The National Mall is not the type of mall Americans normally think of. The definition of mall, from Dictionary.com:
A large area, usually lined with shade trees and shrubbery, used as a public walk or promenade. The National Mall is not a two-story shopping mall lined with 100 stores but an outdoor stretch of sidewalks, gravel, and grass in the heart of Washington, D.C. Stretching 1.9 miles from the Lincoln Memorial to the steps of the Capitol Building, and 1.2 miles from the Washington Monument to the Capitol Building, the Mall can be considered America's true mall. And with so many sights to see along the way, it's an ideal place to run.
What Makes It Great
The Mall offers incredible views of several monuments and famous buildings in Washington. A good place to start your run is in front of or near the Lincoln Memorial, at the Mall's western end.
If you stretch before runs, do so in the shadow of Honest Abe. When you're ready, run along the Reflecting Pool toward the Washington Monument. Wave hello to the ducks and birds that like to bob in the water, but watch out for tourists taking pictures — during the summer months, the Mall is very crowded.
At the Washington Monument, stay on the path that encircles the famous obelisk and glance up to see the top, roughly 555 feet straight up. And, if the crowds are light and you have a few minutes, try to get a ticket for a tour of the monument (which includes an elevator ride to the top) at the stone building adjacent to it.
With that done, keep running east toward the Capitol. The Smithsonian Museums line both sides of the Mall, so try and make time to visit at least one of those after your run or during your stay in the city. The gravel- and cement-lined paths are lined with trees to keep you cool and have places that serve cold drinks. The eastern end of the Mall is more open to the elements.
Take in the inspirational view of the Capitol Building, noting both sides of it — the Senate chamber is on the left (north) wing and the House is on the right (south) wing.
Now turn around and head back west, up the opposite side of the mall from which you came. More Smithsonian Museums and other notable places will be on your right as you continue running. When you reach the Washington Monument again, turn to your right for a nice view of the White House. Finish your run strong at the Lincoln Memorial — for an added bonus, run up the steps.
Who is Going to Love It
Serious runners, new runners, and everyone in between. The route is mostly flat, rising to just 56 feet above sea level. If you're in town for vacation or business or simply live in the D.C. Metro area, running on the National Mall is an inspirational experience for everyone.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There are several driving routes into the city, so consult with a map or GPS device for the best way in. There is free parking along Constitution Avenue and several roads that branch off it.
You can also take the Metro and get off at several stops. Exit at Metro Center and either walk south to the Mall or take the blue, silver, or orange line to the Smithsonian stop.