Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Capitol Run

Few city runs can match the experience of running around the National Mall in Washington DC.  I have run in the area as often as my travel the Capitol City would allow. The Marine Corps and DC National Marathons both offer races including this area.  I bet any number of smaller races are staged here too.

Where else can you be surrounded by monuments, museums, memorials and massive government buildings?  Big and small treats unfold over the miles of paths and tree lined walkways.  A good run (or walk for that matter) probably requires 5-8 miles to take in the breadth of the area.  I turned my 7 mile run into a photo exploration on August 23.

Equipped with my handy iPhone, I hit the street at my hotel at 14th and H Streets at 6:10 AM - about 25 mins before sunrise to ensure I would have wonderful morning light and not too bright a sky.  I hope you enjoy this Photo Run. Really, there is no right or wrong way to run in the area, and I hope if you journey here, you will bring your trainers.

The Photos
Here's the map of my run and the photo locations.

Bounding out of the Washington DC Hilton Garden Inn, I headed south on 14th Street until I hit the Mall.

1. The Washington Monument by its height is fairly visible anywhere in the main DC area.  I hit the Nation Mall just in front of the obelisk and shot this facing west.  Without trying, numerous of my photos find this iconic spire in the background.  Sadly, the viewing deck is still closed from the 2011 Earthquake.

2. The Smithsonian Castle anchors the string of museums lining both sides of the Mall.  A fellow runner enjoys the dirt and gravel paths available for all sorts of exercise.  As my run unfolded, I saw more and more people out stretching their legs.  This image was taken facing south.

3. This post is called a Capitol Run, so next up are a few shots of the Capitol building which sits at the east end of the Mall.  It forms a line with the Lincoln and Washington tributes, and one of the diagonal avenues (Pennsylvania) has a direct via of the White House (and vice-a-versa of course).  The District was laid out with all of this in mind.  The sun was still not up, but this pre-dawn sky made for a nice background.  My flash fired which illuminated the street signs as you can see the street lights are still on.

As the Capitol sits on a hill, I had a small rise to navigate which I did around the north side.  I could just glimpse Union Station.  This led me up to my next photo location.

4. This is the east entrance to the Capitol.  We tend to see the other one a lot in images and inaugurations.  I think technically this is the main entrance.  Tours enter through here into the rotunda. This is also the way departing presidents leave.  The bronze Statue of Freedom sits atop.

5. Located almost hidden away behind the Capitol is the Supreme Court.  Here, as the sun starts to peak over the horizon, the building sits watching all of Washington.  It's on the same level as the Capitol and can keep on eye on the rest of the government.  Obviously, renovations are in progress, but you can still tell it is a regal building.  The original Supreme Court utilizaed rooms in the incomplete Capitol when it first met in DC from 1810-1860.  This building was started in 1932 and resides on 1st Avenue NE.

6. To my eye, the Capitol just looks great from any angle.  Here, the brightening sky really helps show off the marble wedding cake dome.  This is not the original dome though. It was replaced during the Civil War (which is sort of amazing that they had time to undertake that during the conflict.)  The current dome will be 150 years old next year.  A fellow runner scurries from south to north across the wide parking area on the east of the building.

7.  My last look at the seat of Congress came from the southwest looking back up the hill to the west portico.  The western front of the building features grass, flowers, trees and reflecting pools.  A number of small paths and walkways dot the exterior.  I was amazed at how close you can come to these buildings.  Sure, you see lots of security and barricades, but in no way was I impeded or felt out of place snapping photos.

8. Not as glitzy as the Smithsonian behemoths museums or as shiny as the monuments, the National Botanical Garden sits just across the street from the Capitol.  I found this lovely little sitting area open to the public in front.  Can you imagine big wig Senators and Representatives meeting here to plot the next country aletering law?  I can't either, but I hope their staffs take advantage of it to get an escape from the all the political machinations.

9. I always found it strange that Jefferson, the architect of the Declaration of Independence and our 3rd president, would have his Memorial slightly isolated across the Tidal Basin from the Mall.  However, over time, I have come to appreciate the specialness of the location.  It has a great view back towards the White House and other monuments, and it is more peaceful than the other more easily accessible spots.  And with Roosevelt's monument also over in this area now, Jefferson is no longer alone.  This view looks south, and you can see a plane in the sky taking off from National Airport.  During the spring, cherry trees (sakura in Japanese) blossom around the Tidal Basin.  The trees were a gift from Japan after the first Roosevelt negotiated the end of their war with Russia about 110 years ago.  Teddy won a Nobel Prize for his efforts. 

10. A side shot of Jefferson keeping an eye on DC.  This is also facing west.  Jefferson himself faces north.

11. You get a sense of the relationship between the Jefferson and Washington structures.  Sunrise was just moments away.  This contrasts with the next image...

12.The reverse angle of photo 11:  This this grainy shot of the Pentagon (I zoomed in) shows just how close that building is despite being across the Potomac and in Virginia.  In fact, I could have probably run over there too if I had more time.  The bridges (off image to the left and right) had bike and pedestrian paths.  I have run here as part of the Marine Corps Marathon.

13.  A self portrait of me and the Washington monument.  I'm such a slave to things like photo resolution that I insisted on using the better camera on the back of the iPhone 4S.  The consequence?  I needed like 10 shots to get one with me in the frame (smiling and not blocking the spire) since I could not see the screen when taking this.  Actually, it turned out ok I think.  At least the Tidal Basin looks good.

