A Veteran’s Day Run Around the National Mall

I flew from Newark to Ronald Regan Airport in D.C. early on Sunday morning. My three-day seminar was scheduled in Alexandria and I was planning on getting in a long run about the town before meeting up with an old friend from high school around 4ish.  That was the plan, anyway.

On approach, the plane banked around the Washington Monument and passed by the Capitol. I  realized that if I didn’t take some action, I was going to spend five days in the D.C. area without visiting these great monuments.

After checking into my hotel, I changed, and headed to the Metro Station. Within 40 minutes I emerged from L’Enfante Plaza.  There is something amazing in the feeling of emerging from underground and having the Capitol building be right there, larger than life.   The first time I saw the Capitol was in December 20, 1987. My girlfriend and I were driving through D.C. and we saw the Capitol from miles away as we approached.   On this day, the Capitol appeared out of nowhere, there in all its glory.

My Route Along the National Mall

I ran towards the Capitol like an excited child, with my headphones on and the Grateful Dead show from 1989 playing in my ears.  I was giddy.   I was also on a schedule with which meant that there was no time to lollygagging.   I wasn’t sure how far I was going to run, but I had a good idea that I had to be on the Metro back to Alexandria by 2:30 at the latest.

Despite being the near side of mid-November, D.C. was unseasonably warm.   The National Mall was beautiful, bathed in the bright sunlight.   There were tourists like myself all through the Mall.   Also like myself, there were many runners, all of them more serious than touristy me.  Other than the traffic lights every block or so, it was a beautiful environment to run in.

 As I made my way around the Washington Monument, the Dead were still playing in my ears. Brent Midland sang the words, But we never tend the garden and we a rarely pay the rent. Most of it is broken and the rest of it is bent. Put it on our plastic and I wonder where we’ll be when the bills hit.”

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial at the Conclusion of Services

The song reminded me of the stories of how the construction on the monument stopped when they ran out of funding and how when they restarted construction again, they had to use a different type of stone.   I think I captured that interface between the two in the photo on the right.

After the Washington Monument, the Mall started to get crowded.   There were Veteran’s day activities going on near Vietnam Memorial.  I started passing older gentlemen dress in the colors of their service.  Some wore the uniforms of WWII, others their representation of their time in Vietnam.  I found myself thinking about the Vietnam Vets and the raw deal they got when they returned.  I am glad that as a society we have evolved to the point where we separate the people who serve from the politics of the battles they fought in. I ran past veterans that were younger than me.   It struck me in that the Gulf War (you know, the one with Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf) was over 20 years ago.

I climbed the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial and thought of the two movies that recently were released about the President.  The more recent film seemed a much more historically-based than the rendition earlier in the year that portrayed Lincoln as a vampire slayer.  What a weird and distant world Hollywood lives in.

I stopped for a few minutes at the Lincoln Memorial to look out over the world.   I saw the Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the Tidal Basin.  I knew that it was short of 2 miles, and I could be there in 20 to 30 minutes, but I also knew there was no Metro station nearby to take me home.   I won’t say that I was broken-hearted, but I longed for more time.

I headed back as the services at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial were concluding.   I walked quietly through the crowds of men and women who have serviced this country, like a funeral guest who didn’t know the departed or the family.  I saw one man holding the U.S. Flag as well as the flag for the MIAs.  The MIA flag was a big part of my early experience growing up in New York in the 60’s and early 70’s.   It’s not that prevalent in California, I don’t know why.  I just know that when I see that flag, I am on the East Coast.  It’s a culture thing I guess.  Even the hockey stadium I went to as a kid, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum had MIA flags all around it as I recall.

I wanted to stay and be among these people on this their day.  Unfortunately, I had to go.  I had to get back to my hotel and shower in time for dinner.  I was torn.  I was someplace wonderful that I wanted to be and yet, I had someplace to get to.  Someplace that was equally important to me an my history.  That’s the story of my life, short on sleep, short on time, trying to pack another great experience in on borrowed time.

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A Veteran’s Day Run Around the National Mall