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When I travel, I always make sure I can find a pretty outdoor running trail. I love running, but only outside; the fresh air and scenery make me feel invigorated. Runs gives me time to think and de-stress, and I always end the workout feeling healthier and full of energy.

Given that relationship with running, mapping out a trail was one of my first priorities when I was preparing to come to DC. While I was excited to be in the city, I was initially worried that I wouldn’t be able to map out a trail because there wouldn’t be any open outdoors spaces in the highly urban downtown area. There wasn’t any area that popped out to me. I could run on the streets, but I’d have to dodge people and wait for traffic lights. I could run on the mall, but it seemed too touristy to be a peaceful experience. I even considered taking the metro two miles down to the riverfront, but that seemed like a hassle. Unsatisfied with any options, I decided I’d scope out the area when I got there and hope something better came up.

With an 8am landing time, I was the second earliest in my group to arrive. We didn’t have a group activity until 7pm, so I really needed a way to make the hours pass. Upon a recommendation from one of the residence coordinators who checked in with me, I decided to give the first option I had rejected a try and headed off for a run on the National Mall.

I don’t know why I was so apprehensive before, but I LOVED running on the mall. The first loop around was so satisfying that I looped it two more times. The paths were clean, it wasn’t hard to dodge tourists, it was close to NYU, and it was so fun to see all the monuments.  I haven’t run anywhere else since. I had worried that my eight weeks would go by too quickly and I wouldn’t have enough time to sight see, but now I full circle every single one of the monuments four times a week. The path lets me combine exercise, fresh air, and tourist-ing. As someone who loves multitasking and getting stuff done, knocking out all the birds with one stone is pretty satisfying.

Running on the mall has also become a really nice way to clear my mind after work. We pack our schedules, and it can be pretty tiring to go through an 8:30-5 workday and then come back to the dorms for a 7-9 DukeEngage activity. Instead of trying to power straight through, I come home quickly and run for an hour before we have activities. It helps me recharge and refocus so I better engage with the group instead of sitting disinterested. I’ve always had a really good relationship with running, but I’ve found that it’s an especially good outlet here.