surfaced from the colder months. Some runners may want to take note that the connection to the waterfront from the towpath is made via a staircase and underneath Whitehurst Freeway NW, which provides some lighting at night, but might be a bit disconcerting.
A series of stairways mentioned previously runs on either side of the canal towpath and makes the connection back to the Georgetown shopping district along and north of M Street NW. The last photo below is included here because I want to emphasize that not only are their varied running surfaces of interest to the runner, but varied inclines as well. While the waterfront and canal towpath are even running surfaces, regardless of which routes taken the runner will need to eventually take paths that are uneven, and in the case of the historic cobblestone streets at the top of the set of stairs pictured, a fairly steep incline. But most runners will likely enjoy this aspect of the course, and as a Chicago area native I can say that I most certainly did as well.
Rave Run: Buffalo Bayou (Houston, Texas)