NoVa Run: Mount Vernon Trail and Wilson Bridge Trail

This past weekend, Nathan and I had the chance to do our long runs in one of our favorite running spots, Northern Virginia. The Mount Vernon Trail begins at George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon and runs along the Potomac River to Theodore Roosevelt Island. Since my mom lives just moments away from Mount Vernon, we can easily run from her house out to Riverside Park to get on the trail.

Our typical run is an out and back of varying distances (the most I’ve done was a 16 mile run – 8 out and back). However, the last time we were up there, we did a point-to-point 8 mile run up to Belle Haven Park. We enjoyed not having to turn around so much, that we decided to ask for someone to pick us up again so we could do a point-to-point over to the Maryland side of the Potomac River by adding on the Wilson Bridge Trail.

I left to start my run at about 6:30.  Nathan is much faster than me and we wanted to end up at the bridge at about the same time, so he waited a while to start.

The parkway and trail were very peaceful before 7 AM. I took advantage of my walk breaks to snap a few pictures as I went. Unfortunately, I knew early on that this wouldn’t be a great run for me. I had a stiff hip when I started and I’ve been having some minor pain just below my knee for a few days now. But, I went about my way.  I did just fine for the first 3.5 miles, although the humidity was killer. I struggled a bit from 3.5 – 5 miles (which is the most hilly portion of the route), but settled back in for another good few miles for a while after that.

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Enjoying the calm on the parkway early in the morning

When I got to Belle Haven Park (almost the 8 mile mark), I took a pit stop to fill up my water bottles and began looking for Nathan. Since I had moved even more slowly than expected, I assumed he would catch me sooner than planned. But, I didn’t see him, so I moved on.  From mile 8 to 9, I did some short running intervals, but by then the humidity had really taken a toll, so I struggled. I walked and ran short intervals as I felt able, but my legs were starting to feel spent as well.

Then, as I closed in on the 9 mile mark and was about to make the turn onto the Wilson Bridge, I looked behind me and saw Nathan in the distance. He was running and looking good, so I pushed on knowing he would catch me within the next minute or two.  When he did, he walked alongside me for a few minutes and then I told him to get lost. 🙂 The climb from the Virginia side of the Potomac to the crest of the drawbridge has a pretty sharp grade for the end of a long run, so I decided to hike up that section without even trying to run.  As I came to the crest, the breeze picked up, my breathing was under control and so I decided to run down the other side of the bridge to the Maryland state line. It felt good to get my legs going again after the climb on the other side.  I met up with Nathan just as my watch hit the 10 mile mark and we continued walking until we were on the other side of the bridge. We took in the views of DC, Alexandria, and National Harbor from the walkway across 395 and then started our walk back over to Old Town where my mom was coming to pick us up. We might have taken advantage of a photo op along the way.

On the Wilson Bridge

This was a really tough run for me due to the humidity and some aches and pains I’m dealing with. However, it is always great to run in different locations and I loved that the last two miles of this run were absolutely new to me. In addition, we took a look at some of the trail maps in Alexandria and I think we might try adding on something different the next time we head up there!


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