What a race! I ran my first Cherry Blossom ten-miler and I am in love! It was a great course experience AND the first time I’ve run a race officially entered as a member of the Potomac River Running (PR) team. Cherry Blossom is one of a few races in the DMV that allows team entries and gives team awards. There were so many PR singlets out on the course and every time I saw one I found a boost of energy. So let me tell you about this race 🙂
I was seeking a Personal Record because this would be the flattest ten-mile course I have ever run and I am in a fairly good place with my training right now. My goal was to break 68 minutes. I also had another incentive since the race organizers were offering a commemorative mug to anyone who ran faster than the women’s winning time in the first Cherry Blossom 10 miler…. in 1973. Kathrine Switzer (a legend aka the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an official entrant) WON the race in 71 minutes and 19 seconds. Women have come a looooong way in distance running since 1973 and she was a pioneer!
We actually cut it really close to making the start due to long gear check lines. Jeremy sent me ahead and I made it into the start corral about four minutes before the race started. I was around the 7:30 pace group, so a little further back than I wanted to start, but it worked out, just a lot of dodging people (and traffic cones). Jeremy made it with about 30 seconds and had to start further back in the corral. No worries, this was an individual effort since he was also running his first race as a member of the PR team!
The first mile really was just about avoiding collisions and getting in a good position due to the sheer volume of runners. All I remember was avoiding feet and ankles, and almost tripping over a traffic cone and yelling “Holy Sh*t!” to which some guy apologized and I told him I was yelling at the cone not him…which probably just made me sound strange. After mile 1 we turned onto the Memorial Bridge and experienced our first down and back where we could see the runners ahead of us as we made the turn around the traffic circle. Just after that we ran a stretch along the Potomac, past the Kennedy Center, with another out and back. It was on that stretch I spotted two of my teammates who were ahead of me and waved at them. Those little moments pump me up 🙂 While I do love the out and back for that reason, the sharp turns were killer and forced everyone to slow down quite a bit.
After that stretch we ran back down past the tidal basin and came into some awesome fan support. It was then that I saw someone dressed as a Lemur in what I believe was an adult onesie with a ringed-tail. It made my day. Right after that, I came up on another teammate, Liz, who after a quick hello told me “There are still a lot of ladies to catch” and for some reason that lit a little fire. It was right before we ran around Haynes Point too, which is several miles of super flat road just covered in Cherry Blossoms. I picked it up a little bit and genuinely had a good time. There were a DJ playing Sia’s “The Greatest” (CHECK IT OUT) which got the adrenaline flowing, a jazz quartet, AND a marching band at different locations around Haynes Point. Music really gets me going, and I don’t wear headphones when I race anymore, so I LOVE hearing it on the course.
During the final mile I really wanted to push hard. There was a huge crowd, I was having fun and feeling great, and why not? I ran my fastest split of the race. I have to admit that sometimes, especially at the end of a race, I totally talk to myself. Sometimes affirmations or inspiring song lyrics… And sometimes the things that pop up in my mind are so strange, yet they help me push myself when I need it. I distinctly remember that during this race one of the thoughts that popped up was “believe that eagle tattoo on your foot has real wings and it will help you fly.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But hey, we all have our methods and it worked!
The final 200 meters were awesome, slightly down hill to the finish and I felt exhilarated. Then I crossed the finish line and dry heaved. But my watch read 67 minute and 45 seconds and that meant a PR! I looked up and saw Jeremy AND my teammates and it just solidified a good race with a great finish. I think I’m still on a high as I write this, and I will definitely be running this race again!
My watch recorded an additional tenth of a mile so its splits and final pace of 6:43 were just a bit off from the official time and pace of 6:46 per mile.
Mile 1- 6:48
Mile 2- 6:45
Mile 3- 6:43
Mile 4- 6:48
Mile 5- 6:46
Mile 6- 6:45
Mile 7- 6:42
Mile 8- 6:43
Mile 9- 6:47
Mile 10- 6:30
I’m not going to do the full-blown review of this race because honestly, its just awesome. Who doesn’t want to run a race down the National Mall, around the Tidal Basin, and along the Potomac while the Cherry Blossoms are in bloom?! The only thing I will say is that the pre-race gear check was utterly disorganized and extremely slow (and I am saying that in contrast to the Rock’n’Roll Half where the bag check was utterly organized and extremely fast) so hopefully they fix that for next year. In addition, just know you have to pay a separate fee for a medal if you want one. I chose to pay to upgrade my race shirt so I could get a women’s small instead of unisex and forwent the medal. Jeremy instead took the generic t-shirt and paid for the medal. Otherwise, fantastic expo, course, fan support, water support, and finish line! I HIGHLY recommend it 🙂 — Just remember there is a lottery to get in!