Running around D.C.

Running around D.C.

Running is one of my favorite activities while traveling. (But, who am I kidding — running is my favorite activity in life). When you’re traveling, you get to see so much more when you run compared to walking! This is a big bonus for me, because I’m not that quick of a walker.

The highlight of my Washington D.C. trip was running to the National Mall from our friend Andy’s house and then running by a lot of the monuments. Andy was our tour guide and a few miles in, my friend Leah also joined in and helped map our run. I didn’t have time to take photos of everything but I tried my best. Despite the cold temperatures, it was fun. (Yes, it was only in the low-30s but Seattle never got a real winter this year, remember?)

Waiting for darn stoplights.

Waiting for darn stoplights.

A few notables that I was able to snap photos of:

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Lincoln Memorial: There was something just kind of fun about seeing this one from afar and then getting closer and closer to it. From a distance, it looks “just like the backside of a penny.” It really does! It was a little after 9 a.m. when we got to Lincoln and there were already a ton of tour buses unloading tourists. As others stood around admiring the monument or took selfies, we ran up the steps past them —I didn’t think I’d be doing a stair workout in this run, but we did! Once inside, it was a pretty neat experience to “see Lincoln” sitting there and looking ahead.

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Iwo Jima Memorial: The Iwo Jima Memorial, or Marine Corps War Memorial, was so much larger than I had expected it to be. We ran through the Arlington National Cemetery to see it. As we ran up a hill to get closer to the memorial, Andy said that the hill is at the 26th mile of the Marine Corps Marathon. I was glad that we were going up it in maybe the 8th or 9th mile of my run. There was more than enough wind for the flag of the memorial to majestically wave above that morning.

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Einstein Memorial: I didn’t even know there was an Einstein Memorial prior to going to D.C.  — I’m not sure if many people do — but it’s one of Leah’s favorite memorials so we took a stop to see it. He’s located not too far from the Mall on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences. If you look closely, you’ll notice that he is in fact wearing sandals and not shoes!

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Washington Monument: Before the Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world. Here I am looking at it from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The Reflecting Pool is in front but obviously there is not much physical reflecting going on since there was no water in it.

I’m so lucky to have friends who will run D.C. with me.

There was just so much to see!

But, even if you’re on a run where you don’t necessarily have monuments or specific landmarks to see, it’s always exciting to run in a new environment — especially while traveling — because you just get to take in new sights and sounds. No two cities are alike. No run is ever the same.

Marathon training while traveling seems like a bummer but really it’s great! (As long as you don’t have to do your 20-miler while on vacation. That may be a little extreme for me …)

Where will your next run take you?

The miles can be different

When people discover I run (marathons,) the most frequent question I am asked:

Don’t you get bored?

I don’t.

When I tell them that I run with music on a rare occasion, they are even more shocked.

I just run with my thoughts, I tell them. I also draft many blog posts. I draft emails that need to be responded to. I remind myself of things I need to do when I get home. I plan the rest of my week in my head. I do all of these things while running. Or, I just let my mind wander and not really think about anything specific at all. No one can interrupt me. It’s just my thoughts and I.

But I’d be lying if I said that there are no runs that get “boring.” I’ve lived in my new house for a month and I’m already “tired” of the neighborhood streets.

What I’ve learned is that new neighborhoods and streets can make your run — especially if it’s a long marathon training run — substantially better and even great.

On Saturday morning, I ran a good 10-ish (of 16) miles on unchartered lands. I had this sense of renewed energy. My legs felt great. Everything felt great. I even started to run faster as I went along Shilshole Bay to Golden Gardens. I was lucky enough to have Bryce meet up with me to run up a very steep hill and then a few miles after that and to have my friends waiting for me at Discovery Park where I finished up my run with three miles with them. (Oh, and I got a ride home!)

Most of the time I am too lazy to drive somewhere new to do my long runs because I feel like it takes up too much time. Honestly though, it’s very much worth it.

I see more of my city of Seattle with every run I take. Just the other day I ran on residential streets that I have never been on — and I’ve lived here my entire life (27 years!) And on vacations, I discover otherwise-neglected areas while running as a tourist.

Where do your runs take you?

I don't run with my phone so here's a picture of a run in Bruges, Brussels from April 2013 — obviously new running terrain!

