Best Neighborhood/Trails to Run and Watch Weird People In & Around DC

Best Neighborhood/Trails to Run and Watch Weird People In & Around DC

This time of year in Florida is so miserably hot and humid, I can't even tell you. No really. Before you're allowed to move away, the Florida Board of Tourism makes you swear on space shuttle Atlantis' grave not to tell how hot and humid it is there. You're also not supposed to tell anyone there is really no such thing as winter, spring or fall, so you didn't hear it from me. I don't want the tourism Mafia blowing up my Rav 4.

Because I already know all four southern seasons: almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas, I'm now happy to traverse the streets of our fine nation's Capitol in drastically more pleasant temps, passing through areas where even Navy Seals would be afraid to ask directions. Every morning I exit the Cambria hotel with my toddler in his jog stroller once it is adequately disinfected from the previous day's run. We smell the breakfast sandwiches from across the way at Azi's Cafe which is the single most fabulous lunch spot I've ever been to, and that includes the Burger King in Georgia that accidentally gave me an extra bag of fries in the kid's meal and didn’t even charge me for them. An honest to goodness Internet cafe, Azi's is like being invited into someone’s home where a wild WiFi party is in full swing complete with thick Ethiopian accents behind the counter, strong espresso and turkey panini sandwiches.

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We don't have northern people clothes just yet so I bag him up like people on the street before we go to Azi's.

But just as I was about to pull away from the corner of O street and 9th and leave the cafe and hotel in my running stroller dust the other morning, my iMap app gave me directions that would lead me to the safety of a friendly neighborhood street gang establishment where everyone has a special handshake. Wrong directions. Totally wrong directions. These were directions that led me down a dead end road where a long, long line of tricked out, pimped out rides with heavily tinted windows were all parked diagonally and backed in so as to allegedly make fleeing some sort of bloody spree an easier task.

And that’s where our fairy tale of wanting to live full-time in downtown DC and run the streets everyday ends, kids. Although it hasn't been all that bad running in the alphabet letter named streets (until you get to P through S and sometimes T), I do so love alphabetizing and sanitizing so I'm compelled to say it's been a good trip overall.

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So glad I'm on FB. Otherwise, I'd have to send 1,133 texts to my friends and family just to let them know I went running in DC today.

With the weather getting warmer here, I see the DC natives pulling out their running shoes and pounding the pavement alongside me, the dog and stroller. So many things to buy, eat, and do are within walking distance in DC and what better way to get things done than to run around the (safe) streets of this beautiful city. Plus, I'm a total people watcher and always have been. Although I detest mall shopping, I thoroughly enjoy the Fashion Centre Mall at Pentagon City while sitting and watching. You may have seen me if you were there the other day. I was the brunette chick in last season's American Eagle shorts sitting atop the pink kid's ice cream truck coin operated ride watching you through binoculars because you fascinate me so much, especially if you're a weird person. My 5 year old is forever getting on to me when I am in close proximity to weird people because I become so engrossed in watching them, I forget that I am staring. Typically he gives me the old, "Mama! Stop staring!", and I can always tell by his tone I'm about a second away from getting pinched on the fleshy part of my arm.

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Myles loves running in the parks in and around DC. He also loves playing an inappropriate game of "Who Pooped in the Park?" There's no mystery this 5 year old detective can't solve.

Although my family has only inhabited the area for a little over a week now, I've had numerous daily weird people watching adventures in DC. I've also seen numerous outdoor running enthusiasts showcasing a fantastic way to get the body Virginia Beach ready before the summer hits. So far it seems DC is an adventurous city to run through and has a plethora of trails/paths to be discovered, so here are my top 6 (so far).

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via travelpod.com

6). Embassy Row – When people think of Washington, DC, they probably think of the White House first, then the monuments, then maybe political corruption. What probably isn’t the first thing to pop into most minds, but is something evident to those who have traveled by foot in DC, are the more than 175 embassies scattered all throughout the city. Massachusetts Avenue, NW is known as Embassy Row because it offers a unique experience you will not find in any other city. Starting from Dupont Circle, if you run straight up Mass Ave for a few miles you'll hit some good gradual elevation to work the quads. Along the way you'll a also pass embassies from Haiti to India. With wide sidewalks and low schizophrenic homeless people traffic, this is an ideal spot for road marathon training.

Plus, you might just meet some new people and wind up having lots of dinners with people who have very recognizable yet hard to pronounce last names. This causes concern for me, however. I’m terrified I’ll show up for dinner thinking we’re having veggie burgers and French fries only to find the Prime Minister of mother truckin’ Cambodia and a table covered in silver platters of fried tarantulas and snake livers.

5) Beach Drive – On the weekends, miles of this beautiful winding road through Rock Creek Park are blocked off to cars. Runners, cyclists and walkers unite in a community of fitness at all hours of the day. Even one woman tribute bands like myself are allowed access to this blocked off road. Yes, that's right. I hate that I’m not allowed to sing in public when accompanied by my family because I so love to sing and most especially when I am plugged into the iPod. How in the world is a person not supposed to sing when they have an iPod? I sound freaking fantastic when I have my little Bose ear buds implanted because I have the uncanny ability to sound exactly like everyone from Iggy Azalia to Seal (http://t.co/4OPsrbCL24).

