I took the suggestion of exploring some of the neighborhoods around me I am not familiar about.
Having been in the area for almost all my life, I am familiar with most places, or so I thought. There are indeed many neighborhoods that I have never been i , but only passed by in a car. We have mostly nice neighborhoods here in Northern Virginia because we are one of the top 10 or 20 richest counties in the nation, and probably the most dangerous neighborhood is the one I am in, because I am just more familiar with it with constantly hearing about crime reports on those neighborhood apps, such as Life360 or Nextdoor I’m part of.
Yesterday, having nothing more important thing to do, I got myself out the house, just to wander around. I wanted to run somewhere far. So I randomly started off in one direction without having a fixed route in my head. Normally I do have a route in mind – a practice of mine since college – like today we are doing Route Alpha, or Route Charlie, so forth. I gave my routes names. Well I was going to do the same route I have been doing the last few weeks, namely to run down on Stone Rd to Westfield, to Walney, Poplar, then Stringfellow, and turn on Lee Hwy, and back to Stone Rd. It is about a 10 mile loop and I usually add couple miles here and there and would do the loop twice to get 26.2 – a marathon.
This weekend though I didn’t feel wanting to do a loop twice. Having the confident in my ability that I can run anywhere under 50 miles and not get stranded midway, off I went. I didn’t bring water or food except an slurp bar (Science in Action); it is like yoplait but for endurance althletes.
The day was beautiful. I was not in a hurry. I got to Walney but instead of turning to Poplar, I went straight, to a strange road. I was feeling courageous today. The past two years, if I go off to a new route, I would first get into my car drive the route to measure the distance but more importantly to check the trails if it runable. Many times during halfway through a run, you discover that the sidewalk ends where you least expected. So having drive around first, kind of help you to make those safety decision of to turn around, like if the car traffic bad, the road/median does not have enough room on the shoulder, and how long do you have to be on the side of the road if you have to be on the road, stuff like that. Runners have to pay attention to those. Going into a place without first checking it out is not recommended.
Having lived in the neighborhood for 30 years did not really give me an edge. I was not a runner back then and was not much aware about whether a place is runable. This was actually the first time to have a boot on the ground even though it is “my neighborhood”. My impression of my neighborhood changed.
It was a joy to explore a new place. Being in the car in the past, did not give a sense of the how big the world is. I passed through ‘world’ upon ‘world’ today. Walney is a place where they would toll our cars to if we illegally park on the street or certain spots in my neighborhood. I had my car tolled to there once, no twice, couple years ago. I had bad feeling about the place. At that time, I thought it was so far away. My girlfriend drove me there to recover my car. As I ran past it, the light in my head light up. That where this place is. It was just 3-4 miles down where I live and I alway thought it was on the other side of town. 3-4 miles is no longer part of my vocabulary for far.
Then I got to the Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy and I said, oh, this is where we go to the airport. There were many beautiful neighborhoods I saw. One was the Fields of Chantily. I said as went I passed by, I didn’t know there a residence behind all these commercial buildings and shopping centers. Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy is a busy street.
Boy, no one was staying at home at all. Like on my previous three runs, today was no different. Lee Jackson was full of cars zipping by. I bet half of them or even three quarter of them were not essential workers. We were just enjoying being out for after lock-in for a full week.
I never ran on Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy before. I know where it leads, but running is a totally different ballgame. Luckily the entire way was mostly paved. There is a part where if you are not careful you could fall into an uncovered manhole and a 15 foot ‘ravine’, but it was obvious. Just don’t run there when it is dark outside. There is a neighborhood where they have their mailboxes across the street from their house and I thought that is the weirdest thing. Normally, people put their mailbox on their lawn at the curb and not the otherside of the street.
I think by 8 miles, I got to my old neighborhood where I lived during my highschool years. I haven’t been back there except for couple races I did in that area. Again, I felt proud of myself to have ran that far. All these years, I always thought this place is so far to get to. You could say I haven’t really been back to explore around.
The Safeway store is still around. There are many new codominium. They started building those when I moved out. I swinged by my own apartment. It was sad the church Centerpointe Assembly of God is no longer there. The mall across was closed due to the coronavirus. That was a disheartening sign, to see the big mall parking lot completely empty. I only see such a sign in the past when there was a snow storm, even then, usually they would clear the lot of snow by the next day.
As I continued on the run, I swinged by Fairfax Corner. This is a newly developed area. A misnomer. It is in the middle of the city and they call it the corner. More like a corner store, but man it is not just a store. They cleared the woods, hundreds of acres of land and built the whole neighborhood up during my college years. This place is huge. I came here the last couple years for my 5k races. It is a new development area, high density, mixed zone development. This has been a hip word here in our area. Instead of separating commercial, business, offices, now they build everything into one gigantic place – mixed zone – constant traffic – always people. You have high traffic shopping in the center. You build parking decks and condominium all around it. And they have towering offices surrounding that. It is a whole world inside. Funny thing is there is no school, post office, police station, firehouse in sight. I always wonder where are the schools. They cram maybe 5000-10000 residents in the place and have no school. I’m sure they have done their environmental studies. But if you build it, people will come indeed is true. People really like the place. So Fairfax Corner is like that – a busy place. I saw a lot of people around as I passed.