14. One of the more recent additions to the Mall is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial that features sculture panels and words from the longest serving president.  The whole piece sprawls along the Tidal Basin's western edge.  I had never noticed the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, the first delegate to the United Nations.  So, she stands in for the whole of the FDR site in this photo log.

15. Another recent memorial (just 1 year old this week) is to Dr. Martin Luther King.  As you approach it from the FDR monument, you are greeted with this impressive 30 foot statue of Dr. King partially completed.  For me, the implication is that civil rights work is not yet done - or maybe can never be finished.  This is actually the back side of the memorial as the entry is from the Mall side.  The official address is 1964 Independence Avenue.  The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964.

16. The designers decided on Dr. King emerging from the stone based on a line from his "I have a dream" speech.  In that speech, he said "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."  You can see that line etched in this side view of the statue.  In fact, this is the view of the statue you see when you enter from Independence Avenue. (Trivia - both Lincoln and Jefferson are both about 20 feet high - so King is the largest on the mall.)  Once again, the Washington Monument appears in frame.

17. Ringing the memorial are numerous quotations and where and when they were spoken by MLK.  I snapped this one due to its California origin in the year I was born.

18. Even the small monuments are pleasant and well tended.  This one honors the fallen DC military veterans.  I like how it is illuminated from the inside.  You can miss the memorial easily since it is down a dirt path, but I was happy to find it.

19. When I first visited the World War II memorial, I did not really like it.  That was not an uncommon reaction particularly since the placement of it broke up the reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  Yet upon repeated viewings, I have grown to appreciate it.  The Atlantic and Pacific campaigns each get their own sides, and every state of the union is represented.  The circular nature of the memorial actually feels like a refreshing change from the rectilinear nature of the Mall.

20. The Atlantic side on the north end of the World War II memorial

21. Given more time and a plan to run 2 more total miles would have let me reach the Lincoln Memorial.  Instead, this distant view was all I could grab.  (However, there is an epilogue to this, so see below.)

22. What brought me to DC was a White House Office of Science Technology and Policy conference I helped organize at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.  This former Naval and Army building sits just west of the West Wing.  We were in the Indian Treaty Room which overlooks that West Wing.  This image is of the visitor and formal southern entry to the EEOB.  It was named for Eisenhower after his presidency because he had worked in the building early in World War II.
23. I started with the legislative branch and found the judicial branch behind it.  So, to complete the Federal Government triangle, I made sure to include the White House on the route.  Here, I was able to reach my camera inside the fence posts to get an unobstructed shot of the north entry.

24 and 25. By running early and on a glorious sunny day, the District of Columbia truly shines.  While I saw a lot of runners and cyclists, I stayed off of the busy streets.  That makes my images seem like postcard images rather than just casual snaps during a normal day.  (The city was also somewhat empty as Congress was not in session.)  However, we must always remember how lucky we are that our democracy allows for freedom of speech and action.  As noted above, I felt very fortunate to be so close to so many important buildings.  This next image is of a vigil that I imagine has been kept for many years.  I passed by this spot 6 times during my 2 days in DC as it was on my walk from my hotel to the conference.  Someone was always in the tent holding the flame.  While maybe somewhat of an eyesore, I chose to see it as a statement of our Bill of Rights being peacefully followed.

The next shot shows though that even in this somewhat paradise looking environment of Lafayette Square not everyone shares in our good fortune.  This was about 7:30 AM on a Tuesday.  I saw numerous people shuffle by this man without seeming to notice.  I can back about 25 mins later after my run, and he was no longer present.

26. My final image of this 7.5 mile run found Andrew Jackson, President and hero of The War of 1812, astride his horse Olympus in the middle of Lafayette Square.  The park area was separated from the White House grounds in 1804 by Thomas Jefferson.  It received its eponymous name in 1824 and reached its current landscaped form in 1851.  The statue was installed two years later and forms a nice southern view with the White House and Washington Monument.  Interestingly, this is the first equestrian statue ever made in the United States.

When I set out to make this photo run, I did not know exactly what I would find and how long it would take me.  In all, I ran about 2 mins per mile slower than usual, and the broken up journey served as a good recovery run from my 35 mile run the previous Sunday.  I did expect that I would enjoy the photo run experience, and that was indeed the case.  I also can smile at the fact that I chose 26 images - 1 for each mile of a marathon.

Having missed running close to the Lincoln Memorial, the next day I took advantage of a great local bike share program.  For $7 per day (less for more days and annual memberships) plus a small fee after 30 mins of riding, you can rent a bike in one of 100s of sidewalk stations in the city and surrounding areas.  I cycled a similar course to my run.  Being on a bike, I was able to reach the Lincoln Memorial and The Vietnam Memorial which I had skipped the day before.

E1. A fellow cyclist passes the Lincoln Memorial just after sunrise.

E2.  The remarkably simple yet powerful Vietnam Memorial is cut into the Mall just northeast of the Lincoln.  Every name of lost solider is etched on the wall organized by year of death.  I dared not ride down the path since I think that would have been poor taste.

E3.  Appropriately, the last shot to share is of sunrise behind the Washington Monument.  My arrival at this time was purely luck.  I saw a number of runners sprinting west and not noticing the splendid start of this August day.