Note: This post is a reprint. It previously appeared originally in a blog I had while interning with the Washington Internship Institute in August 2011, as well as in a September 7th, 2011 issue of The Xavierite, Saint Xavier University’s school newspaper. Enjoy reading!
Six months ago when I first came to DC, it was old, icy and empty. One thing I thought was unique to DC was the joggers along the National Mall.
I noticed them immediately and thought that it must be the most inspiring end and start to a workout—to aim for something so iconic like the Washington Monument, and actually be able to run up and around it. Today (July 29th) I did that. I waited for the Yellow Line at Crystal City in my workout gear Chicago Cubs shorts, a black tank top, a pair of Nikes, and a Chicago Blackhawks hat turned backwards.
I was giddy on the train, but had to wait till the Archives stopped to get off. When I got there, I walked down to the mall itself, about half a block, stretched a bit, and then aimed for the Capitol. Getting to the Capitol was not that difficult; getting up Capitol Hill sucked. I made it up Capitol Hill, ran up the steps on the House side of the building while doing the customary ‘‘Rocky” fists in the air and ran down and stretched.
I was so pumped up I decided to up the ante. I decided to keep running until I touched the Washington Monument—about a mile and a half away. While I consider myself to be in very good physical shape, almost none of the exercise I do involves intentional cardio workouts, and none involves this kind of running. So I am not lying when I say actually making it to the Washington Monument involved a lot of labored breathing and a lot of excess perspiration.
I ran until my lungs burned and my veins pumped battery acid, and then I ran some more. I ran downhill past the fountain in front of the Capitol, the name of which I never bothered to learn. I ran past the Smithsonian Botanical Gardens. I ran past the Native American museum.
I turned a corner toward the home stretch. And then I stopped. I was not even close. Amidst some wheezing, cursing, and maybe even some retching, I turned on one of my workout songs that inspires me most: Rage Against the Machine’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” I had to force myself to do it.
I ran past water fountains that my body begged me to drink from. I knew if I stopped for water I would not make it. I ran, hopping a chain railing and jay running across the street, weaving through a few tourists. I ran up the slight incline leading to the Monument, hoping that this kind of thing is commonplace for the National Park police stationed there, hoping that they would not arrest me or take a shot at me thinking I was a threat. I ran, thinking that if they did arrest me, it would be a great story. I smiled at the thought of getting arrested for running up to the Washington Monument. And then I was there.
I touched it. And then I put my elbows on my knees and tried to breathe again. I feel I have done so much in this city. I have gotten off at every Metro stop in DC itself, regardless of whether it was on the Blue, Yellow, Orange, Red or Green Line.
I saw two presidents.
I sat in on conferences and basically learned how the government works.
I met a Senator.
I walked the mysterious tunnels underneath Capitol Hill.
I saw a hockey game, a basketball game and several baseball games.
I spent 202 days in DC, or 6 months and 21 days.
I met people from every continent. I met people hailing from more than half the U.S. states. Strangest yet, I just so happened to run into one or two people that went to Saint John Fisher Parish School in Chicago, Illinois, at the same time I did.
DC is an enigma like that. There is everything to see, everything to do, and, most importantly, everyone to meet. It is like no other place.
I do not know how far a distance I ran and I do not care to find out. It was probably shorter than I imagine. It was definitely a negligible distance if you are talking to serious runners.
Still, the run was inspiring.
I know I will be back in this town in a greater capacity than I am now. I know that I could get used to running the National Mall, and I know that, regardless of how much I miss my family and friends and how homesick I have been recently, I will indeed miss this city.
Chicago, in my opinion, is the greatest city in the world. But DC holds much more significance in the grand scheme of things. If you want to change the world, your path runs through DC, literally and figuratively.
Just make sure you stretch first.