For Novice Runners
For novice runners, a smooth, flat trail with ample shade and pretty scenery is crucial — you want it to feel as easy, comfortable, and fun as possible, right? That's why so many DMV'ers love Rock Creek Park. You can enter the park practically anywhere, jump on a trail, and do an out-and-back run that challenges your stamina, which is the first hurdle for beginning runners — getting past that three-mile mark. For this route, you'll be running along Beach Drive, starting at the intersection with Park Road NW and Tilden Street NW. Work your way south, following the water, and you'll wind past the National Zoo (listen for the lions if you run in the morning!). Pick up the Rock Creek Park Trail at the Connecticut Avenue Bridge, and follow it all the way down past the Kennedy Center to finish at the Memorial Bridge. You'll have accomplished a 4.4-mile run by that point. Way to go!
For Intermediate Runners
When you're ready to step up your training a notch, you'll want to start incorporating some hill work into your routine. Luckily, Embassy Row encompasses a gradual (but still effective) hill into some truly amazing scenery. Start at Dupont Circle and run northwest along Massachusetts Avenue NW; along the way, you'll pass some of the most beautiful embassies in the city, as well as the amazing architectural gem that is the Islamic Center at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue NW and Waterside Drive NW. Finish your run on American University's campus, and you can take Metro home as a reward for all that hard work. You just logged 3.2 miles, all uphill!
For Advanced Runners
If you're a goal-oriented person, there's no better motivation than signing up for a race. This year's Marine Corps Marathon is already sold out, but you can still get involved by running on behalf of a participating charity. Even if you decide to wait until next year to do the MCM, it doesn't hurt to get a little practice — which is why this route traces the first leg of the official course. Starting at Arlington National Cemetery, make your way along the Mount Vernon Trail until it becomes the Custis Trail, then branch off at Spout Run Parkway to pick up the Potomac Heritage Trail. From here, you'll cross Key Bridge and head into Georgetown. But it's not over yet — you're taking Canal Road into the Palisades, circling the Georgetown Reservoir, and heading back down along MacArthur Boulevard until you pick up Canal again. Bonus points: You'll end this eight-mile run right outside Georgetown Cupcake. Go ahead, you earned it!