The pandemic put a pin on most marathons during the pandemic, including the Marine Corps Marathon, which was canceled for the second year in a row. “The People’s Marathon,” originally scheduled for this weekend, is hosting a virtual race instead.

If that doesn’t sound appealing, fear not: Washington offers plenty of spots to stretch your legs while taking in beautiful views of the city. These are some of the best places around the city for shorter runs, with tips from local runners on what paths and trails to take.

Anacostia Park

If you’re looking for a spot with a prime river view, Anacostia Park does not disappoint. “Anacostia Park is by far my favorite D.C. park to run a 5K or 10K,” says Elyse Braner, community manager at Pacers Running. “It is fast, flat and scenic. Begin on Anacostia Drive and follow the trail east until the dead end, and then run back for 5K. There are opportunities to make the course longer, as well.” If you’d rather enjoy your run with a group, the park is the site of a free 5K event every Saturday at 9 a.m. where you can meet other runners from around the area. 1900 Anacostia Dr. SE. To register for the Saturday 5K, go to

Buddy Attick Lake Park

University of Maryland track and field Coach Andrew Valmon recommends this green oasis in Greenbelt for short-distance runners. “This park has a 2K loop around [Greenbelt Lake] with good scenery and is shaded when it is hotter out,” he says. There are several other running trails that connect directly to neighboring streets outside the park, and boast a diverse range of birds to see. 555 Crescent Rd., Greenbelt.

Capital Crescent Trail

D.C.’s rolling hills make for a scenic, sometimes taxing, run around the city. That’s why Capital Crescent Trail’s flat, clean pathways — which run from Georgetown to Montgomery County — are a godsend for runners who just want to stretch their legs, not kill them. The best time to go is during the early morning or evening when the trail draws fewer bicyclists and pedestrians, and you’ll want to start right where the trail begins on the Georgetown side, at the western end of Water Street NW (underneath the Whitehurst Freeway and Key Bridge). You’ll be rewarded with picturesque views of the Potomac River and the C&O Canal, and you might see wildlife that you wouldn’t find elsewhere in the city.

National Mall

There isn’t a more D.C. run than going down to the National Mall. The park, which stretches nearly two miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, knocks out two things at once: vigorous exercise and prime sightseeing. You really can’t go wrong no matter where you start along the Mall, but Braner recommends the Reflecting Pool. “This is a great place for people watching for a shakeout run, or the perfect spot for hard intervals during a shakeout run,” she says, referring to lighter jogs before diving into a longer, more-intensive run. For runners who would rather avoid crowds, especially during peak visitors season, try going on the paths that align just outside the Reflecting Pool near the Vietnam and Korean War memorials.

National Arboretum

The 446-acre National Arboretum is ideal for runners who want plenty of space and want to avoid the hordes of tourists on the Mall. “The only downside is that [the Arboretum] is strictly open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., so it’s best for weekend runs when you can go during the day as opposed to the mornings or late evenings,” says Katherine Ellen Foley, a co-leader of running nonprofit November Project D.C. “I find a lot of peace passing through all the different types of trees and flowering plants, and I always keep an eye out for the bald eagles that have a nest there.” For plant enthusiasts, the Arboretum has an interactive map where you can find interesting plant species and plan your route accordingly. 3501 New York Ave. NE.

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek certainly offers plenty of options when it comes to trails and levels of difficulty. You can easily find a path for a 5K or 10K run within the more than 1,700 acres of sprawling woods, and the park is one of the most convenient spots for running within the city, with multiple entrances in Northwest. If you decide to traverse the park’s two main trails, just know what you’re getting into: Western Ridge Trail’s roughly five-mile, largely dirt ground is perfect for runners who mostly want to avoid steep hills, while Valley Trail’s 5.4-mile dirt path is more of an endurance run with varying degrees of elevation throughout. And if you’re looking to space out a little, the upper part of Beach Drive from Broad Branch Road NW to the Maryland state line is closed to cars to allow for more social distancing.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

The only way to get to Theodore Roosevelt Island is by foot — which is exactly why it’s one of the best places in the area to run. With no cars and relatively flat trails, it gives runners more peace of mind and fewer distractions. “The nice thing about Roosevelt Island is that you’re in D.C., but it feels like you getting away at the same time,” DC Front Runners co-race director Norman Reich says of the park, which has mostly dirt paths that make it a better running spot on non-rainy days. “You can do a loop past the Kennedy Center, along the Georgetown Waterfront, across the Key Bridge, do a loop around Roosevelt Island, and then back across the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge back into D.C.” 700 George Washington Pkwy., McLean.


Sure, there are plenty of places to run in D.C. on your own time, but if you’re looking to also meet new people, there’s a community of social outings that offer just that. These events are not only free, but are a nice hybrid of work and play.

Joggers & Lagers at Port City Brewing

Joggers & Lagers is the best of both worlds: You get in a solid run and you don’t have to sacrifice happy hour. Runners meet at Port City Brewing’s Alexandria tasting room on Monday evenings, hitting the road for a one-, three- or five-mile journey at a neighboring park before landing at Holmes Run Trail. Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. Port City Brewing, 3950 Wheeler Ave., Alexandria.

Pacers social runs

Pacers Running, a chain of local shops, has a laundry list of social events for all types of runners, and maintains fairly active Facebook groups with a complete schedule of runs. On Mondays, Pacers 14th Street hosts runs of three, five and seven miles, while its Navy Yard location hosts three- and five-mile runs on Tuesdays. Both events are typically followed by drinks at a neighborhood bar, giving ample time for socializing while still getting in a good workout. Various times and locations.

DC hashing

Hashing is one of D.C.’s finest running traditions, but what exactly is it, you ask? There aren’t any formal rules per se, though the general idea is that runners follow a trail marked by a lead runner that ultimately ends at a drinking destination. There are events in which runners make drink pitstops along a route too, but the connecting tissue is that hashing is a casual, not-at-all serious running experience where socializing is front and center. Sites such as DC Hashing have a comprehensive list of events taking place, seven days a week. Various times and locations.

November Project D.C.’s weekly runs at the Lincoln Memorial

If you prefer knocking out your workouts in the morning, November Project D.C.’s weekly run on the Mall may be your answer. The running nonprofit meets every Wednesday at the Lincoln Memorial at 6:20 a.m. for a 45-minute run, which means runners are free to go about their day by 7:15. No frills, no extra outings involved. Wednesdays at 6:20 a.m. Lincoln Memorial, 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir. NW.