Running the Greenway, from the White House to a lighthouse

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By Mimi Tomei, Communications Intern

When planning travel between Washington, D.C., and coastal North Carolina, most people don’t think of using their own two legs as the mode of transport. But these 12 runners from the Northern Virginia-based Trottin’ Oxen Running Club are not most people.

Some of them have been running for years. Others picked up the sport more recently. All of the relayers have completed at least one marathon, and most have finished several. In search of a new way to challenge themselves, they embarked on the White House to Lighthouse Relay.

The run began at 7 a.m. on Thursday, June 6 at the White House in Washington, D.C., and ended at the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton, North Carolina. Much of their route followed the East Coast Greenway, with trail segments including the Virginia Capital Trail and the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail. The race was organized by Paul Rhodes, Thong Tran, and Jenn Miller.

“We were looking for the safest possible route south to North Carolina,” said Rhodes. “We came upon [the Greenway] website and realized it was a perfect choice. It was a bonus when we realized that the Roanoke River Lighthouse was right along the Greenway.”

The trio spent hours poring over maps and trying to determine the safest routes for their relay. Preparations took months and included recruiting the team, picking a route and transition points, mapping to .GPX files, creating an event binder (leg maps, emergency contacts, Act of God plans for weather emergencies and such, etc.), gaining sponsors, renting an RV, preparing the team, and setting up social media accounts and their website.

In the end, they broke up the 343-mile run into 32 legs and switched off runners after each leg. For 72 hours straight, someone would be running. When they weren’t running, teammates could sleep in the RV that accompanied them or support their fellow runners from the follow vehicle.

Things went relatively smoothly from Washington, D.C. until their RV hit a tree shortly during leg 24. The vehicle had to be towed. Still, the team decided to move forward and made it to Edenton, after driving to the beginning of the final leg.

“Even after 72 straight hours together, we were all smiles and hugs when we arrived,” Rhodes said. “The Town of Edenton was very receptive of our journey and gave us an unexpected warm welcome. After taking photos for the local newspaper and visitor center, we all got a well-deserved meal and beer.”

Going forward, organizers plan to revisit the race route and make adjustments based on feedback from the rest of the relay team. In the future, they hope to hold the relay again. But for now, they’re celebrating their big accomplishment.

Instead of a traditional medal, Rhodes suggested that each team member receive a small road sign noting the start and end points of the relay.

“This big of an event deserved more than just a simple medal.”

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To learn more about their relay, check out their website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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