I had the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in Washington DC on my calendar for a long time. The lottery is held in December so for months it was on my radar in a loose “ah the future is so far away!” manner.
I lived in DC for nearly 6 years and never ran this race, so I was super excited to run through a city I used to call home. I also love showing Matt around DC. We’ve been to DC together 5 or 6 or 7 times in the last few years and I visit for work often. I’m pretty sure he loves hearing (EACH VISIT) about every hotel I’ve stayed in, and what every restaurant/bar was called in 2007 when I was 22 and went out. I am a well-rounded tour guide.
But that’s not the only thing that imbued this race with a whole lot of special. This was my first race longer than a 10K since a series of ankle sprains. I approached this race in the months preceding with a careful hope. When April 3 came around, I was uninjured albeit a bit undertrained. I don’t love winter running, so I wasn’t as diligent as I aspired to be in following a plan, plus I’ve been traveling pretty much not-stop since January. </excuses>
When I packed for the race Saturday morning, I thought it would be in the low 40s. I looked quickly for my ear-warmer and running mittens but couldn’t find them but figured I’d be fine without them in 40 degree, sunny weather.
By the time we got to DC the high alert weather notifications started rolling in. 50mph winds were predicted. The kids’ race was cancelled. The temperature was going to feel like 10 degrees with the windchill. No pre-race activity. No awards ceremony. There would be no mile markers. No signage of any kind. People were flipping out.
I am always cold. I run in full-length pants in 50 degrees. I won’t get in a shower unless there is considerable steam. Hurricane-level winds and sub-freezing temperatures were not welcome news to me. I stopped by Pacers, a DC running store and bought a hat and gloves. Then I settled into the feeling “it will be what it will be” and went about my night of carb loading and an early bedtime. (And showing Matt every apartment I ever lived in or considered living in; we were in Logan Circle and Dupont so there were many.)
In some ways I was relieved. The extreme weather took the pressure off this race. No one crushes a race with gale force headwinds. I went to bed pretty relaxed knowing it would be more of an adventure than anything else.
Around 7am, Matt and I cabbed to the race. I was glad to see the monument grounds were packed with runners. People were so out of control about about the winds at the expo and on social media, I wondered if a lot of people would bail. They didn’t.
I said goodbye to Matt and went to use the bathroom. There were so many port-a-potties, for those who wonder about that at a race. Port-a-potties GALORE.
I wore a jacket that I’ve been meaning to get rid of for ages to the race with the goal of ditching it before I started. ProTip: This is called donating, not littering the day of a large race. It was so cold at the start, I couldn’t make myself disrobe. So I ran in weird brown, floral 2005 Free People coat for the first half mile before tossing it. (Attention DC Schools: I think this jacket would be a great costume piece for Fagan to wear in a elementary school production of Oliver.)
A few miles later it was even warm enough to take off my hat. Of course my running pants had no pockets sized for a hat, so I ran holding my broken headphones and hat for the rest of the race. NBD.
The course was beautiful and flat. But let’s be clear, the cold weather and nutbar winds meant the famed cherry blossoms were few and far between. Which is fine with me. As a Darwinist, I only wanted to see the STRONGEST CBs anyway. And that I did. All 7 of them.
I felt calm and happy the whole race. Since running can be such a mindf*ck, it was a great delight and relief. Running over the first bridge, you could see race participants on the course in 5 different directions. It made me feel like part of something big.
The winds weren’t so bad. I’m not sure if I would’ve noticed them as special without the pre-race hype. It was absolutely VERY windy for stretches, but not the whole race. It was never unbearable (I thought).
Due to the wind advisory, the race had no mile markers, but I had my Garmin so I had an idea of the distance. Volunteers shouted the mile splits from miles 5-10.
There was no finish line banner at the end, which created an odd final stretch. I knew mile 10 was approaching from my Garmin. But when I stepped over two rubber mats I was a still a little confused. Everyone in front of me had stopped running, so I did too. Usually I am staring at the finish line from the moment it’s in sight and using everything I have to get to it. I didn’t have that kind of finish here. I just ran, and then stopped running. (Which is the opposite of what Forrest Gump did.)
I felt great when it was over. I ran conservatively for most of the race because I kept waiting to get wiped out by winds, or mentally crash since it’s been so long since I’ve run this far, but it never happened. I felt pretty happy the whole race. I am so used to running the same loops in NYC that the new scene was exciting and refreshing. The race being totally flat helped too.
We cabbed back to the hotel. We showered, packed up and headed to Eastern Market to meet my best pal Tricia who also ran the race for brunch.
The Cherry Blossom race website had some pretty cool stats and displays to dig into your results.
All in all, it was a fabulous race. I’m so glad I didn’t let the winds stop me from running it. I’m even more excited for the Brooklyn Half in May now.
Did you race this weekend (the Scotland 10K, the Cherry Blossom 10 miler? Something else?) How was your weekend?