I ran the Rock Creek Trail route which is ~32 miles from Derwood, MD to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. This route starts off in grass, then becomes wooded trail with rolling hills until around mile 9 where you exit Rock Creek Regional park. Then you follow an asphalt path until the route joins Rock Creek Regional Park where you follow the Western Ridge trail for about 5 miles. The last 5 miles are once again on the paved Rock Creek trail. The paved sections in combination with the net downhill really makes this a fast route. I also practiced sections of this route before my FKT attempt and I'm glad I did because I made many wrong turns on my practice runs. Looking at the weather the day before, I was uncertain whether it was even a good idea to make the attempt. Heavy rains were predicted during my planned run time. It's a sinking feeling when you realize all your preparation might be derailed by bad weather conditions. I decided to go for it to take advantage of my fitness and shifted my start time up several hours. Now I was also racing against the rain.
Conditions started in the low 40s with mostly cloudy skies. Fall is my favorite running season, and I enjoyed the forested scenery as the miles quickly ticked by. A light rain started with 15 miles to go and quickly turned into moderate rainfall with gusty winds. My pace slowed significantly in Rock Creek park (now the Western Ridge trail) as I expected, but it was nice to have a bit of protection from the wind and rain. I also enjoyed the colorful (although squishy) carpet of leaves. The last stretch of the Western Ridge Trail right before the route turns back into the Rock Creek trail splits into two options: strenuous or moderate. I went the strenuous route (following the gpx track), which is very technical. There are large masses of tangled roots and jagged rocks with a steep drop off into Rock Creek on the right side. I mostly walked this section and used my hands a fair bit for balance to avoid slipping on the wet leaves and roots. Once you hit the pavement again (now Rock Creek trail) it's only 5 miles to the finish! I did my best to make up time after the slower 5 miles through Rock Creek park. Another runner had commented that the run around the reflecting pool is deceptively long and I agree! The route takes you to the back left side of the Memorial, but it is then another mile around the reflecting pool. To top it all off, you have the run up the 3 flights of stairs and enter the Memorial to finish the course. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at my watch and saw that I had beaten my goal of 4:30. I wasn't planning to depart as quickly as I did, but at this point I was so wet and cold that I quickly made my way to the ride waiting for me on the side of the Memorial.
Overall I really enjoyed this route and I'm considering going for a Supported FKT next year. I carried 1.5 L of water, Gu (cola), grapes and Nutter Butter cookies and had plenty left over at the end.