On the loose in Washington D.C. …
This morning’s adventure started at 4:00am. Staring at the ceiling I finally decided sleep was eluding me and it was worthless to fight it any longer. Trying not to be annoyed as I looked out the window into the darkness, I grabbed the big daddy camera bag and brewed a fresh cup of coffee and headed out to go cross off a long-time secret bucket list item… sunrise coffee on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I was already up anyway, might as well go do something enjoyable to fight the crank stirring within me.
Years ago when creating my “30×30” list of 30 things I wanted to do before turning 30 years old, I had no idea that I would be blessed to cross off 29 of them… all before turning 30! Creating and actually taking the time to write down a new “Next List” with new dreams and ideas has refueled and refocused me in this next chapter of life that I am forever grateful for.
This week had been particularly memorable in D.C. with the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and all the events in the area commemorating and honoring him. Just days before this I had been privy to see a play at Ford’s Theater on 10th street where the ending of an era was forever marked in history with the shot of a single bullet. Being in our nation’s capitol on the 150th anniversary of the ending of the Civil War and the first tragic presidential assassination of a man that so profoundly changed our country was a unique experience that I am truly grateful to have been witness to.
My initial attempts to commandeer parking in Washington, D.C. were thwarted by the inevitable morning commuters and I almost gave up in frustration, pointing the car home in disgust. At the last second I found a spot just moments before the sky turned pink and the rays of first morning light appeared. Now that’s more like it. Perfect!
Looking forward to a peaceful sunrise on the steps with my morning java, I turned the corner and was surprised to come upon a rather large and rowdy athletic group of roughly 200 runners gathering in a circle at the bottom of the steps preparing to take over the memorial in true athletic over-achievement.
So this was the group that made finding parking so dang difficult!
In true curiosity, I snuck past them and perched myself at the top of the stone steps beneath the towering pillars and watched as the group ra-ra’d themselves and then broke loose with a vengeance with hundreds of sneakers and ponytails running straight up the steps towards me.
Grabbing the camera, I couldn’t help but take advantage of this incredible scene that was so unexpected and yet thoroughly amusing. I didn’t go into my usual photog mode of hunting for the best shots and engaging myself into the group. Nope, I sat there at the top of the steps holding my ground in pure peace with my coffee in hand documenting the scene right from my sunrise sitting position, butt firmly planted on the stone. For any onlookers, this must have looked a bit odd with my lack of action in stark contrast to the rushing herd of athletic wear all around me.
As the herd of sneakers started making their laps, pausing at the bottom to do push ups, several of them commented and apologized for ruining my peaceful morning as they puffed by. Laughing, I couldn’t help but tell them that in all honesty they just made my day! Really, there’s only so many photos one can take of stone steps. Although I value nature photography and those that do it, in my heart of hearts I am a “people photographer”–I shoot people. To have the chance to witness living, breathing, charging racers of all shapes and sizes and moods take over this monument site made this bucket list experience of mine one I will truly remember. These runners were a welcome addition to my morning!
As I sat there smiling and remembering my own experience while training for my marathon (#9 on the original 30×30 list), the coordinator of the group came and sat next to me for a few moments, chatting me up in her headband and taking pictures of her own. Turns out, these lovely runners were part of a group called the November Project–an open-to-all running group that meets at the various locations in D.C. three times a week for sunrise sweat sessions. I discovered later that the November Project meets in locations all throughout the country from Washington. D.C. to Boston to Minneapolis and even Denver and San Diego. They’re everywhere. I was so impressed at the energy level and positive attitudes of the attendees and was constantly hearing “good job” and “go get it” encouragements from one stranger to one another that I couldn’t help but be appreciative for my unwanted insomnia earlier.
She invited me to come run some morning. Who knows? Maybe I will.
Sunrise coffee on the Lincoln Memorial… check.
Ashlee Bratton – author of the book “Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket” is a professional photographer, freelance writer, and inspirational speaker with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and master’s degree in business administration.
Along with completing 29 of the 30 things on her 30×30 list, her writing contributions include numerous publications such as Vail’s EAT magazine, creating a 56 page Visitor Guide for a mountain ski town, blogging and guest blogging, being featured in multiple newspapers and e-zines, and various other projects.
Currently, she keeps her camera in hand in Southern Colorado, is a complete and total foodie, and takes plane rides for fun. She likes things that go.