Tuesday, September 21, 2010

City Races

I eschewed city races for many years. I refused seriously to consider the Marine Corps Marathon -- who wants to run with 30,000 of your closest friends over concrete, breathing smog? My marathons have included one out-and-back along a canal towpath northwest of Baltimore; another (my personal best) starting and finishing in Carlsbad, California, north of San Diego, with the first half winding past Legoland and the return following the Pacific Coast Highway; another out-and-back along a remote bike trail from Athens, Ohio. I'm a big fan of trail runs. Triathlons tend to be remote, because they shut down whatever 10-mile-square area in which they are run. I even spent many years refusing to race.

2010 for me has been the year of the city races. (It actually starts in 2009, when I joined Spencer, Ted, Philip and others for the Dublin marathon. I still chuckle over the cheers of "Go, Laddie, Go!")

In March I ran the St. Patrick's Day 8K in downtown DC, the unofficial kick-off to the spring race season.

Then came the National Marathon, which starts by RFK Stadium, passes the Capitol, runs down Constitution, up 18th, Connecticut and Calvert Streets through Adams Morgan, out past Howard University, down North Capitol, east on H Street circling back to RFK, where you lose the 1/2-ers, circling back past the Capital and down Constitution to 9th, where you follow the commuter tunnel out to what is I think Maine Avenue, then double back along the South-West Waterfront, passing the magnificent new baseball stadium and crossing the Anacostia at mile 20. You then head North/East along the Anacostia River, take a jog on Pennsylvania Avenue South East, and hit a series of nasty hills starting at mile 22. At mile 25 you head back across the Anacostia and find an uphill finish at RFK Stadium. The city turns out to cheer in good number. I have lived in DC for 11 years now, and the National Marathon was a tour of places I've never been (and some I wouldn't go without a few thousand others!). What a way to get to know my town.

The Cherry Blossom 10-mile is run in early April, a perfect time of year for racing. We had 65 degrees, sunny, no wind, and a flat course back and forth along the Potomac, including a trip across Memorial Bridge toward Arlington Cemetery. The hardest part of that run is out to the end of Haines Point and back, between miles 7 and 9. I've done the Haines Point run myriad times, but it's a long lonely slog at that point in a mid-distance race.

Still to come this year: the Army 10 mile (Oct. 24) and the Marine Corps Marathon (Oct. 31).

The best, though, were the DC Triathlon and Nation's Triathlon, in June and September, respectively. They shut down Independence, Constitution, 17th Street, Whitehurst Freeway, Canal Road, Clara Barton Parkway, and Rock Creek Parkway up to the Calvert Street exit, and give you license to hammer yourself senseless over the busiest and prettiest roads in DC.

I've been working on a refinement to my theory of why I race. One reason is that it makes me feel like King for a day. A good city race does that better than any other.

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