Tuesday, June 12, 2012

State No. 4: Maryland, June 9, 2012

The hand-drawn not-to-scale semi-accurate route map that I carried with me.

State #4: Maryland

A film screening in Maryland was the excuse for completing State #4 in my evolving "Run a Big Run in All 50 States" quest. And the run, on Saturday, June 9, was a tricky one due to timing and weather.

The set-up: On 3 p.m. that day, the American Film Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland was premiering a new score for 'The Wind' (1928) by Andrew Simpson, a silent film acquaintance of mine. And I was there!

However, The only real window for a long run was mid-day prior to the screening. So I talked the front desk clerk at the local Days Inn to letting me get a room way before the usual 3 p.m. check-in time.

And so, at 12:05 p.m., I stepped out onto the streets of Silver Spring for an eight-mile journey, more or less. I usually try to shoot for some landmark to give these runs a shape and purpose, and also to help me navigate an unfamiliar area. In this case, it was Interstate 495, the "Beltway," the highway that encircles the D.C. area about six miles out.

My aim: to break out and get beyond the beltway!

Unfortunately, it was already about 90 degrees, and heading higher thanks to a blazing sun. With moderate weather at home in New Hampshire, I hadn't yet gotten used to summer heat, but thought I could handle it. On the plus side, there was a breeze, it wasn't too humid, and I had picked a route that offered the prospect of a lot of shade.

So starting from the Days Inn on 13th Street (right on the D.C. border with Maryland), the run was downhill for the first two miles. On Philadelphia, I passed houses with elaborate gardens, and on Maple, large apartment complexes. My first goal: something called the Sligo Creek Trail, which would take me about two miles to reach.

Okay, I thought -- a shaded respite from traffic hassles and other distractions. Well, yes, but after a while that gets boring. It wasn't bad, however, even as the paved foot-and-bike path zigzagged back and forth across the creek, making use of so many bridges that I lost count. (Hmmm, were federal dollars used in building this? Did some bridge money need to get used up?)

After three miles, I reached my first major decision. Bail from the trail at Colesville Road and head back to the hotel? Or keep at it until I hit I-495? My feet were sore (my running shoes are shot), the heat was building, and I didn't know what time it was, but I figured I'd go for I-495, at least to touch it and turn around.

And so I did, and before long I was hearing the rumble of truck engines and the hiss of tires on pavement. But it still took quite awhile before the trail reached the highway, which it passed underneath, coming out into a sunny shadeless field. I made it! Escape from the Beltway!

I decided then that I felt strong enough to keep going rather than turn around, turning left at a hospital and then going west until hitting Route 97, which would take me back to Silver Spring.

And then the shade stopped. And then the hills started. And I started to think I might be in trouble, both from the heat and the time.

It took an awfully long time to hit Route 97 (also called "Georgia Avenue"), and when I did, I found it to be a major commercial artery clogged with traffic at the approaches to its intersection with I-495, which loomed just ahead. With the sun blamming down, I maneuvered my way across four separate busy on-ramps and back under the Beltway, with traffic shimmering in the heat.

After that, I hit a stretch with some gas stations, and so looked for one where I might get some water. The convenience store I picked was air-conditioned (Hallelujah!), and also quite busy, so no one seemed to care when I took a large soda cup and filled it with water from the drink dispenser. I drank it slowly, feeling the heat radiate off me into the cool air, and then filled it again before heading back out in the heat.

I walked some more, finishing the water, and then began running again, not really knowing how far I still had to go and with no idea if I would actually make it to the theater by 3 p.m. Eventually I arrived in downtown Silver Spring (passing right by the AFI theater!), where I clock told me it was only 1:40 p.m. Whew!

By then, my feet felt like someone had been hitting them with a ball peen hammer, so I transitioned back to walk for the remaining half-mile to the Days Inn. Knowing that I'd made it back it time, it actually felt quite exciting to make that last turn onto 13th Street, knowing I'd accomplished what I set out to do.

Time in: 1:54 p.m. So that's 1 hour, 49 minutes to run a total of 8.1 miles, at least according to Google Maps. So four down, and only 46 more to go. Piece of cake, although I'm not sure how many mid-day runs in 90+ degree heat I'll be tackling. :)

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