If you ever want to see my show, feel free to sit in on a bench on Beach Drive. Or better yet, on the street in front of our new digs in Alexandria when the grass is tall. I will look forward all week to mowing day because that’s when I’m outside, away from my critical family, and therefore free to do what I do best besides finding new places to run around DC, walking back and forth in straight lines.

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via owlice1 on photobucket
I just know when I finally see this I'll think, "What's that smell?" Then I'll realize it's me.

4) C&O Canal - The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail runs 184.5 miles along the Potomac River from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD. This is where I'm going to run away. In all fairness, I threaten to run away on average about three times a day. I figure it keeps everybody on their toes. If they think I am apt to just disappear at any moment, maybe they'll be nicer to me while I'm around. But, I'm really gonna do it now that I live around DC. Truly I am. I'm packing my little bandana with my anti-aging serum, my teeth whitening kit and my brunette pony tail holders, tying the whole she-bang to a long stick and taking off to this beautiful trail. The C&O is a popular hangout for both cyclists and runners, as it is very well kept and consists of a mostly crushed stone surface. In fact, it is because of the C&O that many DC runners are actually trail runners and don’t even know it.

3) Trails of Rock Creek Park – Rock Creek Park is home to over 30 miles of dirt singletrack and trail. Most of the surface is smooth and wide, making it perfect for fast trail running, while other sections are technical and steep, allowing for more technical terrain. These are the makings of a potentially quiet, cool, and peaceful escape from the bustling roads just a short run away. However, I have to admit I am sort of nervous before running Rock Creek. This is my first visit/move to the DC area and as I tend to have tiny freak out seizures when I am in a crowd, I feel there is a pretty good chance this park will be over crowded with entitled cyclists and I'll wind up rolling on the dirt path with my tongue hanging out and my eyes rolling back in my head.

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To tell you the honest truth, I also have some concern that the place will be packed with Gen Y 'millennials' that have only recently fully completed puberty. Even though I enjoy running alongside the youngsters, I truly believe in the good rule of thumb that it's ok to be forty and act like a twenty-something, but only when you are not standing in close proximity to an honest to God twenty-something. Otherwise you stop looking like a cute older lady and just start to look like an old chick in need of Botox and bipolar meds. That's never a good thing.

2) The National Mall – Nothing says DC like the National Mall even though I don't like malls. I also don't like people who like them. In my opinion, no good can come from a mall. It's not that I have anything against a nice Tropical Smoothie and a Forever 21 casual club-wear outfit. Who doesn't love wearing spandex and paying $8.00 for a runny drink made just for you by an acne covered 17 year old boy who thinks that sign warning employees to wash their hands before returning to work only applies if the number two is involved?

It's just that malls were created by the Devil, that's all. So it's a good thing the National Mall is not really a "shopping mall" even if it does have a few bookstores and gift shops at or near some of the memorials. Tourists flock to this small division of the city to soak in the sights, explore the numerous museums, and nearly melt from the armpit bubbling heat. That also means just like a real mall, the National Mall can be a breeding ground for germs. Hundreds or even thousands of people are sneezing and coughing and spitting and rubbing their noses and touching hand rails and hangers and doorways.

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via pva.org

But that shouldn’t keep us runners out. In fact, the smooth paths circling the National Mall offer a very unique American experience that can't be obtained anywhere else. To beat the germy crowds, all you need to do is go out for that run in the morning or evening. On a Sunday morning in early fall, you’ll be joined by a beaucoup of runners just like yourself. Just be aware that because of construction on the “National Mall” many footpaths have been blocked off so this can add time and mileage to your run.

1) Holmes Run Park – I did not know this was a "scenic easement" until I googled it after locating it down the street from my new address in Alexandria, VA. The Holmes Run Park is a little over 8 acres of natural forestry and walking path in the West End of the town. There are picnic tables and grills, playgrounds, and exercise stations inside the confines of the park as well.

This Run Park makes for a pleasant stroll, especially after heavy rains when the water is high and tumbling over the small rock ledges. It's also a great place to take the kids to learn about a wide variety of birds, white-tail deer, and even fox.

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In nice weather, Alexandrians take advantage of its trails and open spaces, running with their dogs, playing Frisbee, organizing pick-up games of soccer.

I'm fortunate to live within spitting distance of the park so I'll use it frequently. Cyclists are also lucky they can use Holmes Run's paths as a launching point for longer rides. I expect to take lots of long runs on these trails, which also connect to Dora Kelly Nature Preserve and Cameron Run Park. On nice days, throngs of runners are at Holmes, enjoying this little slice of nature in the city. I just know this Run Park has the potential to be weird people central. I know I'll spend the better part of the day staring to the point of drooling as I see other runners, walkers and cyclists breeze by because my 5 year old will be in year-round kindergarten and not there to pinch my batwings, and I won't be able to help myself. I will be gawking like no other.

Don't get me wrong. I will be in my people watching glory while running in this park. But as I watch and think about who these people are and what they have waiting for them at home, I wonder whether anyone ever watches and wonders about me. Could it be that when I'm out and about running someone, somewhere is eyeballing me and trying to figure out why I'm so weird?

Nah. Couldn't be. I'm as normal as blueberry pie. (That is a saying, right?) How 'bout, I am to weird as Mountain Dew is to monkeys (http://t.co/WDCR0IqJJb). (But that's not right either is it?)

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