I live just outside the Washington D.C. area. There are so many wonderful places to run in this area. I make it a point to plan my runs in D.C. for a change of scenery. In addition, I have stayed in several hotels in and around D.C. My husband went to Georgetown University, so we know the area fairly well. We also will drive into D.C. to eat some of the best food in the world, in my opinion. I also have run the Marine Corps Marathon twice. Here are my tips on where to stay, where to eat and run if your travels take you to Washington D.C. My restaurant and hotel tips might be helpful if you're running the Marine Corps Marathon, Rock n Roll DC Marathon or Half, Navy Half Marathon or Cherry Blossom 10 Miler!
Places to SLEEP
Whether you're running the Marine Corps Marathon, or just visiting D.C. for business or holiday, check out the following hotels. These are some I know from experience, and highly recommend. In addition they are in a great location.
Courtyard Marriott Chinatown
This centrally located hotel is in the heart of the city. If you want to be located near the National Mall, the Capitol building or the Washington Monument stay here. This spot is also near the Verizon Center. It is also obviously located in Chinatown. You will find there are all sorts of great restaurants within walking distance. Read below for my suggestions on places to eat in Chinatown. From this location you can run right to the National Mall, and around the Washington Monument or the Capitol building. The rooms are very nice and there of course is a Starbucks located very close to the hotel. I am a coffee lover and any hotel near a Starbucks gets bonus points in my book! The Starbucks in Chinatown is my personal favorite. This location will allow you easy travel to the start of the MCM. There is a metro stop near this hotel. You can easily hop on the metro or one of the race shuttles and head over to the start. Click here for the hotel website.
Holiday Inn Alexandria - Carlyle
If you don't want to stay in downtown D.C., but still want to be near a metro stop, check out this hotel. I stayed here for my 2nd Marine Corps Marathon. It is located near a metro stop and also is located near a highway (I-95) if you need to leave right away without fighting downtown traffic to get out of town. Of course there's a Starbucks close by, in addition to many restaurants in Alexandria. Old Town Historic Alexandria is very close. You will also find this location is near a movie theater if you're looking for a low key activity to do before your race. From this location you can run to the Mt Vernon Trail (see suggestions below) and enjoy a gorgeous run along the Potomac River. The Mt Vernon Trail is 20 miles in length. I recommend this hotel for someone who does not want to be near all the action and needs to make a quick escape after the race to head home. Click here for more information. This is a great place to stay if you're running the George Washington Parkway Classic 10 Miler.
Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria
This hotel is also located in Old Town Alexandria. It is also one the is located near the Mt Vernon Trail. You can easily hop on the highway and head right into D.C. Whether you're running the Rock n Roll Marathon D.C or the MCM, you should consider this hotel. The rooms are very clean and this is a nice spot to relax, but still feel like you're close enough to the action. This location is not close to a metro stop. It is located near several good restaurants and a grocery store (Giant or Trader Joe's). This hotel is conveniently near the Ronald Reagan Airport as well.
Kimpton Lorien Hotel
For those who like to stay at boutique hotels, this is for you. This spot is also located right near the King St Metro stop in Old Town Alexandria (You can take the metro to the MCM start or Rock n Roll DC start). It is right on historic King Street in Old Town. You can't go wrong with this location. Plus you can access various trails from this location. You will find plenty of restaurants to choose from on King Street. We stayed here one year we ran the MCM 10k. Click here for more information.
Residence Inn by Marriott - Pentagon City
This is a prime location for those running the MCM. In addition there are plenty of trails you can run to or on while you stay here. Pentagon City is very much a city with lots of things happening. If you're looking for a quaint or charming hotel, this isn't for you. It is right in the heart of Pentagon City, but it's location is perfect if you want to be very close to the start of the MCM. It is also near a metro stop. You will find plenty of places to eat near this location, plus a large mall close by. It is near the highway, but be prepared for lots of traffic. It is close to the Ronald Reagan Airport. You will have great views of the Pentagon from here. Click here for more information.
The Graham - Georgetown
Another suggestion for those who want a boutique hotel, check out The Graham. I have stayed here before when I had business in Georgetown. This is a great spot since it's located near the very popular M St. For great shopping, check out M Street. You can enjoy post run or race treats at DC Cupcakes or District Doughnuts. Plus there are plenty of very good restaurants in this area. See below for more suggestions. This location is NOT near a metro stop nor the start/finish of the MCM. You can walk to a metro stop, but it isn't close. You can access the C&O Canal trail from this location. Of course there is a Starbucks nearby, but I recommend trying Dog Tag Bakery for breakfast, baked goods or coffee! The MCM route will run close by this hotel if you are a spectator and want an easy access to the route.
Places to eat
Daikaya + Izakaya
If you want to try some of the BEST ramen in the country check out Daikaya. We traveled to Tokyo for the marathon in 2016. My husband and I ate ramen from at least 6 different restaurants in Tokyo. So we've tasted some of the best, and most authentic. And this is some of the BEST in the USA. Daikaya serves JUST ramen, so if you don't want ramen, check out the restaurant above Daikaya, Izakya. Both serve amazing food. Izakaya is more of an Asian fusion, serving a variety of dishes. Daikaya imports their ramen noodles from Sapporo, Japan. So they are fresh and authentic. Try the Mugi Miso or Shoyu ramen (I always ask for corn, buta, nitamago for extra toppings!).
