Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Washington DC Weekend and Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Race

I spent the past weekend in Washington DC visiting friends and also ran the popular Cherry Blossom 10 Mile race. Spring is a great time to visit Washington, since the cherry blossoms are in bloom and the DC weather is neither as unbearably cold as in winter nor as unsufferably hot as in summer. It's a great place to visit, full of tons of historic, educational, and historic sites and attractions, many of which are free. I've been to DC before, so this time ended up doing a few touristy things (monuments, museums) balanced out with a few non-touristy things and catching up with friends.

My plan for the Cherry Blossom race was to just take it easy and have fun, and not care about my time. This was the first time I carried a camera during a race. I wanted to take many pictures as possible. Gareth and I decided we would run together, starting around 7min/mi pace and picking it up from there later in the race.

I learned quickly that photos you take while actually running come out as a blurry mess, so every time I saw a good photo opportunity I had to stop and try not to get in anybody's way. I'm sure many runners around me thought I was a real jerk as I stopped suddenly and stepped to the side to take a few photos while they kept running, and then sprinted back past them again several times during the race. Sorry other runners!

This was a great place to take pictures This is a truly scenic race, running past many of the most iconic monuments on the National Mall and gorgeous cherry blossom trees in full bloom. The weather coorperated fully on race morning this year, with temperatures in the 40s and clear skies. The course is fairly flat and fast, with a few out-and-back segments. It has possibly the biggest field for a 10-mile race anywhere (to be fair, 10 miles is not a super common race distance, but I think it should be - it strikes a nice middle ground between a 10k and a half marathon.) Fifteen thousand runners (!) ran this year. More would would have run too if they could have - like many popular races entry to the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile is now by lottery only. The race attracted runners from 49 states this year (c’mon North Dakota, get it together.) But even with such a large field the race didn't feel crowded, either before the start or after the finish.

The race was a fun experience, as was the whole weekend getaway. I'm sure I'll be back to visit DC again, and maybe even to run the Cherry Blossom race again (next time I'm going sub-60!)

The route from my Garmin GPS

Full race results here (the winner ran 45 minutes - wow!)

A few DC notes:

  • A visit to DC involves a lot of walking. Those monuments may look close together on the map, but the Mall is very long.
  • DC has an innovative bike-sharing program that you can join, similar to ZipCar.
  • I was staying within walking distance of the Dupont Circle, Adams-Morgan, and U Street neighborhoods, all of which seemed to have a lot to offer.
  • There is a cupcake bakery in Georgetown where customers line up for over two hours to buy cupcakes. This bakery has its own reality tv show on cable tv.
  • I developed an obsession with a falafel restaurant I read about in my guidebook. The menu has only three items: falafel sandwich, belgian fries, and brownies. On weekends the restaurant is open until 4am. Yes, this is the type of place you'd mostly go to for lare-night munchies after the bars close. For $5 I got a falafel sandwich that was so big I could not finish it.
  • DC seems to have a great running scene. I didn't get to do much running aside from the race, but I am told that there's a good network of trails in the area also.

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