Some people say that Hains Point, part of an island sitting in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., is boring. It's flat and doesn't offer much of a break from the oppressive summer sun and heat the nation's capital is known for, they claim.
For those reasons and more, however, Hains Point could be considered a fantastic training spot for runners of all skill levels. It features a 4-mile road that loops around the point, yielding views of the city in a car-free environment (on the weekends) that is packed with other outdoor enthusiasts.
What Makes It Great
Hains Point is part of East Potomac Park, a manmade island that was formed by dredging operations between 1880 and 1892. It is connected to the mainland by a handful of bridges but other than that, it's a freestanding chunk of land that rises to just 10 feet above sea level.
Cars are not permitted to drive below the first half mile of the island during weekends, so head to Hains Point for your Saturday morning run and enjoy your workout without choking on car exhaust — all runners know how unpleasant that is.
Hains Point is lined by Ohio Drive SW, with two intersecting roads near the top and at the bottom. Between those two roads is the East Potomac Golf Course. Ohio Drive is where you want to run.
The road measures about 1.75 miles from the top left corner, at the start of the island, to the bottom tip. Straight up the northeastern side is somewhere around 1.8 miles, with the remaining half mile or so bringing you back to the northwest corner.
Imagine doing speed work or mile repeats without having to run around a track; that's exactly what both long sides of the island can be used for. And the water views are much better. Newer runners, on the other hand, can test themselves by running down one side of the island and back up the same way. Try to run faster on the way back!
Tip: Bring some form of hydration with you, especially in the summer. Stash a bottle along the route or carry one with you.
Who is Going to Love It
Serious runners wanting to do speed work or simply put in some base miles on a flat course. Haines Point is great for building endurance and for acclimating your body to running in the heat.
Newer runners can benefit from Hains Point by using each side as a measuring stick. Also, several races are held at Hains Point or pass through it (including the Marine Corps Marathon), so think about signing up for one of those.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There are several roads in and out of Washington and it can get confusing with one-way roads in the Tidal Basin area, so it's best to consult with a map or GPS device for exact driving directions.
If you're on foot, get yourself to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, which sits at the top of the island.
East Potomac Park has more than 300 parking spots spread between small lots and spaces along the street.