I continued and headed for my gym, getting back on the Lee Jackson Hwy. Gym closed of course even if the sign says open 24 hours. Note, normally I would be in my car in this stretch because this section of the highway is not runner friendly. It has overpasses and cars going 60 plus mph. There is just a lot going on here. I hated this place even if I am in my car. Yes, lived here all my highschool years and drove this section to school every day. I was thirsty at this time for not bring my usual runner pack. I opened my yoplait-like slurp. It was still wasn’t enough to cure my thirst. Luckily there was a gas station ahead. I stopped there and brought a Gatorade. Yup talk about violating social distancing. Gas station is a high traffic area for the spread of the virus.
I reached the end of the Lee Jackson Memorial and it became Main st. It became Main St after all those crazy overpasses. There was a sign that says 1.3 mile to city center, (Fairfax City that is). I did not continue to the city center. I hated crossing that big street Lee Hwy. We have so many St naming after Civil War generals. It was like a six street intersection there because the four roads coming together at an angle. You have such weird streets at many places in the Northern Virginia area and they created huge traffic mess. All these years, you wonder can’t they straighten out the street? So staying on myside of the street, I turn right on Lee Hwy without crossing it.
This part of Lee Hwy was also new to me. I had never ran here before. There is not a lot of businesses on Lee Hwy. No residence either. There are, but they are all hidden behind out of sight. Luckily they have sidewalks for most parts. I guess this is where the wealthier residents live. It reminded me of being in the redwood forest as I ran through this section of the neighborhood. Surprisingly this part was where I had a lot of uphills to climb. They were not as steep as in DC, but they gave me a decent workout.
Lee Highway was shorter than I expected. I reached back in Centreville around at mile 18. I was disappointed that I still had a bunch of miles left. At this point I hit my first wall (extreme tireness). This is the worst part because when you hit the wall, only thing you want to do is to stop running. And usually my goal is to push to the end. Today, there was no specific end point for me to focus on. Instead, I had to plan on where and how I get in another 6-8 miles. I am familiar with Centreville. From one end to the other is only 2-3 miles. So there were not a lot of running room so to speak. It is like the airplane being out of fuel and you can’t land yet but keep circling around. That what I had to do.
I made a turn into Trinity Center. This is a business park / residential area as well, and has been recently built maybe within the last 10 years. I have been in there once or twice. I was surprised how big it is. It is unlike Fairfax Corner. It is ‘high density’ – well in fact all Centreville is high density, but it was not high foot traffic unlike Fairfax Corner. Centreville back in the early nineties still believed in zoning. We zone all our restarants to one location (outside) and residential on one side separated by a highway. The corporate center though is something new. There were like four business parks in there – parks is really just large parking lots without trees. Large parking lot is like Pentagon large. You only have these kind of lots outside of the city. Oh, they have water fountains and manmade lakes. I am pretty sure they are manmade because those were not around in the past. Horay! It is beautiful though. I love looking at modern business buildings (way better than what you find in DC cement blocks – brutalism).
Centreville has one hotel, well probally two. Springhill suite. I had always wondering who would stay there. It is a nice place, but we do not attract enough tourists here. Not until I saw the corporate parks it dawned on me. Yup for them.
By this time, I still had six more miles. I made a figure eight loop. It might seem small on the map but that was like four mile run. I ran to my sister’s house on the other side of Centreville – also I rarely traveled there. She lives on the south side. I hate crossing the big highway,
Sudley Centreville Road. Luckily, no one was home – or they kept strictly to the social distancing as they should and didn’t open the door – good for them. I shouldn’t even be tempted to go there, you know. They (general advice) say no visitation for nonhousehold member.
Then I headed back home as the sun was setting. I was thristy again. Sorry for myself of not bringing my own water. At that time, I was struggling with my second wall, and it was worse than the first. I couldn’t stand up at the moment. It felt as if ants were crawling on the back of my legs. I stopped to walk for a mile or so. It was only mile 22. The legs got better after resting. I almost thought I couldn’t make it home. Two miles away and can’t make it back is unbelievable after having run 22 miles.
I got better as I sighted the street Stone Rd on top of the hill. I did not want to get 26.2 miles so I stopped at mile 24.5. It was pointless to go for two more miles just to say I ran another marathon this weekend.
Something can be said about geography and its significant to us as we attached meaning to it. I ran about and saw various places where I grew up in. I saw the place where they impounded my car, the place where I had my first car accident, then the place where I had my second car accident. Is there any happy places? They are places where it leaves a strong impression in me. I love my car as you can tell! Yes, it was very nolstagia when I passes through places I hasn’t been to for long time. Or places where they changed so much in the past few years like the Fairfax Corner or the Trinity Center.