November 9, 2014
Although DC isn’t a state, I took advantage of the opportunity to run in it. DC was the first stop of a weeklong trip to the mid-Atlantic, the first leg of which was staying with my friend in Bethesda, Maryland. She took me into the city the Sunday before Veterans Day. As soon as we parked off of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial I felt an energy I hadn’t felt before. Men and women in uniforms and caps with military regalia paced the Mall. In front of each monument was a true representation of ages and nationalities and then I remembered that Veterans Day was in two days. My friend took a picture of me in front of the Lincoln Memorial to kick off the run. As I jogged down the cool, marble steps I was confident that the meaning behind my journey along the National Mall was different from those I would pass for 3.1 miles.
Typically when I run in a state I haven’t been to before I think about travel. I think about if that 3.1 miles is at all an accurate snapshot of the state. Running along the bluffs of Maine or through a covered bridge in Vermont I believe that was the case. Running in nondescript parks in Illinois and Idaho, less so. Two days before Veterans Day, on the National Mall, there was no better representation of the District of Columbia. I ran past the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Washington Monument. I cruised by the Smithsonian Museums: Air and Space, American Indian, Natural History and American History, east and then west along Constitution Avenue. I passed the Capitol, covered in scaffolding but impressive just the same. I was listening to music because I always listen to music but I certainly didn’t need it for energy. Looking left, right or straight ahead people were everywhere, a flurry of English and languages I didn’t understand. The energy of solemn seniors and playful children was mixed in the buzz of the Mall.
For me, 5K in 50 States is about seeing the country. For those I ran past I imagined it was about honoring and learning about the U.S. Theirs was an active step beyond mine. I felt humbled that my journey was insignificant compared to the journey others had taken to the National Mall. But I was happy with that realization. I was grateful to be reminded that I was a tiny dot of a journey, which, admittedly, isn’t a mission for a greater good. I still think it’s good to run and see friends and new places. But going inside museums and reflecting on the meaning of monuments is a different level. I had come to DC to do my job and DC had done his. Thus far, it is the only run during which I paused my watch, leaned forward, rested my hands on thighs, breathed heavily and looked up. This was worth stopping for.