DC: My Second (Running) Home

Most people who know me know that I really have two homes: Philly and DC. Philly is where I live, where my home base is. But work, being what it is, has me in DC (among other cities, mind you) quite a bit.

No, quite a lot. And to the extent I’ve adopted it and made it my second home. To the extent that I’m acting and living like a local when I’m off the clock. For one thing, I’m the only one on my engagement team that uses buses if needed to commute or to try that awesome restaurant in the U Street Corridor or to visit a cousin in Mt. Pleasant and so forth. I run with the Logan Circle Lululemon running club on Tuesdays when I get off work on time and weather permitting. I have my favourite restaurant and bar spots and know where to scour for the happy hour deals.

In the middle of last year, I even met other guys through mutual friends that wanted to date me. They expressed their (major) disappointment when I had told them that I was based out of Philly.

(On an entirely different note, that also gives me a little confidence and hope regarding my relationships, but that’s another topic for another time.)

My affinity for DC remains the same when it comes to running. DC has some awesome races, from the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in April, to Rock n’ Roll’s USA races in March, the Marine Corps Marathon (which is split between Arlington and DC) and lately added – and which I’m running in late April – the Nike Women’s Half Marathon.

One thing that helps in my eyes is the sheer timing of their races. Philly by contrast has their “spring” half in June; last year’s Odyssey Half over the Memorial Day weekend was so hot that I resigned myself to never running it again. The September Rock n’Roll race is relatively optimal, fast and flat in good weather. However in record heat-setting summers (the last severe one which I avoided as it was my first year running) it can be brutal. Finally, the Philadelphia Marathon is in mid-November, too brutal of a wind-chill.

Contrast that with DC races held squarely in the spring (March/April) and in the fall (October). Granted those are the major ones, surely there are some that I didn’t cover held in other months.

But as for DC culture, there’s a significantly larger fitness culture (although that could have its downsides too) many places in the city to run, and a greater chance of meeting others who share like minded goals. When I travelled in DC, it didn’t take long at all before really fitting in with DC running clubs, from Lululemon to City Sports, to other Meetup groups. It was unbelievable and you could always find someone to run with.

On the other hand for Philly, Philly Runner, City Sports, Athleta, and other related stores have their own running clubs. Sometimes with some of the groups it’s hard to find people who run your pace, but that was the least of my worries. In DC, there were just MORE of them though running at all hours of the day. And that is spread across many neighbourhoods, not just the central area that most clubs in Philly are located in.

Ultimately what makes the difference to me is the overall culture and just the fact there are so many awesome and safe places to run in DC and even in Northern Virginia when I’ve had to stay there. I’m not saying everywhere is safe, don’t get me wrong, but in DC there are just more options. More bike paths, more traffic-free walkways and paths to run. In Philly I feel I am limited to University City and the south end of Fairmount Park to really feel safe (especially as a single runner running alone), granted some people get on West River Drive but there have been some shady characters in that area usually. Similarly I could also run through the city, but it’s also hard to work a strong pace when you are stopped at nearly every stoplight. It gets utterly annoying.

When I was staying in Arlington, the Westin I stayed at – no lie – gave me a runners’ card showing all the trail and park routes around the hotel and in the immediate neighbourhood. Now how awesome is THAT. Granted Westin gives “workout” route cards at many of their locations, but even other hotels had map pictures of routes at the ready.

Westin workout card.

Westin workout card.

The other major thing is that DC has many more places compatible with those of us watching what we are eating. Other than NYC, I don’t know another city with such an abundance of salad bars or similar eateries that catered to us. There’s unique gems like Yola (which closed in December, ugh) but even in South Philly, other than Fuel, for all the bragging I’m hard pressed to find them there.

Yeah I know we can eat quite healthily if we pack our lunches all the time, but as someone who does, when I am forced to takeaway due to weekend class (ugh), I’d like something more than just having to resort to Subway’s veggie sandwiches (ha!). I’ve tried Jimmie John’s and a few other places, but they just don’t measure up.

I’ll continue to enjoy the amenities I have as a runner in Philly as I meet more runners in both cities, but when I run in DC, I just can’t help but think that I’m grabbing a little slice of heaven. It is what it is.

The food situation…hmmm. Surely there must be more options. Any suggestions Philly Tweeps?

But for now, I’ll enjoy my business trips and such to DC when I take them – and my runs – until the Nike Half in April.


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