PR Training

Run The City

Editor’s note: This is the ninth post in a series of guest posts from the PRSA National Capital Chapter publicity committee for the PRSA 2014 International Conference, October 12 – 14. Follow the Conference conversation by searching the hashtag #PRSAICON and following our PRSA National Events Twitter handle, @PRSAevents.

2014 PRSA International PR Conference banner

Washington DC is a runner-friendly city. In fact, one of the best ways to see the city is on foot, exploring one of the many trails surrounding the city and region.

As a long-time DC resident and distance runner, below are a few of my top recommendations based on what you are seeking plus a few tips for runners to make the most of their time in DC.

To find these trails, check out the links at the end and talk to hotel concierge as well.

Convenience: Rock Creek

Valley Trail and Ridge Trail on the edge of Rock Creek Park. Rocky and steep in some sections. If you head north, the trail runs alongside of the road for a few miles then winds around the zoo, generally this section is in more of a natural setting. You can connect this loop with Melvin Hazlen Park to get back to NW DC. If you head south, the trail also runs alongside the road and beside the Potomac, generally this section will give you better views of the city and leads to the Mall (check out the steps on your left a few miles in, the steps will lead to the Lincoln Memorial).

Best views: Potomac Heritage Trail

One of the most popular trails in the area. Goes all the way to 495 (10 miles). Rock scrambles in some sections. Water at Turkey Run Park about seven miles in. You can also add loops around Roosevelt Island at 1.5 miles in. Cyclists love this trail, so make sure you are staying on your right and listen for their bells. If you want to cut your run short, you can cross Memorial Bridge. The trail cuts through Georgetown as well.

Monument Sight-Seeing: National Mall

Obviously this isn’t a trail but a good way of checking out the sights while you’re in town. If you’re short on time, you can take Metro to Smithsonian (transfer at Metro Center to Orange or Blue lines). If you have time, check out the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden, which is located about halfway between Washington Monument and the Capitol. Garden on both sides, but you have to walk down a flight of steps to get to the garden on the south side. The entire length of the Mall (Lincoln to Capitol and back) is about 4.5 miles.

Best for Connecting with Nature: C&O Canal

Preserving America’s early transportation history, the C&O Canal began as a dream of passage to Western wealth. Operating for nearly 100 years, the canal was a lifeline for communities along the Potomac River as coal, lumber and agricultural products floated down the waterway to market. But enough history, it’s also a great trail for us runners. This is a dirt trail with small pebbles and tree roots in some sections, great views of Potomac along the way, a few miles in. If you run through Georgetown, bring your credit card and check out the Georgetown Running Company.

A few general tips:

Be safe. There have been a number of attacks on runners recently. Run in the daylight. Bring a friend. Wear a whistle. Most trails are well-populated but not all trails are well-lit. I always bring a metro card in case I get lost, or stick $20 in your shoe for emergency cab fare. Note that the trails above are in safe areas but an ounce of caution is the best policy.

Check out Fleet Feet in Adams Morgan, which is within walking distance from the hotel. Local running store run by local running legend Phil Fenty, who has a special talent for fitting running shoes. They organize group runs, so if you’re interested, you may want to call ahead to get schedule.


DC trail map (credit: irunfar)

DC-VA trail map (credit: Virginia Happy Trails Running Club)

Virginia Happy Trails Running Club

DC Road Runners

Tracy Cooley, APR has run more than 10 marathons and ultramarathons and loves running the trails in DC more than any other city in the world. She has been a member of PRSA for more than 15 years and previously served on the National Committee of PRSSA. Tracy handles health policy and emerging company policy communications for the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Tracy can be reached at  

About the author


Leave a Comment