Wednesday, November 7, 2012

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?


  1. Those pictures of the poncho....good Lord. You are hilarious.

  2. I think one of the things I learned from the NYC marathon debacle was the sheer number of people who live their lives like Mother Theresa who seem to spend most of their time on internet forums, facebook, twitter, and blogs!

    Amazing that they have such time to judge others in addition to all of their altruistic commitments!

    1. Also, I learned that Meb Keflezighi is indeed the best person in the world. ever.

    2. Seriously, if you ever read the comments below any CNN article, they are 95% negative. No matter what the article is about it is criticized. I'm also not a fan of the New Jersey governor Chris Christie - that guy loved getting as much help as possible for his state, and had no problems having the Giants play the Steelers the day of the race. I hope that guy never becomes president.

  3. I think runners have a reputation of being super cheapskates and self-absorbed and obsessive. They are for the most part, in my opinion and experience. I used to live in Philadelphia and loved running through Fairmount Park along the river.

  4. Yes, Vermont! It's where I started running and there were miles and miles of beautiful, safe country to run through. Alaska's beautiful, but you've always got to worry about bears and moose in the mountains and dangerous people along the water, which can complicate things.

    As far as how other people see runners, it seems to me that runners are a) given way too much admiration by non-runners regardless of whether they're any good ("You mean you can run more than a mile at one time? What a health freak!"), which can easily turn into b) "You've got an eating disorder!" just because you don't want to miss a run. And then there are those who just want you to know that your body's going to fall apart before you're 30 (although I guess that's not a reputation).

  5. Glad you had a good time.

    You two are studs in your shades.

    That poncho put you on a whole new level of coolness.

    Read this:

    ... My favorite part "Kenyans and Ethiopians who were counting on Sunday’s race for a paycheck... “You’re cancelling a race because of substandard housing, lack of electricity, and premature deaths? Isn’t that…normal?”

    1. That's a really great article. Thanks for making me aware of it!

  6. Did the poncho make you faster?
    Do you get sweet raccoon eyes from those sunglasses?

    I think there is a lot of "runners are douches" sentiment even among runners. There are a LOT of really douchey runners..but then again, there are just a lot of douchey people. So I think you just notice the ones that drive you crazy in any group.

    NYCM was a gong show. Made me glad I didn't win the lottery this year...would have been tough to figure out what the best decision for me (yes...ME ME ME) would have been.

  7. First and foremost, there is a pregarmin day!?! have blown my mind. I kid of course. Anyways-

    People are such asses about runners, in my general experiences. It's not like we are out doing drugs but this makes us feel better. Do you notice it's a lot more towards females too? Like if a male is running 80+ miles a week, then it's not a big deal but I have gotten so much crap about running high mileage weeks. Anyways.

  8. Pancho running....sounds like a fun 5k idea to me..wait no, that is a horrible idea! LOL

  9. I think in general if you are doing anything outside the norm you have a chance to be ridiculed. It is just normal life. I lost a ton of weight and some people thought I was crazy and now too thin. My current eating habits are not the norm because I have learned when I am going to eat no matter what, so I cut back on the times I have more control. So I skip breakfast and lunch. What is the big deal that I eat my breakfast at 9:00PM. I now run way more than the average person. I get called crazy sometimes when I go run 7 or 8 miles during warmups of my daughter's swim meet. I am not doing the normal thing of sitting around.

    The same goes for many hobbies and interests. If you devote a ton of time to something people are going to think you are different. Exercise is probably the worst because so many people would like to look like most runners look like, but they can't or won't, so they get jealous.

    1. Guess all you can do is what makes you feel the best, and find other runners who will make you realize that running 8 miles while your daughter swims isn't crazy at all.

      And I think your last point has a lot of truth. I think for non-runners, who think running is miserable but would like to find it less miserable, people who claim to LOVE running just make them feel....confused and angry

  10. You selfish runner you! ;)

    Sorry about the trip not going as planned. But I'm glad you made it out safe and still got some running in!

  11. The poncho photos were great, especially the "to hug you" caption, I think because I didn't expect that. Haha! Also, now I MUST see Theodore Roosevelt -- I can't stop looking at that lovely picture. I'm pretty sure I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon next year, so I'll keep this photo/location in mind.

    As for perception of runners, I think you nailed it. We're going to think of ourselves, just as a chef will hunt down rare foods and a knitting fanatic will notice/find pretty yarn. If a knitting store burnt down, non-knitters would say, "So what? If they had insurance, they will rebuild." But if a running store burnt down, we'd be offering condolences and counting down the days until it reopened.

    Oh, and "by standard"?! Really?! People are so weird.

    1. Yes, visit the Roosevelt island! I'll have to check in with you next year re: whether we may both be running the Marine Corps Marathon. And I'll come hug you in my poncho

  12. Sounds like running in DC was a good time! Bummer about being stuck inside a hotel though. Sounds like an interesting vacation to say the least.

    And you know my feelings about the NYC marathon, I just think that people wanted a scapegoat for the hurricane anger, and they directed it at runners instead of other groups (like the people playing a NFL football game in New Jersey).

  13. And I just read the link that Christie posted above, that article is my exact feeling on the marathon cancellation.

    Also, to answer your questions, it can be kind of surreal to run running paths that you used to do in the past. I think the most surreal experience would be if you travel back to the same city again, and do the same paths. I was thinking that if I get back to London or Sydney or New Zealand and run again I would be in heaven.

    And runners have a great reputation I think. They are generally nice people. Something like 10K runners helped out in Staten Island and around NYC the day of the marathon, I didn't hear about any football fans helping out around NYC on Sunday. People just want to bitch about something, and they decided runners was what they wanted to bitch about.

    1. Running in New Zealand! I want to do that!

  14. Funny, I also posted something this week about the NYCM/runner's reputation thing. It's also relevant to this blog, since (in an unrelated incident) I gave a guy the middle finger, only to remember your crazy road rage story. I will think twice about doing the same thing again.

    Also: I want to run the Marine Corps Marathon too! Though it's been selling out like crazy -- this year's sold out in 3 hours! If we go, I'm officially offering you to stay at my sister's house in Potomac, MD. :)

  15. I love the bit above about DC. I went there in May and had the most amazing run around the monuments...I was buzzing for weeks about it and I'm not even American!! I also have the same photo of me and the First Dress...I LOVED it!!

    1. So, my guy kept wondering while we were in DC why a foreign tourist would care about American history....share to enlighten him? I totally got it...I was in Russia for one day and all I saw was historical sites and palaces

  16. I grew up in an amazing, beautiful area. I could take off into the woods for hours. There were miles and miles and MILES of trails winding through the redwoods. And I never took advantage of it. I was not a runner. It breaks my heart a little to think of it now.

    1. Wait, where did you used to live? Also, if you are in Napa for thanksgiving I'm going to make you run this turkey trot with me


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