WASHINGTON — Thousands of runners will flock to the D.C. area this weekend for the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, known as the “runner’s rite of spring.” The race can be as picturesque as it is challenging, but two local running coaches have tips to help participants have their best race.
Julie Sapper and Lisa Reichmann, co-founders of run coaching company Run Farther and Faster, say a key to a successful Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race begins long before runners reach the starting line on April 8. Mapping out a plan now for race day is one crucial aspect — especially since Metrorail won’t be open in time for runners to use it to get to the starting line ahead of the race.
“The Cherry Blossom race … is super crowded so it’s really important to get there early enough to get into your proper corral without feeling rushed,” Sapper said. “Give yourself plenty of time.”
And those crowds can throw some runners off. The popular race includes some of the most scenic views of D.C.’s famous cherry blossoms (set to reach peak bloom on race day) and attracts more than 16,000 participants; that’s after a lottery system narrows the field down from 28,000 applicants, said Race Director Phil Stewart.
Corrals based on runners’ abilities and anticipated finish times are designed to “open up a little bit more running room,” Stewart said.
Runners can use the crowds to their advantage, Reichmann said. The race’s slight-downhill start can trick some into starting too fast, but smart runners can use crowds to help them throttle their energy and keep them at a moderate pace. Also, the crowds can be beneficial along Hains Point, too, where winds can be a factor. Reichmann suggests drafting off other nearby runners.
While the extra athletes could irk some people, Sapper said it’s important that runners keep their cool.
“If you do find yourself in a situation where you are frustrated because you aren’t able to hit your pace because of the crowds, just simply, politely ask, ‘Excuse me, on your left’ and just pass without making it a stressful experience,” she said.
Extra sleep, good nutrition and hydration are all vital leading into race day, too, the co-founders said. Also, preparing for all types of weather is recommended, Reichmann said.
“Weather is the one factor we can’t control and we really just have to make the best out of the situation and prepare in terms of gear,” Reichmann said, adding that runners may want to bring extra layers they can throw away along the course.
What to know about the course
The Cherry Blossom Ten Mile course had to change this year to accommodate for a multimillion dollar reconstruction plan for Arlington Memorial Bridge. The National Park Service nixed foot races on the bridge, so Stewart said adjustments had to be made.
The new course moves the Kennedy Center turnaround farther up Rock Creek Parkway to Virginia Avenue in Northwest and extends the West Potomac Park turnaround farther down Ohio Drive toward the Inlet Bridge. All of the adjustments are in the first four miles of the course. View a map of the course on the event’s website.
“We’ll miss it because it certainly is scenic crossing across the bridge,” he said. “We have the understanding that the construction will take a couple of years and we will look forward to being back on a gleaming new bridge.”
Also, the staging area for the race is different, Stewart adds. Because of turf reconstruction around the Washington Monument, runners will need to head to the 17th Street side of the monument instead of the 15th Street side.
Participants need to head to the starting area a little earlier because there are only two pathways to get to there, Stewart said. View a map of the new staging area on the event’s website.
On the opposite end of the race, Reichmann reminds runners the race’s slight-uphill finish “can be disconcerting,” but she encourages participants to “keep a steady, strong effort.”
For runners who may get discouraged along the course if they’re not doing as well as they’d hoped, Sapper has some advice: “Focus on putting one foot in front of other, recognizing that you’re trained to do this and you worked hard to accomplish the goal and you will finish.”
Runners flanked by blooming blossoms may want to snap some photos along the course — and they should, the women said. The Tidal Basin is a don’t-miss for stunning photos, they added.
“Take some time to breathe, look up and look around … so many people around the country would love to be running this race,” Sapper said. “Take in the beautiful cherry blossoms and the monuments and really feel gratitude for what you’re able to do.”
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