Historic Virginia Commute

About a year ago a new job brought with it a dream commute – seven miles of rolling hills and good sidewalks through historic towns and a national park, all perfect for running.

I run commute about twice a week between Colonial Heights and Fort Lee, Va., about a half-hour south of Richmond.

Before the new job, my weekday runs started after my son went to bed, usually around 8 p.m. Now running feels like a part of my day rather than something jammed into inconvenient times, always after everything else was done.

It only takes about 45 minutes longer to run than drive, including showering. My office building has a shower, and my job offers two hours a week off for physical fitness as a benefit. Add these to the terrific route, and it’s hard to make excuses.

Some days I run the 14-mile round trip. Other days I drive in, leave my car, run home and then run in the next morning. Either way, it racks up miles quickly. I usually have nearly 30 in before the weekend.

The run starts in a typical older neighborhood, but after the first half mile I turn along a four lane commercial strip, the main drag through the small town of Colonial Heights. From here everything takes on a historic tone. It was from this point the Marquis de Lafayette led American troops in bombarding the British during the Revolutionary War, an act that gave the town its name.

Down a short hill is a bridge over the Appomattox River and into Petersburg. Both the river and city have become synonymous with the waning days of the Civil War.

At the center of the bridge my watch beeps to mark the first mile. I enter Petersburg, past 150 year old brick buildings, and then across an overpass.

It’s exhilarating running over Interstate 95, one of the busiest roads in the country. Local commuters mix with freight and families traveling between Maine and Florida. Dozens of vehicles passing below me, each its own bubble.

Another mile ticks by and I’m alongside historic Blandford Cemetery, home to tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers. Blandford is followed by an Orthodox Jewish cemetery, with graves dating back to 1913.

As the third mile ends, the best part of the run begins. Traffic stops and all hints of the city instantly disappear. I’m now in the Petersburg National Battlefield, meticulously maintained by the National Parks Service and as close to perfect for running as I can imagine.

For the next three miles I’m on a wide bike and pedestrian-only lane. It hardly matters, though, as it’s not uncommon to see only deer on a week day morning. Especially in the winter, not that cold has been a problem this year.

The park road alternates between woods and fields, interrupted every half mile or so by historic markers and monuments, artillery pieces and the remains of dirt and wood forts. I’m no Civil War buff, but it’s hard not to enjoy being surrounded by history.

A short stint on a dirt road, and I exit the park onto Fort Lee, the center of Army logistics, for the final mile. Most days I run past soldiers, and often Marines, subconsciously pick up the pace.

I arrive at work far more awake than if I’d driven. Though I’ll spend the next eight hours in a cube, I choose how I get there.

Run to Work Day wrap-up

Did everyone enjoy running to work on Run to Work Day? TRICK QUESTION: of course you did. We heard from many of you, pre- and post-RtWD. Here is a sampling of some of the excitement that simmered in from Internaut, followed by my own experience and photographs.

Our pal and fellow Atlantan Hall said, “Good timing! My car needs some work, so I started riding MARTA, then I realized it’d be just as quick (faster even, if you can believe it) to run commute. Plus I needed to start adding miles to my training.” Not the first time in Atlanta’s congested streets that runners and riders have outpaced transit.

Christina, who discovered the event last-minute, jumped in regardless, eager. She has a great recap with photos, and her day-before prep. You might wonder whether she successfully summited the 0.7 mile-long Torrey Pines Hill at the end of her run. Go find out! (She did. TRUMPH.)

Matt and a partner, unable to go on Feb. 24, will instead brave their run commute on April 6. “Brave” it is apt: they will run 40 miles to work. They have a debate going: “Can we be late or do we have to be at work on time?” Your thoughts?

Aggie, with a wealth of commitments and dearth of time, saw this as an opportunity to notch some miles. “My job is just some 4.5 miles away, so I usually try to alternate running to with running from work. … Between school and work the commute runs are the only option for me to get any training going during the work week.”

And our pal Byron, known locally as one of the go-to guys regarding bicycles, jumped in, too. Adventurer, he. “Achieved “mode parity” today, with my route by foot (run, not walk), bike, transit, and car all taking less than 30 min total; I could probably get them almost equal with a bit more effort.” Josh and I saw him the other day for lunch, and Byron is looking quite svelte these days. Whatever level of effort he is putting out, it is paying off. (more…)

By |2016-10-22T20:26:49-04:00March 1st, 2012|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , , |5 Comments

“I have SO MUCH to share!”

I scoop up adventures on my runs like children do coins in fountains: so excited by each, and there are just so many of them, all valuable. Most runners are like this, I believe; if not, they should be; they can be. Running to work or home, I constantly catalog the singular, split-second scenes past which I move. I do this to later share with Laura, and always share them with her first, and sometimes pop them onto Twitter.

Now that I have, I can share with you the recap of my lunch-time run. I biked to work today (I just missed my bike) and used lunch to literally run an errand. Hopefully this handful of shiny adventures will inspire you to jot down those from your next jaunt. If run commuting can shed the day’s stress from your shoulders, it also can bring something bright, lively and lovely home in time for dinner. (more…)

By |2012-11-06T14:05:08-04:00January 12th, 2012|Categories: General|Tags: , , , , , |9 Comments

Run Commuter Advocacy: Sidewalk Maintenance

Run commuter advocacy?  That’s right!

