Washington D.C. is already one of my favorite places to run at. In a single workout I get to visit several breathtaking monuments, run up the steps to of the Lincoln Memorial “Rocky style,” and go past the Capitol Building, Supreme Court, and Congressional Library just as I would casually run by the post office or grocery store in my hometown. It’s utterly surreal.
But today was even better.
Some days are admittedly tough to get out the door for my run. Today, I couldn’t wait to hit the pavement. As I started my run up First Street in the southeast quadrant toward the Capitol Building, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I’m not supposed to be here right now.”
And I’m really not supposed to be. I made an impromptu decision late Saturday to surprise my boyfriend with a quick weekend visit to D.C. where he lives. I intended to stay only until this morning and make it back in time for track practice this afternoon. After taking in the first waves of D.C. visitors yesterday, ecstatic for Barack Obama’s inauguration, I grappled with the decision of whether or not to stay. Remaining in D.C. meant throwing several responsibilities to the wind—I had to miss some track practices, skip some classes, reschedule meetings, and spend cash that I don’t have.
For these reasons, I went to bed last night intending to stick to the plan to head back to Bloom today. This morning, I packed an item or two in my bag before plopping myself down in the computer chair, realizing that I just couldn’t do it. In the long run, what would be more regrettable—some points docked in class and having to scrape my wallet for the next few weeks, or passing up the opportunity to witness, and cover for BU Now, this historic event in America’s history.
As I ran through D.C. today, I knew I had made the right decision. The jaunt began from my boyfriend’s apartment, which is conveniently located three minutes from the Capitol building (while running). Starting up First Street, I passed the huge crowds exiting the Capitol South metro stop, a stop that I had to get off of earlier in the morning. It had taken ten minutes to get off of the steps and away from the checkout point, but no one seemed to care. Instead, they marveled, and so did I…All those different people who were there for one purpose—to see their candidate sworn in tomorrow.
I dodged my way around this mob and hung a left, running in front of the House buildings of Cannon, Longworth, and Rayburn, and ran into a new crowd. This one wasn’t in gobs like the one exiting the metro stop but organized into lines that snaked around the buildings for a quarter-mile. I didn’t ask, but I assumed they were all waiting in line for their inauguration tickets, and it didn’t look like the line was moving quickly. Still, I heard not a single complaint, and a sensation of pure joy was all I sensed radiating from the people surrounding me.
It was difficult finding an open path through the city, and I had to slow my pace considerably while rounding the Capitol building and heading toward the Washington Monument—all the more time to take in the sites. Yesterday’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial was being replayed on jumbo-trons in the National Mall, and every corner was manned by vendors selling Obama pins, t-shirts, pictures, and calendars. I was enchanted by the angelic voices of a choir on the steps of the Capitol Building, and touched by the hundred or so army soldiers who posed in front of the Washington Monument for pictures. It was amazing to me that a city, packed with so many people, could be in such harmony.
As instructed by my coaches, I had to try to get some intervals in. If I wanted to pick up the pace, I would have to find some space that was more open. Veering from the National Mall, I headed toward the Jefferson Memorial, planning to use the paths surrounding the Tidal Basin. On the way, I was stopped in my tracks by a gathering at the memorial. There was a woman in the center of them speaking and dressed in red with a blue scarf, and at first I thought it was a gathering of Red Hatters. I realized though, that she was not wearing a hat. Several other members of the crowd were, but not the Red Hat type of hats. They were wild and crazy ones, most of them looked to be made from felt. I became even more intrigued when I noticed that some of the women were holding brooms. These were no Red Hatters, I decided, as the speaker began singing a prayer, calling to the likes of Harriet Tubman and the 39 presidents already underground to protect the Obamas tomorrow. Meanwhile, one of the hat ladies walked circles around the crowd, waving her broom in the air.
Mid-broom-chant, I decided to vacate the area and make my way to the basin. To my delight, there were very few people on the paths, and I decided this was perfect for my intervals. Unfortunately, the crowds seemed to follow me, and many of them consisted of youngsters on field trips. They sat on the edge of the path, their legs dangling over the four-foot drop above the frozen water, and they seemed excited to be there.
I was taken back to my eighth-grade field trip to D.C., a trip that left me un-enthused. It’s amusing to me now that the majesty of such a city escaped me. I wonder, had I been lucky enough to make a trip as a youngster to D.C. at a historical moment as this, if I’d even get it. Did these children actually “get it,” or were they just sitting at the basin’s edge, taunting each other to see if the ice was thick enough to walk on?
Regardless, every adult and young adult who I saw during this memorable run this morning got it—This is big. Tomorrow at noon, the first African American president, and one of the most uniting figures this country has seen in decades, will be sworn in as America’s next commander in chief. Those children may not have had the faith to step onto the ice, but right now, the entire city is teaming with faith in this man, Barack Obama.
I think I made the right decision. This is Shannon Hoffman, signing off from Washington D.C., and I’ll keep you posted on the happenings of inauguration day, so keep checking back.