Sports Sermon: D.C. running culture

September 18, 2008

What’s the difference between a 60-year-old man and a 20-year-old college student? Answer: He’s faster than I am. This might have surprised me anywhere else in the country, but it’s just about what I expected from my first foray into the District’s running culture: an army of Type-A road warriors.

Last Saturday, the National Press Club hosted its annual 5K run along Pennsylvania Avenue. I made the decision to sacrifice my Saturday morning on a Tuesday afternoon whim, and only a $30 deposit could keep me from coming to my senses and backing out. Nevertheless, I made it, and I’m glad I did.

In the great scheme of distance running, the 5K (3.1 miles) is child’s play. But I imagine that the hundreds that came out on Saturday still represent the DC running scene’s cast of characters fairly accurately. There’s the Prefontainian corps of cross-country runners, who could really stand to invite their shorts a little closer to their knees. There are also the soccer moms and dads—baby in stroller optional—to go along with the aforementioned Type As that trade in Kenneth Cole for New Balance on the weekends. There’s the white-haired and shirtless super-senior inexplicably doing pre-race push-ups next to the registration table. And finally, there’s me, taking in said super-senior and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the whole morning, though, was how much fun I had. In hindsight, the list of positive results that I earned by forfeiting Saturday morning sleep was pretty long: swag (in this case, a long-sleeve t-shirt and drawstring bag), scenery, camaraderie, and, oh yeah, exercise. While an organized run isn’t necessary for exercise, it helps—try running by yourself, then try running with the constant threat of being passed by a smiling baby in a stroller, and see which is faster.

I can’t in good conscience suggest that everyone stop laying siege to the couch on Saturday mornings and start signing up for runs—not when the former is one of my all-time favorite activities—but I can say that it is worth grabbing The Washington Running Report (also available at on the way out of Yates every now and then. Even if you don’t care about the proper way to tie running shoes or the best sneakers for correcting overpronation, the Report is crammed with information on all of the upcoming 5Ks, 10Ks, marathons, and a milieu of -athlons. It’s possible to compete in an organized race almost every weekend from now until 2009 without leaving the Metro area.

For me, the next stop is the first annual Bison Stampede 5K on October 18 at Howard University. I don’t want to group myself with the rest of D.C.’s overcompetitive runners, but if my gray-haired friend finds his way there, I plan on crushing him.

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