Every time I move to a new place, whether it’s a new neighborhood or a new country, I have a simple routine that
never fails to make me feel like I’m home: I put on my running shoes and go.
That was the case when I moved to Silver Spring, Md., in November, after four years in Florida and a month couch-hopping. Once the boxes were unpacked and the furniture in place, I headed out into the deliciously cool fall weather, intending to hit Rock Creek Park, which we apparently lived right near.
The run was glorious, and I loved exploring my new neighborhood, but I never found a trail to spit me into Rock Creek Park. Same deal the next time, and the time after, and the time after. By the time we started running with our Pacers Silver Spring “fun runs” running group, we asked desperately: How do we get into Rock Creek Park?
The leader of the fun runs, Laura Cloher, drew a map on a piece of scrap paper showing the interesting little zig-zag one has to make to get to the trails. I’ve been in love with the park ever since, and am grateful to Laura for introducing me to one of my best friends in the area (yes, I mean the park. I don’t think the “best friend” bit is a stretch).
That was just about the time I was starting to pitch stories to magazines and newspapers in hopes of making a living as a freelance journalist after six years writing for daily newspapers full-time. I pitched a story about Montgomery County’s best running routes to Bethesda Magazine, whose editor is an avid runner, and I got the thumbs-up. I started talking to the county’s master route-makers, including Laura, to get their favorites.
The final product is the result of a few months of hard work on my part, and of hard play — I ran every one of these routes myself, enjoying the adventures and misadventures inherent to exploring a new place with your running shoes on. The Mormon Temple route especially stumped me the first time (read why here), but the hill loop is now one of my favorites. I also fell in love with the C&O Canal Towpath and the network of trails around it.
Since writing the story, I’ve found even more fabulous routes, such as these through Rock Creek Park.
For a more city-centric run that features a great view of the Capitol dome, try the National Half Marathon route, which I’ve used as a long run with great success.
Just this morning, I enjoyed a 13-miler incorporating about 10 miles on Sligo Creek Trail. The flat, paved trail saved what could have been a really miserable morning, and let me finish in just about two hours. That includes several stops for traffic lights — stops for which I was very, very grateful.
More about that tomorrow. For now, enjoy these routes! Let me know if you try any, and let me know what your favorite run in the Washington area is!