For almost nine months, a giant paper map of D.C.’s streets took up a good bit of Jarad Schofer’s floor like an oversized jigsaw puzzle. Now, to his wife’s delight, he can pick it up for good. After almost 2,500 miles of running, Schofer put in the last piece of the puzzle June 13 — filling in a 2 kilometer route near Logan Circle — and met his goal of running every public street and alley in Washington, D.C.
But he didn’t achieve his unwritten dream.
“I really wanted someone to see me running and invite me to their barbecue, to offer me a beer,” he said.
As the weather and grills heated up, Schofer instead found himself running through streets of a city dealing with a deadly pandemic, one that kept people from approaching him the way they did before and while it made it easier to navigate the streets, he couldn’t be as friendly and open with people he met along his way. He also worried public health restrictions could approach some in Europe, where people couldn’t stray too far from home.
“Before, a lot of people would stop to ask what I was doing and I’d talk to them for a while,” he said. “In the last few months, nobody was stopping. I was ready for it to be over.”
Schofer closed out his quest heading up Vermont Avenue NW to Logan Circle, his left hand still clutching the printed maps that have guided his completionist task, maps he printed out at St. Albans, where he teaches math, before school shut down for the year.
Running it all often meant going back for blocks or alleys that he missed, and sometimes running a six miles one way just to be turned away. The running itself didn’t bother him, he was doing it to prepare for July’s Vol-State ultra, a 314-mile unsupported run across Tennessee, and if he could turn all of that training into something cool, why not? In fact, as he ran out of roads, the project took a back seat to longer training runs, particularly as temperatures and humidity hit early seasonal highs.
Schofer was turned back from covering some pavement, from Postal Service, WMATA or Water and Sewer Authority property. He didn’t even bother asking about military installations. Private neighborhoods left a little more of an opportunity.
“I’d ask a few times and explain what I was trying to do, or try to work a connection,” he said. “If they turned me down three times, I figured I made a good effort.”
He was, however, able to run the stretch of Belmont Road NW in Kalorama that has been closed off since the Obamas moved in.
“I talked to Rickey Gates (spiritual leader of the “every single street” running school of thought) about it and he said there were places in San Francisco he just couldn’t go,” Schofer said.
The overall effort gave Schofer a greater respect for the immensity of the District’s road grid.
“It’s 68 square miles but it has a ton of roads and alleys in there,” he said. “People like to say it’s a small city, and it is, but when you look at the scope, this puts it all in perspective.”
He’s gotten about as good of a look at public art in the District as anyone, though he thinks he may have missed a few murals over his shoulders. He documented some of his favorite murals (and routes) on his Instagram account.
They made it take even longer because I kept stopping to admire what I was seeing,” he said.
Before starting this quest, Schofer rarely ran east of the Anacostia River, and those sprawling neighborhoods turned into some of his longest runs.
“One day I turned a corner in Congress Heights, past about 10 people standing there, and they asked where I was going,” he said, knowing he was headed to a dead end. “I said I’d tell them on my way back out.
“Usually when people would stop and ask me what I was doing, they’d be interested or they’d be surprised to see someone jogging in their neighborhood. Sometimes people would joke about joining me.”
It did reinforce that he likes living in Park View, where he can walk almost everywhere he needs to go. He prefers the song “Subdivisions” to the real estate concept.
“I stopped riding the Metro to runs because it seemed wrong to use it for recreation during the pandemic, but I’m not big on driving places,” he said.
With Vol-State still on the schedule as of June 15, he is focusing on that run, then he’ll start training for his run across North America, planned for spring 2021. He’ll find new challenges to guide his training, maybe circling D.C., hunting boundary stones or just running to and from places.
“I like to do long runs that take 6 hours, so i’ll just pick out a spot on a map I haven’t been to and try to run there and run back,” he said.