Scroll all the way down to the end of the post for the tl;dr version.
The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler is one of the premier racing events in Washington, D.C. It features a competitive elite field and thousands of recreational runners.
I’ve been training for the Eugene Marathon, which is on Sunday, May 7th, since late December 2016. I’ve been creating my own training schedule each week rather than following a specific plan. The week before the race, I didn’t cut back my training very much. I ran a 22 mile long run last Sunday, 12 miles close to marathon pace on Wednesday, and 12 x 400m at 5K pace on Friday.
- 10 Miler PR and Course PR: 1:08:26 (6:51 pace), 2014 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler
- Most Recent 10 Miler: 1:15:40 (7:34 pace), 2016 Army Ten Miler
Stretch: Sub-1:15:00 (7:30 pace). The weather for the RnR DC Half Marathon was miserable. I could run faster with better conditions on this flat course.
Strategy: Run hard but smart. This race will help me determine a goal time for the 2017 Eugene Marathon.
This course is fast. It starts at the Washington Monument, then heads across Independence Avenue for a trip over the Memorial Bridge. Then, it goes up to the Kennedy Center on Rock Creek Parkway. From there, the course heads south to Ohio Drive for a short loop. Next, it’s back to the National Mall before entering East Potomac Park (“Hains Point”) and finishing back at the Washington Monument.
There are four water stops and good crowd support along most of the course.
I edited my playlist from the 2017 Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon down to 1 hour and 20 minutes of music.
I went to the expo at the National Building Museum after work on Friday.
When I picked up my bib, I noticed it was red… Runners in the first corral for this race have yellow bibs. For the first time in a while, I wasn’t in the first corral!
I didn’t spend much time at the expo since I was tired from the long week. I visited a friend who was working and thought about taking a picture with Kathrine Switzer. Before this week, I had no idea she won the first running of this race in 1973.
I ran a 6 mile recovery run in the morning, completed a few errands, and then stayed off my feet for the rest of the day. I had fish, rice, vegetables, and a couple of beers late in the afternoon. I went to bed at around 9pm without eating dinner since I wasn’t hungry.
I woke up at around 5am. I drank some water and coffee with a slice of cinnamon toast while getting ready for the race. It would be about 45 degrees during the race, so I put on a tank top and shorts. I wore a sweatshirt and sweatpants over them to keep me warm before the race. I left my house in Arlington at 6am and caught a bus to the Pentagon Metro station.
I got off the bus and just as I was about to step onto the escalator down to the Metro station, I noticed the entrance was gated! Oh, no! The Metro is closed! I asked a bus driver how I could get downtown and she told me to take the 13Y. Phew!
I still had plenty of time since the race didn’t start until 7:30am. I sat down and drank some juice. The 13Y rolled up at around 6:30am and I saw a bunch of runners on the bus. Okay, the bus driver wasn’t messing with me.
It was a quick and scenic ride downtown as the sun rose in the east over the Potomac River and painted the sky various shades of pink and orange.
I got in line for the port-a-potties at 7am and then went over to check my bag. Unlike previous years, the bag check drop-off wasn’t by bib number, so I randomly chose a line. It wasn’t long but for some reason, it wasn’t moving much. As the minutes ticked by, I realized I wouldn’t have time for a warm-up. Shortly after the singing of the National Anthem, at about 7:15am, I handed my bag to a volunteer and jogged to the starting corrals.
Waiting in the Red Corral, I felt envious of the runners in the Yellow Corral ahead of me. I noticed the sign for the 7:30 pacer and thought, “So, that was the cut off.” I knew my recent race times weren’t that fast so the seeding was deserved. And just like that, my stretch goal became my real goal. At 7:30am, the race started and about 3 minutes later, my wave moved up and out!
The weather was close to perfect – about 45 degrees at the start with just a little wind.
Miles 1 to 5 (The National Mall, Memorial Bridge, the Kennedy Center, and the Tidal Basin).
The start was tightly packed with runners. There’s a sharp right turn just a few meters out but I didn’t have any trouble staying clear of fellow runners on Independence Avenue. After the right turn heading towards the Memorial Bridge, I clicked off my first split – 7:27. It was a little fast but that’s not unusual for me. But, I reminded myself, You’re supposed to be running 7:40s.
On the Memorial Bridge running west, I felt the wind. I saw the front runners on the opposite side of the bridge and that spurred me on. Navigating the circle near Arlington Cemetery was tricky since the road was still pretty crowded. At Mile 2, I was still well under my goal pace.
