Tuesday, April 3, 2012

10 things I love about the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

Image taken from race website;
presumably they won't mind,
since it's part of a love letter.
The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler is one of my favorite races of the year, and not just because I usually have a good race there or because it showcases my favorite city in the world or because there are usually cherry blossoms.

[in point of fact, the cherry blossoms are one of the few negatives for me, as an allergy sufferer -- the distinct lack of blooms this year was a real boon]

It's just special.  There's a ton of reasons why, but I'll limit myself to ten -- one for each mile of the race.

  1. The course.  It's fast.  Very fast.  I'm not sure courses get faster than this unless they're net downhill a la Broad Street
    Me.  Focusing.
    There are some very slight elevation changes, but I think they make the course even faster, since you use slightly different muscles for the very gentle descents and rises, so you don't fatigue as quickly. 

    The course also makes this race a true test of one's ability to pace.  A slightly downhill first mile, combined with race nerves, invites most to go out a bit too fast  And the isolated last miles down and up Haines Point are a test of mental focus, as well as pacing and endurance.  And if you're just barely hanging on, the final elevation change will morph into a mountain.

    I also love the fact that the final mile has signs for 1200m to go, 800m to go, and 400m to go (though I ignore them).  Fun information for those who care about such things.

  2. The little things: On Sunday morning, the portajohns were out of toilet paper.  Pretty normal.  What was less normal was the volunteers who were dispatched to pass out toilet paper rolls to those in line.  Just one aspect of the many ways in which all the little details are seen to. 

  3. The elites:  Cherry Blossom supports elite runners, offering travel and lodging, a solid chunk of prize money (including time bonuses), and a separate start for female elites, as well as a special coordinator for elite athletes.  I love this -- having super fast people in the race drives me to up my game -- you see what the human body can do, with consistent work.  Plus, these guys are the rock stars of running, and anyone who can run 10 miles in 45:15 deserves some special treatment.

  4. The competition:  Cherry Blossom offers a host of team awards, adding another dimension of competition (and at the end of the day, racing IS about competition).    I really like my teammates, and I love that in certain races we get to combine forces.  More races should offer team competitions, and take them as seriously as Cherry Blossom.

    Cherry Blossom also offers age group awards down through 5th place.  I really like the fact that Cherry Blossom allows "double dipping" for age group awards, meaning that the overall winners are also competing for age group awards.  Again, it all helps to up my game.  And when I do get an age group award, it's that much more treasured, because I wasn't protected from anyone.

  5. The staffing.  Tons of people at the water stops.  Efficient bag check.  Rapid response to emails.

  6. The standards.  Many races offer guaranteed entry to runners able to hit a certain time.  Cherry Blossom does this, but sets a pretty high standard for "seeded runners" -- 64 minutes for women under 40, and 54 minutes for men under 40.  Again, goals to shoot for.  At the end of the day, racing is about running FAST, and I love the fact that Cherry Blossom sets a high bar.

  7. Volunteering opportunities.  If you can't get guaranteed entry as a seeded runner, you can do it as a volunteer.  I've volunteered now for 4 years, and it's always been fun, as well as a good education as to what exactly it takes to put on a world class race.  I'm hoping in the near future that I'll have guaranteed entry as a seeded runner, either by breaking 64 minutes or by turning 40 (at which point, I only need to break 67, which I've done).  But I think I'll keep volunteering anyway.

  8. The virtual schwag.  Runpix is so much fun.  As are the accurate and carefully checked results, which are reviewed to weed out bib swappers.  And the clearly designed website.  And the video of the finish.
      (I'm in the red sportsbra, black shorts, black compression socks).

  9. The physical schwag.  I really love the fact that they offer special mugs to all runners who beat the winning times from 1973 -- the first year of the race.  Yes, I know it stinks that the men have to beat 51:22, while women only need to beat 71:19.  But, if you men had been LETTING women run all along, instead of worrying about our uteri falling out, then the 1973 female time might have been more proportionate.  Paybacks are hell, guys.

    I also like the fact that medals are optional.  Some people really like them, others don't care at all -- why should the latter have to pay for something they don't want.  (on that note - I'd seriously love to pay the Rock and Roll races $30 less per entry in exchange for promising to ignore the bands on course -- but I doubt that proposition will fly).

    I did buy a medal, even though I usually don't care for them.  I do every year.  But that's because Cherry Blossom's special to me, and one of the few races where I really do treasure a souvenir.

  10. The clarity.  Cherry Blossom doesn't mince words.

Honesty is a huge plus.  These guys are entrusted with a national treasure -- the Mall -- and they treat it with respect.


  1. I'm pretty sure that with as much as you train and as fast as you run, your uterus has already fallen out. Twice.

    1. That's why I won't ever try an iron man -- you do note that they call it IronMAN...

  2. I love all of these. I wish I had been able to run it this year..

  3. Ok - maybe I will try it again next year...or at least enter the lottery. Great race again, Cris.

  4. This was my first year doing it and I was really impressed with how it was run, for all of the reasons that you cited.

  5. It's a fantastic race! It's awesome that you got the medal so that you have a nice souvenir. For some reason I can't picture you in the shirt. :-)