Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Giving Arlington the Run Around

For some time now I've wondered if I could run the perimeter of Arlington, VA. Looking at the boundaries of the county, however, I didn't see an obvious route:

The mostly straight edges of the North-West and South-West borders slice randomly across streets, both big and small. And the Southern tip, which hugs Quaker Lane also intersects Route 395, which is no-go for pedestrians.

Once I relaxed my goal to a rough approximation of Arlington's boundaries, an obvious route did present itself. Starting at Chain Bridge, I could connect the Potomac Heritage Trail, Mount Vernon Trail, Four Mile Run Trail, the WO&D Trail and finally knock out a few miles on Williamsburg Boulevard and I'd effectively have a run around'ish Arlington.

Yesterday afternoon, around 3pm, I tackled this route:

The only surprise in the run came about 30 seconds in. As planned, I left my car at Chain Bridge and started out on the PHT. I ran under the bridge and where the first ascent began I found a washed out section of trail:

I didn't know quite how to get around this obstacle and wasn't sure if I should hit stop and restart my timer on the other side. Ultimately, I just went for it and found myself climbing hand-over-hand out of the gully.

The rest of the run was uneventful. The water level was low enough on the Potomac that the PHT was easily traversed. By the time I hit the Mount Vernon trail the wind had picked up and even a few snow flurries made an appearance. Though, if anything, this kept others off the trail and gave me the path to myself. The full moon and mostly clear sky made gorgeous night running.

In one of the Northern sections of the WO&D I encountered a big 'ol Trail Closed sign, though I followed the detour signs and was able to stay more or less on track.

I had originally planned to run the route in reverse, but given that I'd be finishing in the dark, I decided to tackle the technical trail first. This was a smart move, though it did mean that the second half of the run was all uphill:

Fortunately, the entire route gains only 1,200 feet. After 20 miles of running though, the 'hills' of North Arlington certainly felt substantial.

Overall, I can't recommend this route highly enough.

I was disciplined and snacked every 30 minutes, which for the most part kept my energy level up. While I could have no doubt consumed more calories at these points, I was thankful that my stomach cooperated the entire run. On past long runs I've given in to the urge to snarf down a bunch of food all at once and I was immediately rewarded with a stomach ache. Not last night. More details on the food and gear I used on the run are coming soon.

Here's before and after photos from my parking spot and a few pics along the way.

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