5 miles for thought

I have discovered a new favorite place in the DC metropolitan area!

It is called Gravelly Point, right on the GW Parkway/Mt Vernon Trails and a stone’s throw from the Reagan National Airport.  I went there to meet up with work friend and Pittsburgh native Allison, who is training for a half-marathon in May.  It turned out to be a really nice day here, and I didn’t want it to go to waste by sleeping it away.  After getting a wee bit lost (per usual every time I get in my car), I found a huge parking lot adjacent to a grassy park area with benches, some soccer fields, Port-a-Potties, and sooooooo many babies.  The closeness to the airport makes for a really cool experience, as the planes swoop in to land 100 feet above your head.  They make a deafening sound, which seemed to excite the kids to no end.  Out of the corner of your eye, they look like birds, but then all of a sudden they are right above you, jets roaring and exhaust fumes ubiquitous, and you cannot help but admire the genius of mankind’s inventions.

Allison had our run all planned out (from Gravelly Point to the Roosevelt Bridge and back, if you want to map it), a 5 mile loop.  She’s in better running shape than me, but I was proud of myself for being able to hold a steady conversation the whole time.  We estimated that our run took about 55 minutes, with about 3-4 of those being walked, which impressed us immensely.  We are now glad that we can pig out on beer and Italian food tonight for Melissa’s birthday without feeling a shred of guilt.

I guess it’s not a surprise that I have transitioned from distance swimming to distance-ish running; aerobic endurance seems pretty consistent across most sports.  But I think what I really (dare I say it?!) miss about swimming compared to running is the simple challenge of it.  I thrive on the desire to prove people wrong, and swimming has got to be one of the very best ways to do that.  Every day, every practice, was a challenge–every tough set looked me in the eye and said, “I bet you can’t do this,”  and it was up to me to prove that little voice in my head wrong.  I loved the brutality of it–sinking my teeth into the throat of a set; fighting with it as it’s life slowly ebbed away; laying my foot on it’s windpipe and killing it; standing up victorious, drained but exhilarated.  I even enjoyed the mystery of never knowing the shape my opponent was going to take–small and persistent like a bee, bringing pain in short bursts; or like a boa constrictor, bringing slow, burning pain with shortness of breath.  Yes, I didn’t always win against the set.  But there was still the option of coming in the next day and trying again, of making sure your next victory made up for the previous loss.

I don’t have anything like the challenge against sets with my running.  No one is throwing things at me, pushing me to push myself, and I am lost without that sense of urgency, that drive to push every last cell of energy out of my body.  As my swimming career was coming to an end, losing a challenge against a set was bothering me less and less, which is how I knew it was time for me to bow out of the swimming arena.  But I still have that incessant need to take a challenge, beat it up, throw it away, and ask for another one.  Where this comes from, I have no idea.  But I do know that running 5 miles today did nothing to get rid of it.  Is there any way to turn a running habit into personal challenges?  Is it even a challenge if I make it myself?


Do you run a lot?  What are your favorite places to go?

I’ve started running a lot more, and one of my favorite places is Rock Creek Park (only when it’s light outside, though!).  It’s especially pretty in the Fall, when the leaves have changed.


One Response

  1. […] picked one of my very favorite trails to run this morning, the Mount Vernon trail that stretches right along the Potomac.  It’s […]

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