I don’t run with my phone so here’s a picture of a run in Bruges, Brussels from April 2013 — obviously new running terrain!

Thirteen from 2013

What. a. year.

Seriously.

With all the traveling I did in 2013, I FINALLY filled ALL THE PAGES of my passport. (Sure, many pages were occupied by multiple Cambodia visas when I went in and out of the country while living there in summer 2009, but it still counts, right? I’m counting it!)

I FINALLY set PRs! And not just for my marathon time, but my half-marathon time as well as 5K time. I didn’t set any PRs in 2012 …

But enough rambling, here are 13 accomplishments/events/insights/things of 2013 that I feel are important to address. In no particular order:

1. I scored a 242 while bowling with my family during the holidays. I did not use bumpers. I did not cheat. I did not have any do-overs.  I am not a professional. Bryce and Cprov always make fun of me for the way I bowl. This year maybe I need to aim for a perfect game. (Prior to the 242, my highest score had been around 135, maybe 140).

2. I visited the South for the first time in my life. (Thank you, Hannah, for being a wonderful host and showing me around New Orleans!)

3. I learned how to draw blood and am now somehow certified by the state as a phlebotomist.

4. Marathon PR of 4:07:40 set in May at the Vancouver Marathon only to be broken five months later at the Chicago Marathon (4:05:26)! It took me three whole years for that first marathon PR and then I PR twice in the same year!

5. I went to the Happiest Place on Earth (spurred from a work conversation of “I want to go to Disneyland!” “OK, let’s go!”)

6. I participated in my first relay —Hood to Coast — with strangers I met on the Internet. (I know, it sounds as creepy as this picture of me looks, but it is not. Twitter has its perks!)

7. I traveled to London, Barcelona, Le Mans (France), Brugges and Brussels for three weeks in April.

8. I then started a new job after said travels.

9. I learned that life really is unexpected but your family will always be there for you.

10. I caved and finally tossed the flip-phone and now am an iPhone user. I love the iPhone except for the fact that it only vibrates for a second when the phone rings. I’ve missed a lot of calls because of this. You know, because I receive so many calls to begin with …

11. Summer was full of hiking, running, ultimate Frisbee and seeing Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift in concert (not at the same time).

12. I did my first trail race.

13. I learned that I may have a back-up career in “sit-down” comedy.

Last year was packed with a lot of activity. I did a lot of traveling. I did a lot of running (I’m sorry knee, I will take better care of you this year!)

It makes this year feel a little “meh”. I don’t have any travel plans. My one and only full marathon of the year is all the way in October so it’s not even on my radar at the moment.

But, then again, January of last year I didn’t have any plans to travel. I didn’t know I was going to do all the races that I did.

So, 2014, show me what you got.

In Bruges

Call it luck. Call it good training. Call it taking-your-iron-and-thus-having-energy.

But,

I have not had a single bad run this entire training cycle.

I mean, there’s the occasional slow or achy ones. But, nothing super bad.

Today my run could have been bad. I was slogging along on the trail with a knot forming in my stomach. My body just felt heavy. My steps did not feel light. I felt sweaty and gross because I was wearing all long sleeves but the sun came out during my run. I kind of wanted to stop.

So, I did.

I saw a duck perched along the canal. I noticed him/her because I thought s/he looked ugly. Then, I noticed behind the ugly duck were four little cute ducklings! I started taking some photos. (I know, my priority is camera over water while running in Europe!)

I felt a little better after my quick rest from running. However, once I got back on the path my stomach felt tight again. “This sort of sucks,” I thought to myself.

Then I thought something else:

I am running in Bruges. I am training for my marathon in a third new country on this trip of mine. I am running just four miles in Bruges today.

Telling myself all of that instantly made me feel better. I am in Bruges. And, I am running.

And, tomorrow I will again run in Bruges!

Pretend it's daylight and there's a canal, and that would be what my run looked like. Otherwise, this is Bruges city hall at night.

Pretend it’s daylight and there’s a canal, and that would be what my run looked like. Otherwise, this is Bruges city hall at night.

Slowing down — in France

I have been on my European adventure for 12 days now. I have been to London, Salisbury, Dover, Barcelona and now Le Mans, where Katelyn is graciously letting me stay at her apartment for a few days.