Next, the course headed north on the Rock Creek Parkway. I ran through the first water stop since it was early in the race. Maybe the next stop, I thought. I hit Mile 3 and was shocked by how fast I was running. You need to slow down, I told myself. Passing the Watergate Steps between the Lincoln Memorial and the Potomac River, I tucked behind a woman with a her bib pinned on her back. I told myself, Stay behind her! But after a minute or so, I passed her. She was slowing down. I assured myself.
Running towards Ohio Drive, I accidentally elbowed someone trying to run through a narrow gap. I apologized and then surged ahead. The pace still felt like something I could maintain for a while. I stayed to the left and ran though this water stop, too. I hit Mile 4 and I was still going well under goal pace. At the turnaround on Ohio Drive, I started feeling a little tired. I asked myself, How about running some of those 7:40s?
After a right onto Independence Ave, I forced myself to slow down and enjoy the view of the cherry blossom trees. But, the crowds were great! Going through the cheering section near the Tidal Basin, I knew I picked up the pace a little.
Splits: 7:27, 7:20, 7:15, 7:22, 7:13.
Miles 5 to 10 (The Tidal Basin, East Potomac Park, and the National Mall).
There’s a small bridge leading to East Basin Drive. I didn’t slow down but my hips ached a little from the incline. There was a huge cheering section on the median next to the Jefferson Memorial. I couldn’t help smiling. I felt very confident going into East Potomac Park (“Hains Point”). I’d been running intervals with a run club there on Tuesdays. I knew I could tap into the pain I felt during those workouts to get me through this section of the course. On a mission to keep up the pace, I ran through the next water stop after Mile 6.
I was passing runners as if they were standing still. So, I was surprised when a guy ran up to say, “Hi,” to me. He quickly dropped back before I could register who it was. When I saw my split at Mile 7, I was floored – 7:03! But, I felt great and kept up the pace until the end of Hains Point. There was another water stop there and the course narrowed. I could feel runners pressing in on me from behind. I wondered if I was fading.
After the turnaround, I was already thrilled with how the race was going and then… I passed the 7:30 pacer from the Yellow Corral! I also felt the northwest wind. I tried not to think about it and admired the cherry blossom trees instead. Although peak bloom had passed, they were still beautiful.
By Mile 8, I eased up on the effort. I was content with how the race had gone and didn’t want to fight the wind. But then, a female runner I’d passed coming into Hains Point passed me back! I quickened my pace and ran another 7:03 split for Mile 8. I looked for a group to run with to block some of the wind but, since I’d caught up to the Yellow Corral, most of the runners around me were going slower.
Just before Mile 9 was the final water station but I didn’t even think about stopping. I wanted to wrap this race up so I could enjoy this accomplishment.
Exiting Hains Point, I handled the little uphill towards Maine Avenue well. The crowds were loud and animated, which certainly helped. I struggled on the final incline on Raoul Wallenberg Place leading to the finish line, though.
I lengthened my stride for the final 200m knowing I’d crushed my goals for this race!
Splits: 7:21, 7:03, 7:03, 7:26, 7:14.
Wanting to avoid the post-race mob, I went directly to bag check. Unlike before the race, it only took a minute to retrieve my bag. I grabbed water, a banana, and a granola bar. I walked to the Metro, stopping to put on my sweatshirt and sweatpants on the way and eating half of the banana.
By 10am, I was home but I didn’t get a chance to rest for long. I showered, ate a late breakfast, and then drove to Clarendon. I was going to be on Episode 100 of Pace the Nation, which featured some of their “super fans”!
My time was 1:12:40 (7:15 pace) [Log Details]. I was the 1,117th finisher out of about 17,500 runners (top 7%), 279th woman (top 3%), and 8th in my age group (top 1%).
With a month to go before the Eugene Marathon, this race was a huge confidence builder. I beat my stretch goal pace by 15 seconds a mile! The McMillan Calculator equates the performance with a 3:23:59 (7:47 pace) marathon, which is only 1 minute off my personal best of 3:22:56 (7:45 pace)!
The event itself was fantastic. I’m already looking forward to running it again next year. That would be my 10th running and enable me to join the One Hundred Mile Club so I can skip the lottery from now on.
The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler is one of the most popular and competitive races in Washington, D.C. The weather was perfect, though, about 45 degrees. I was seeded in the second corral this year since my race times have been slower. In the early miles, I ran much faster than my goal pace. I thought I was easing up on the pace but I ran even faster in the later miles. I finished in 1:12:40 (7:16 pace)! With a month to go until the Eugene Marathon, I couldn’t be happier with my performance.