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Best races to run in the DC area

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Iconic running races that are unique to the Washington, DC area

double trouble: 5k and 10k back to back. I call it the five and dime.

I have been running in DC for each of my three tours of duty here, going back to 1986. I must have upwards of 50 race bibs stuffed in a file from events all around the DC area. There is hardly a weekend throughout the year without an organized race event within 20 miles of DC. My favorites tend to have some sort of gimmick – either great scenery, some special course characteristic, or an interesting finishing party. Here are a few:

The GW Parkway 10-miler

The GW Parkway 10-miler starts at Mount Vernon and finishes in a waterfront park in Alexandria. The course is slightly undulating and very scenic, as well as leaves an impact that you are running on a major highway with no traffic around you. The party at the finish involves some good food and beer.

Clarendon Day Run finishes with great photo ops

The Clarendon Day Run

The Clarendon Day Run starts in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington and is proclaimed as the fastest course in the DC area because it traverses a substantial downhill through Rosslyn to the Pentagon and returns to Rosslyn on relatively flat terrain. There is a 5k and 10k version (I call it the five and dime) that participants can run back to back, although you have to get from Rosslyn back to Clarendon for the second leg.

I will regret the uphill shortly

The Four Courts four-miler

The Four Courts four-miler has a similar start, but the finish comes back to Irelands Four Courts at the top of a long and steep hill that is relentless as a finish.

Races at the National Mall and West Potomac Park are very scenic

Anything involving the Mall or West Potomac Park for scenery and relative flatness. The St Patricks Double Run is also a back to back 5k and 10k that traverses the areas around the National Mall. The Parks 10k also leverages the easy flats of West Potomac Park for a gentle run.

This course is flat as a pancake

Cherry Blossom ten-miler

The big daddy for me is the Cherry Blossom ten-miler, which I first ran in 1996. This is one of those events you need to experience for the exposure to a professional style event that covers a lot of important territory in DC.

More than anything it is a unique way to meet people or organize a fun way to experience DC with friends that share the running habit.

You can find me on Strava and Garmin Connect as Gregg Rockett.

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