I was in London for one week (where Naomi graciously let me stay with her — I am so lucky to have so many friends who are out doing cool things in foreign countries!) and took day trips to Salisbury and Dover during that time. Next was Barcelona where I soaked in the sun and roamed the streets for two days. (OK, I was not roaming all day and night, I spent the nights at a hostel). Every day at all of these mentioned cities, I was always on the go. I wanted to see as much as I could in the short period of time that I had. It meant waking up at 7:30 in the morning (or even earlier) so as to maximize my daylight hours. (And to fit a run in).

I have enjoyed every minute of everything and every place. But, now, I slow down. I rest. I am on vacation, after all. Yesterday I actually took a nap! I never take naps, but there’s no better time than when you’re on vacation, right?

The cat takes a nap with me.

The cat takes a nap with me.

I have also — so far — run every single day I have been in Le Mans. (By the way, Le Mans is a city west of Paris). And just like London, there is a river that runs through it so I can never get lost on my runs as long as I stick to the river!

It’s definitely nice to have some down time. I brought four books with me on this three-week trip and I finally started reading one of them! (Yes, I have had ample time to read on the many planes and trains and buses that have transported me from place to place, but for some reason I keep falling asleep on the rides).

And, in three days, Katelyn and I will be heading to Belgium. Adventures never end. Right now though, I am just taking a breather.

Sometimes, we all need a few days like these. When was the last time you slowed down?

London running

I never get self-conscious while running at home in Seattle. I spit along dirt paths. I blow snot-rockets in front of drivers while I wait for the crosswalk sign to light up for the walkers (ahem, runners!) to cross. I don’t care that I am sweating and may run into (ha ha, “run into”) someone I know at Green Lake.

Running away from home always gets me a little self-conscious though.  Are they going to think I am weird for running on the sidewalk? Will they want me to run on the road? Are they going to wonder why in the heck I am out running at all? 

In Japan, (Kamakura, to be specific,) it actually wasn’t too odd. I did come across other runners but, for the most part, these other runners were men. When I lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for one summer, I went on one run. Yes, one! And boy, during that entire run I felt like the whole city — or, those I passed by — were watching and judging me. No one runs in Phnom Penh. For one, it is way too hot for outdoor running. And, second, well, I think it’s probably common to not come across many runners in non-affluent countries.

In London, if you are a runner, you can rejoice. They are runners, too!

Naomi told me that there is a big running culture here before I arrived. I had no idea I would be passing by (on average) about 1.25 runners every 5.25 blocks! (That calculation is not mathematical at all, I just came up with it from my lovely head). But, really, they run. And, they run everywhere.

I was worried about keeping up with marathon training while in Europe but I’ve already run twice in London. (Now, just for a long one tomorrow …)

From what I have observed, London runners are really “plugged in.” Most of them have their earbuds in or headphones on. They are wearing a lot of layers. (I mean, yes, it is cold here, but I went out in long pants and a long sleeve with a T-shirt underneath and when I got back I had pretty much sweated through the entire T-shirt! Too much info?)

Also, they are 98 percent of the time running alone and with a backpack (small or large).

I’ve come to a conclusion that somewhere between 40 to 70 percent of London runners are commuting to and from their place of work via their own two feet. Why else would they need all the layers or the pack full of stuff? I doubt that many of them are training for a marathon or ultra. (Well, the London Marathon is coming up at the end of April but never mind that …)

I wouldn’t mind getting lost in this city running. (You can’t get lost though if you stay along the (Thames) river, which I have done twice!)

The best part about running some place new is that it’s all new and exciting. Not once during my 6.5-mile run did I get bored. Not once did I wish I had music with me. I wasn’t constantly checking my watch.

I was just running for running — and enjoying all the views. It makes you wish all runs could feel this great.

I’m set to do somewhere between 13 to 15 miles tomorrow … I’m starting the taper and I’m excited! I’m also excited because I’ll get to explore more of this lovely city!

Just outside the Tower of London

Just outside the Tower of London

 

Camden Market

Camden Market

[The above photos were taken not while running but walking the streets of London. I’m not hardcore enough to run around with an iPad!]