Friday, April 26, 2013

Best Running Paths in DC

Here is the column I wrote on DC's best running paths that was posted on

As the weather is getting warmer, many are coming outside in hopes to get in shape for the summer. We thought we’d ask frequent runner Kenny Ames to give us his best running paths in DC.

Best Running Paths in DC

I have run an estimated 20,000 miles in almost nine years of running, most of them on the streets, trails, and paths right here in the Greater Washington area through heat and cold and all forms of precipitation. Here are my favorite routes:

Best trail: C&O Canal

With its entrance tucked underneath the Key Bridge, this flat path follows the Potomac River for miles into Maryland and beyond. It is perfect for beginners as there are bathrooms and water fountains just a few miles down at Fletcher’s Boathouse, a good turnaround point for those only looking for a short run. The trail draws many of the area’s runners so it can get crowded. There are fewer bicyclists on the C&O since it is a dirt path and road bikes tend to stay clear, preferring the paved Capitol Crescent, which it intersects at Fletcher’s.

Best route for a negative split: Capital Crescent Trail

If you start at its base at the Key Bridge, this paved path makes a crescent-shaped arch from Georgetown into Bethesda and Silver Spring. It rises in elevation as you leave DC so by turning around, you will be running downhill allowing for a faster second half of your run. This is another popular trail that runners and bicyclists share with walkers and skaters that enjoy the sights as it curves through woods, passes homes, and through downtown Bethesda. There are a few water fountains for thirsty runners.

Best “DC” route: The National Mall
We’re in DC for a reason, so take advantage of the history and beauty by running along the National Mall. Arguably the heart of DC, this stretch is perfect for the Congressional staffer looking for a quick lunchtime run. The route can be trimmed as short or as long as you like – the ambitious runner can run a large loop encompassing RFK, the Capitol, the Lincoln, and the Memorial Bridge and Arlington Cemetery. The downside is that there are busy cross streets that are dangerous to cross against the light and it can get congested with tourists, softball, kickball, rallies, and festivals. But, there is a reason many races incorporate parts of the Mall, which makes running in our capital city so spectacular.

Best route to go long: Mount Vernon Trail

Just over the river in Virginia, the Mount Vernon Trail is a scenic paved path that stretches from George Washington’s home in Virginia into Alexandria and connecting to Georgetown. The trail travels along the Potomac, passes the airport, winds in and out of Old Town, and rolls down to where George and Martha used to reside.

Best route to run in circles: Hains Point

The best part about Hains Point is that it juts out from DC and is bordered by the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, making it seem that you are running off the end of the earth. With great views of the airport, the Wilson Bridge, and the DC landscape, it can be a simple run on a flat surface. Runners share the road with cars, bikes, walkers, skaters, and tourists, but it is worth the hassle. The wind can slow or speed up your run, depending on the day and direction. If you’re looking to run repeats or to just go short, this is a solid destination.
If you are looking for others to run with or for advice, consider checking out DC Road Runners Club, a chapter of the Road Runners Club of America. DCRRC has something for everyone from races to training programs to happy hours and group runs. DCRRC affords its members with a year-round calendar of running events that offer the opportunity for all to participate regardless of age, gender, or athletic ability.

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