Tradition versus at uniformity on Fairfax County’s hallowed grounds
Anyone who’s been part of Fairfax County cross country knows the Burke Lake course. You can’t talk to a cross country runner without hearing about it. Since 1974, the park in Fairfax Station has served as a primary competition location, playing host to numerous postseason races, district meets and the season-opening Monroe Parker Invitational. Some of the best distance runners in the country have been through there.
Despite a few minor tweaks here and there, the course has remained relatively unchanged since 1974, which gives it a certain sentimental identity. But unlike the other courses that grace Fairfax County’s high school cross country scene, Burke Lake is not a 5K. It’s 2.98 miles and it has been that way from the beginning. This has sparked a debate over whether to preserve this unique trait or to conform the venue to other courses.
Washington-area runners are fortunate to have miles upon miles of trails and paths at their disposal. We can essentially run clear from one side of the metro area to the other and everywhere in between. But the region’s weather extremes, our isolated and dully lit trails, and our blighted stretches of paths often force many runners to shift their routines — for safety’s sake.
Even for those who feel they know Washington’s labyrinth of streets and trails like the back of their hand, sometimes runners can go more than a mile without another person in sight. This can leave runners vulnerable, as one runner who anonymously shared her story with us remembered.