An issue arose in Atlanta recently about sidewalk repair and maintenance funding.  A local organization, PEDS, has been pushing for a change to Atlanta’s city code  that would transfer sidewalk repairs off of the adjacent property owners plate and onto that of the Department of Public Works.  They make a good argument, too.  However, like many municipalities, Public Works is short on funding to make the much-needed repairs.  As a result, there is a panel discussion tonight where the Public Works Commissioner and others will explain the issues and listen to input from the pubic, which will hopefully lead to positive results.  It’s short notice (tonight), but if you live in Atlanta and can go, the time and location can be found on PEDS homepage under Action Alerts.


By |2011-09-13T15:22:01-04:00September 13th, 2011|Categories: General|Tags: , , , , |1 Comment

Seen on my commute: Word Scramble

This is one of my favorite places to run past lately.

Located along my Dekalb Avenue route, Streetela describes themselves as “a co-operative brand created to bring the independent urban artist together with those that appreciate the work.”  Some of the awesome local artists featured on their site: Evereman, Paper Twins, and Faber.

Streetela’s sign on top of their building consists of individual, movable letters which has led to many variations of awesome over the past few weeks.  “lets eater” is pretty good, but my favorite so far has been “ale tester.”

Rock on, you wacky cats…

By |2018-02-27T15:01:08-04:00August 30th, 2011|Categories: General|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Crunched for time, so here is a quick run through a National Park!

Whew! This week has been hectic and, as everyone in the country knows, hotter than the molten core of the earth. We all had heavy case loads this week, preventing us from writing anything for your amusement or amazement, but will return next week with gusto. Benefit of run commuting: stress relief.

Though said run commutes ease stress, and give both barrels to getting you home and getting you exercise, there is the larger part, at least for me, of seeing and experiencing the city. I love Atlanta. Atlanta is my city; likely you all feel the same way about the spaces and places in which you live.

Every day I relish the experience of exploring it, seeing its myriad pieces and people mingle. Part of our aim here is to share that with readers. So while we recoup over the weekend and regroup next week, here are some quick pics I snapped running down Auburn Avenue through the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, of which I wrote earlier this week. (more…)

By |2016-10-22T20:26:59-04:00July 22nd, 2011|Categories: General|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

My favorite run commuter(s): Doug Coyle and his dog

My daily commute to downtown Atlanta, by run or bike, takes me through several parks, one of which is a unit of the National Parks Service. Auburn Avenue is the heart of the Sweet Auburn Historic District, boasting many historic structrues and sites, not least of which is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.

The park’s most-visited structure is MLK, Jr.’s boyhood home, in front of which you will see visitors from all over the world posing for photographs almost any time the sun is up. I am obsessed with National Parks, so it is a great pleasure to pass through or by here several times daily.

And often as I pass, I see Doug Coyle.

Doug Coyle and his service dog commuting to work.

I only learned his name last week, when we happened to pass each other on the sidewalk. (more…)

By |2016-10-22T20:26:59-04:00July 19th, 2011|Categories: General|Tags: , , , |6 Comments

Our first Run Commuter Summit

We gathered in Atlanta last week to host our very first Run Commuter Summit, discussing the perils and peaks associated with this noble activity.

It actually was just the three of us — Josh, Sophie, Kyle — drinking beers at Mellow Mushroom and talking shop. We did meet Terry the Psychic, though, who was there to read palms and tarot cards. Terry was kind enough to snap a photo of us, on the condition that we not “call her a dude.” (Wednesday also has trivia hosted by Ruby Redd, a drag queen. A few errant participants made that mistake of Terry not long after.)

Run Commuter Summit

From left: Sophie; Josh; Kyle. Also the descending order of personal condition and appearance.

The appellation “Hotlanta” is as dead as Marley, generally used by tourists whose primary information on Atlanta comes from articles on the 1996 Olympics, and our ginormous airport; however, there was no denying it was hot last week in Atlanta. How hot, you ask? (more…)

By |2016-10-22T20:27:00-04:00July 18th, 2011|Categories: General|Tags: , , , , |1 Comment

Seen: Atlanta’s other parking problem

Just blocks shy of the office, I encountered this scene, where a driver decided to park on the Capitol lawn. That is a two-foot-high wall, on which I usually run as I pass the Gold Dome. Not today.

Only 49 more Capitols to ram

“No, sir, the sign meant I-85 is around the corner.”

Weather was wonderful — no fog, no rain, no tornadoes — and traffic was light. Josh and I later that day examined the tire marks and fender scraps, and could only figure that he came plowing west on the one-way street behind my perspective, cornered across at least two lanes to head south here, hit the curb, hopped the wall and made everyone’s morning.

OR, as I prefer to think, he did this while trying to drunk-dial his best friend from college and tell him he loves him and ask why they don’t hang out any more.

OR, as I am hoping to spin into local legend, this was a brazen protest against the much-maligned parking enforcers ParkAtlanta.

OR, it is proof that Atlantans fail to understand the vexing automobile, and should stick instead to running or bicycles.

Look every which way when you cross or use the streets, gang, watch your backs, and have a great weekend!

By |2016-10-22T20:27:00-04:00July 15th, 2011|Categories: General|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Seen: Skateboard Commuter

Skateboarder or Skateboard Commuter?

It’s hard to see from this picture, but I think I saw my first skateboard commuter on my way to work this morning!

The guy was going fast enough (he was cruising downhill) that I couldn’t catch up to him for a better picture.  He was wearing a Sweet Auburn Curb Market t-shirt and disappeared near the fine establishment, so I’m assuming he works there.  Maybe we’ll cross paths again and I can find out more details…

Hats off to you, alternative commuter!

By |2016-10-22T20:27:01-04:00July 7th, 2011|Categories: General|Tags: , , , , |2 Comments