By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
It’s been said that there’s no better way to discover a city than to explore it by foot. Alexandria resident Stephanie Lasure took that piece of advice to heart.
Between November 2018 and September 2019, Lasure ran every single street in Alexandria, logging 330 miles total. In November, city council presented Lasure with a proclamation recognizing her efforts.
Lasure got the idea to run every street in Alexandria from Rickey Gates, a runner she follows on Instagram who was doing the same thing in San Francisco.
“He would start posting on Instagram the different runs that he was doing and how he was getting to know his neighborhood,” Lasure said. “I was like, ‘That’s a great way to get re-inspired with running and do something different.’ So I literally knocked on my running partner’s front door, Marianne, and I said, ‘Guess what we’re going to do?’”
“She just said, ‘We’re going to run every single Alexandria street,’” Marianne Nazzaro, Lasure’s neighbor and running partner, said. “And I was like, ‘You’re going to run every single Alexandria street. I will be happy to support you as much as possible.’”
Lasure said she saw the endeavor as more of a project than a challenge, having already completed 12 marathons and 18 ultramarathons – races of distances greater than 26.2 miles.
“I’ve been running for probably 25, 30 years, and as runners, we always go travel to places to go run, like, I want to go run in South Dakota, let’s go pick a marathon anywhere but here,” Lasure said. “I was like … I’ve been living in Alexandria for so many years. I love these streets, but there’s probably a number of streets I don’t know of. And I just wanted to get out and get to know my community.”
Lasure officially began the project on Nov. 17, 2018. Throughout the journey, she didn’t follow a strict process. While she started out using her phone to navigate, she quickly switched to small cut-outs of a city zoning map.
“I hate carrying my phone when I run, and I decided this would be much more sort of old school, retro way to go knock this stuff out. I re-learned my brain to look at maps,” Lasure said.
“When we first started … she couldn’t read a map to save her life,” Nazzaro said with a laugh.
After each run, Lasure traced in the roads she’d covered in different colored crayons on her cut-out maps. She also tracked her progress on a larger zoning map she kept on the wall in her home.
Lasure also didn’t follow a set timeline or distance schedule.
“Instead of a time, it would be like, ‘I’m going to go knock this out. I don’t know how long that is,’” Lasure said. “And I wouldn’t know the elevation either. Marianne and I would go out and I’d be like, ‘We’re just doing this neighborhood’ and then we’d turn and it’d be uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill. … I found so many hills that I didn’t know existed in Alexandria.”
The journey was stunted by injuries for both Lasure and Nazzaro in the spring. In March, Lasure broke her shoulder when the dog she was running with got spooked, causing her to fall. About a month later, Nazzaro got a concussion. After about a four-month hiatus, the two were able to begin running together again.
“We were laying down some pretty good mileage up until the injury, and then after the injury, our five, seven, 10 miles became three, four, five, so it was so hard,” Lasure said. “Our mileage kind of scaled way back after the injury but we’re back. We’re getting there.”
This past weekend, Lasure and Nazzaro completed a half marathon in New York City, their first official race since their respective injuries.
Despite the setback, Lasure accomplished her mission of running every street in the city with a one-mile run through Old Town on Sept. 21. Friends and neighbors, including Nazzaro, who completed about two-thirds of the project with Lasure, joined Lasure for the final mile.
“It just got to be so much fun. I didn’t want it to end,” Lasure said.
Lasure said one of her favorite things about the project was meeting different residents.
“We went through this neighborhood over off of Glebe, and we called it the friendliest neighborhood we ever ran by because everybody up here … every single person that was out picking up their newspaper, walking their dog, working on their lawn, nobody didn’t say, ‘Hi,’” Lasure said.
In the instances she told people about her project, they were often excited.
“Most of the time it’s because I’m standing at the end of the street [looking at my map] and everybody’s like, ‘Are you lost?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, not exactly.’ So they would always kind of point me, and they were always super excited about what I was doing.”
Mayor Justin Wilson, a runner himself, was among those happy to hear about Lasure’s project.
“Stephanie and I met when I did one of my running townhalls a couple of months ago, and she told me that she was doing this kind of bizarre thing,” Wilson said at the legislative meeting where he presented Lasure’s proclamation. “We thought it was a pretty creative thing and we wanted to recognize it. We appreciate you showcasing the city in this way.”
When asked what’s next for her, Lasure said she’s going to run in a long, straight line on the Mount Vernon Trail.
As for her colorful, mismatched city maps…
“My sister is an art history teacher so I was showing her all of these and she said, ‘Don’t do anything with those. I’m going to do some art project for you,’” Lasure said. “These are treasured memories for sure. It makes me weepy thinking about it. I don’t know why. I really didn’t want it to end. It was just such a fun project.”
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