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July 24, 2007

Teddy and Me

For the third time in nine months, I’m spending the week in our nation’s capital. You can say I’m starting to get a feel for this place.

I’m also starting to like it. In fact, of all the cities I’ve traveled to on business trips, I’d put Washington D.C. at the top of the list. It’s not that I’m na├»ve to its problems - a notoriously high crime rate, widespread environmental pollution, and an enormous homeless population, for starters - but I’ve found that the District has a lot of endearing aspects as well.

It has countless monuments and memorials, distinguished architecture, a blended network of urban and rustic pathways, strong multicultural awareness, and a sense of importance that almost no other city can match. It short, it has a lot of character.

And I’m a character guy. So I love journeying through the city each afternoon to discover whatever awaits me in its parks or along its paths.

Sometimes, the city is slow to reveal itself. For example, last night, here’s how I spent the first ten minutes of my run: dodging rush hour traffic in Georgetown, weaving through pedestrians on concrete sidewalks of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, and racing across six lanes of traffic in Arlington. But eventually, I found my way to a pedestrian bridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island, and that’s where the run got interesting.

Roosevelt Island is an 88-acre forest oasis in the middle of the Potomac River, with a spokelike pattern of dirt trails, boardwalks, and footpaths surrounding a memorial to our 26th President at its hub. The island is an independent ecosystem, complete with wildlife, such as the three spotted fawns I observed walking along the swampy eastern perimeter.

(Of course, I immediately started wondering … did these deer ever question how they got here? Did they realize they’d most likely never leave? If so, did that bother them? Or did they spend their spare time building a raft or repairing radio equipment in an attempt to get off the island someday? On a related note, it’s occurred to me that I might have watched a few too many episodes of Lost lately.)

The monument to Roosevelt is a circular clearing with a 17-foot statue at one edge of a fountain. On either side of the statue stand four pillars, with collected quotations from Roosevelt on separate topics.

Here is the inscription underneath the word “Youth”:

I want to see you game, boys, I want to see you brave and manly, and I also want to see you gentle and tender.

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.

Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life.

Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is CHARACTER.

Now … maybe it’s just me. I’ve got this Ironman coming up in less than two weeks, and since I’m tapering more and training less, I’m spending an inordinate amount of time pondering how my training has prepared me, and how I’ll respond to the challenges ahead. I’m also seeing baby deer and thinking of television dramas. What I’m saying is, I may not be in a completely objective state of mind.

Having said that, I’ll give you one guess what I thought about after reading those quotes.

I mean … did Roosevelt know about the Ironman? Did he know about the tender balance between confidence and humility, between ambition and remaining grounded? Did he recognize the traits that each triathlete strives for to successfully reach his or her goals?

Most importantly – did he know how I feel about character? Because over the years, I’ve come to think of this quality as the cornerstone of any training program.

All of us have varying amounts of natural talent. We all have variable amounts of time we can dedicate to our training. We all struggle through difficult times when obstacles seem overwhelming.

The thing that gets us through all of these is character. And 45 minutes into my run through a wooded river island, I was reminded of that by none other than our former President – who also happens to be a character guy.

Those are the kinds of things that you can find in Washington. And that’s the reason I like visiting here.


JohnF 7/24/07, 9:50 PM  

Used to be in the D.C. area a lot, but never to Roosevelt Island. I'll have to check out that island next time I am in D.C. looking for a place to run.

robtherunner 7/24/07, 11:01 PM  

I'm a big fan of Teddy and of character as well. I loved my one visit to DC when I was in my teens. Indeed, it has a lot of character.

Anonymous,  7/25/07, 5:54 AM  

I have never been to DC and despite the well known negatives, it is on my places to go list.

home therapy

Backofpack 7/25/07, 8:38 AM  

I wasn't think Lost (which I've never seen, which would explain why I wasn't thinking it) but more like Gilligans Island (which I've seen way too much). So now I'm thinking...Lost must be the new Gilligans Island. Right?

My one trip to DC was a quick blitz for Eric to run the marathon. I hope to go back in '09 and run it myself. Maybe we can plan in time to see the island too.

And character is what it's all about - every day, every minute.

DREW 7/25/07, 9:04 AM  

Roosevelt Island, hmm. I get out to D.C. about once a year. I'll have to check it out.

Lesser is More 7/25/07, 12:33 PM  

As a local resident of Arlington, VA I can say that DC is like any large city when it comes to crime. It's there, but so long as you stay in the NW part of town, you rarely face any issues. Most of the statistics you see, come from things that happen in parts rarely traveled to by tourists.

Roosevelt Island is part of my regular routine of run routes. Its a nice break from the monotony of running along a street or on a paved trail. Running along the "boardwalk" section is my favorite part of any run. Sometimes you get nice surprises like seeing a deer and other random animals too. Definitely a time to let you mind wander.

Laurie 7/25/07, 7:18 PM  

I heart DC too!

Roosevelt was a wise man. I'm glad his words meant something to you as you mentally prepare yourself for your big race.

Dying Water Buffalo 7/26/07, 8:47 AM  

Ahh the cult of personality surrounding TR. Bullocks!

I loved Teddy too, but have been subjected to one too many history teachers who were absolutely enamored with him. I've always been a silent cal type myself... or polk. Nobody gives polk any credit. (or for that matter, van burren! where are the van burren fans?!)

rick 7/26/07, 11:31 AM  

Never been, thanks for that little glimpse. How is the weather? I heard it can get hot and humid.

About character...I'm wondering if it's something you can teach or are people just supposed to have it...or maybe individuals decide on their own to have some "character" and strive for it.

Dori 7/27/07, 8:01 PM  

I haven't been by in a while. You're doing an Ironman? Wow! Good luck if I don't get back in time.

andyb 7/28/07, 7:51 PM  

I was in DC last summer and enjoyed running around the Mall and the Washington Monument, eventually getting a little lost in Georgetown. Added quite a few miles walking around as well. If you get a chance, go to a great restaurant called Marrakesh (http://www.marrakesh.us/). While it's kind of pricey, the food and entertainment are fantastic, and the photos adorning the walls are fun to check out.

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