Monday, April 2, 2012

Cherry Blossom Ten Miler

I ran the 40th anniversary of Washington D.C.’s Cherry Blossom 10 miler on Sunday.  This is one of the more popular road races in America, with approximately 15,000 runners each year, and a lottery for entry.  As a native of Virginia and Maryland, I’ve been aware of this event all my life, and have always thought it’d be a good race to run someday.

That said, I wasn’t completely sure until race day as to whether or not I had ever ran it.  I ran a 10 miler in downtown DC when I was in high school, which may have been my first non-school event. It was a pretty well known race at the time, with the results posted in the Washington Post.  It was called the Hecht’s Ten Miler, or something like that, and all I remember is it went through Rock Creek Park.  This was not that race, but I didn't know for sure until Sunday, as I figured the race sponsor could've changed.

The Cherry Blossom turned out to be a terrific event, as I expected. I would recommend traveling to this event over many destination marathons.  Yes, it’s shorter.  But the course is spectacular, filled with Memorial sightings, perhaps at the prettiest time of year for downtown DC. And the course is fast, with wave starts for the faster peeps. The men’s winner set a course record this year, averaging about 4:31 per mile. Kenyans.

The start line is next to the Washington Monument. It's sort of exciting to approach the race start, as crowds arrive via various Metro subway stations, early Sunday morning.  Race starts at 7:30 AM.  The race first circles the Monument, and then winds down around the Lincoln Memorial.  Around mile 2.5 everyone does a circle around a roundabout, after crossing the Potomac River, creating an impressive stream of people, coming and going.
The race then goes out around Jefferson Memorial, which at first stands out prominently across the water, and then grows bigger as you near it.  From there, it is out to Haines Point, just like the loop in the Marine Corps Marathon, with a returning view of the Capitol Building, and then a finish back at the Washington Monument. A swarm of people fill the Monument grounds afterwards.

One of my favorite moments turned out to be the national anthem. The anthem managed to silence a very loud crowd, preparing for the race. There was something touching about those moments, seeing everyone suddenly stop, pause, and look towards the flags surrounding the Washington Monument.

The cherry blossoms were mostly gone, having peaked a few weeks earlier.  Cherry blossoms are a Washington D.C. tradition, marking spring.  They truly do look beautiful.  I saw them featured in the quiet time of the Sunday Morning show a couple weeks before.

A good trip back home, as always.  I managed to mix work, family, and play, making the most of the visit.  I’d go back and do this race again, for sure.

The Marine Corps Marathon is another good one like this, of course, and may well be my favorite marathon.  Another guy who likes the Marine Corps Marathon a lot is Bob Dolphin, who happened to pin down his 500th marathon in Yakima this past weekend.  Congrats to Bob on this remarkable, mind-boggling achievement. 

Race Expo in National Building Museum

 Riding the Metro to the race at 6 AM

Waiting for the start at the Washington Monument

 Running behind the Lincoln Memorial

 The Jefferson Memorial at about Mile 5

 Runners running

Cherry blossoms

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