For a delicious pre-race pasta or pizza meal, check out Graffiato. The food here is fantastic! Chef Mike Isabella was on the hit TV show Top Chef. He appeared on two seasons, and was the runner up on the all-star season. This place offers a variety of dishes. Graffiato is located next to Daikaya in the Chinatown district of DC. Try their Caesar salad with cream cheese croutons and Jersey Shore pizza. I ate a delicious pasta dish here the night before my second MCM. Here's an excerpt taken from their website.
Chef Isabella serves seasonal, artisanal pizzas and small plates inspired by the food he grew up eating in New Jersey prepared by his Italian-American grandmother. With heavy influence from Chef Isabella’s Mediterranean and Latin culinary training, Graffiato is anything but a traditional Italian eatery. Roasted potato gnocchi with pork ragu, chicken thighs with pepperoni sauce, charred octopus with summer squash puttanesca, and hanger steak with sun-dried tomatoes are a few of the signature wood oven roasted dishes. Broccolini with red pepper relish and melon with prosciutto are popular first plates.
One of my favorites: Founding Farmers. This "Co-op-owned American eatery dishing out market-driven comfort cuisine along with rustic-chic style," never disappoints me. Try the chicken and waffles, or their butternut squash ravioli or even the lobster mac n cheese. For a fun appetizer, ask for their popcorn sampler. There might be a wait, so plan ahead and make reservations. This is a pretty popular spot. You can eat here pre or post race! There is something for everyone at this spot.
Clyde's - Georgetown or Chinatown
Clyde's - Georgetown location. For upscale bar food, check this place out when you take a break from shopping on M St. in Georgetown. This place has the look and feel of the TV show Cheers. Try the crab tower. This is one of my favorite dishes of all time. Fried coconut rice plate topped with avocado, crab meat, and a seaweed salad. They have amazing deviled eggs too. There is a Clyde's located in Chinatown as well. But the crab tower is exclusive to the Georgetown location.
Rated as one of the top 1000 restaurants in the USA, Filomena does not disappoint. For large portions of home cooked Italian food, eat your pre-race carb loaded meal here. This place is located in Georgetown. Don't let the odd decor scare you, this place is will definitely provide you with the energy you need to run your race. They have a large variety of pastas, pizzas, salads, fish, meat and more. I ate here the night before my 50 miler endurance race. I got 2 meals out of my dish, the portions are so large. Call ahead to see if you need reservations.
Have you ever wanted to try Ethiopian food? This place is the real deal. I have traveled to Ethiopia as well and ate delicious Ethiopian fare. Ethiopic is as close as you can get. My husband and I will travel into D.C. just to eat here. I love the vegetarian sampler and Asa Tibs fried croaker fish. Ethiopians are known for their fast marathon times, so maybe Ethiopian food will make you faster! **Word of caution. It's never advised to try new food before a race!
This modern upscale Indian cuisine is one of my favorite spots. It's difficult to get reservations, so call or plan ahead if you're interested. There are 2 locations, so you have a couple options to choose from. The food will not disappoint you. This might be a great place to try a couple days before your race, or after. Spicy food might not be the best thing to eat right before your race. Click here for more information.
Places to run
Mount Vernon Trail
This is one of my all time favorite places to run.
The Mount Vernon Trail is an 18-mile paved multi-use trail that stretches from George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It connects with regional trails, including the Potomac Heritage, Rock Creek, Four Mile Run, and Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trails.
You can run around the monuments in D.C. and pick up this trail from multiple locations. I love starting around the the Capitol building or the Washington Monument. I run to the Lincoln Memorial, run across the Arlington Memorial Bridge and pick up the trail there. This is a scenic paved trail that you can take you to Georgetown, Arlington or even Alexandria. For more information on this trail system, click here. One fun thing to do is run to the Ronald Reagan Airport and watch the airplanes take off or land right over you as you run. They have porta-johns at the airport section also. Going another direction, check out Theodore Roosevelt Island for a fun distraction. This is a small island. No motorized vehicles allowed. This packed dirt trail allows you to switch it up, and get off the pavement for a couple miles. Plus they have water fountains and bathrooms located on the island. (Images below from around the National Mall, & Roosevelt Island)
Check out the other trails listed above for more options!
C&O Canal Trail
This 184 mile trail extends from D.C. all the way to Cumberland, Maryland. It is a packed dirt trail where bikers, hikers, runners and walkers are welcome. You can pick the trail up from Georgetown. Click here for the route. Trail details here.
Capital Crescent Trail
Another lovely trail to consider if you're staying in the Georgetown area is the Capital Crescent Trail. This trail runs from Georgetown all the way to Silver Spring, Maryland. It is paved and runs parallel for some portion to the C&O canal trail. You can also start in the Bethesda or Silver Spring, MD area and run down the trail to Georgetown. It is 11 miles point to point. (Images below from the Capital Crescent Trail and C&O Canal Trail).
Here is a great article on the Top 10 Running Spots & Trails in DC. I agree with the top 10 mentioned in this article. I have experience running each of these routes, and they are worth checking out if you're in town.
Marine Corps Marathon
The Marine Corps Marathon was my first and third marathon. I had a great time (although painful at times). For the past three years I have been at mile 18-19 to cheer on runners. I set up Camp Candyland. We have motivational signs and candy for runners. If you're running the MCM, be sure to look for us! We normally are at the National Mall, near "The Castle" (Smithsonian Institution Building) on the left hand side. Come see us and get a boost of energy before you hit the dreaded BRIDGE at mile 20. If you have any questions regarding the race, feel free to ask them in the comments section below. I will be happy to answer them if I can.