2015 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run Recap

Sunday morning I ran my fifth race of the year – the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.  After last year’s experience, I had mixed feelings going into this year’s race.  I was excited to give this race another chance, but nervous that I would have another disappointing experience.  Overall, I did have a better experience this year, partly since I was actually placed into the correct corral (and wasn’t last year), but there were still a couple of issues that I had with this race.

cucb recap

This year’s CUCB experience started Saturday afternoon when Preston and I headed downtown to the expo.  Just like last year, the expo was held at the National Building Museum, which was easily accessible by Metro.  We were in and out of the expo in less than 30 minutes.  Also like last year, the expo was small but well organized.  After picking up our race packets, we circled the expo floor, and although I had hoped to pick up the new Cherry Blossoms Sweaty Bands, they were out of them by the time we got there on Saturday.  To Preston’s amazement, we left the expo without spending any money.  I was quite proud of myself!

Because of the road closures and how busy downtown was due to peak bloom of the cherry blossoms, we took the Metro downtown for the race Sunday morning.  Immediately after we got off the Metro, I received a text message from my friend Kristen.  She asked if I had heard the race announcement, that there had been an accident involving a pedestrian, and that the course was being diverted off of Independence Avenue and shortened due to the accident investigation.  The race directors estimated that they had shortened the course by about half a mile.  (Yesterday, the directors posted the official course measurement online, which was 9.39 miles.)  While I was disappointed about the last minute change, I completely understood the need for it, and greatly appreciated how quickly the race directors took care of the unexpected change.

The final course measurement announcement Photo Credit: Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

The final course measurement announcement
Photo Credit: Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

The race started and finished at the Washington Monument.  Once we arrived, we quickly checked our gear bags and headed towards the corrals.  We had left the house a bit later than we had planned to, so we didn’t get into the Green Corral until about 5 minutes before the start of the race.  Since neither Preston nor I had planned on racing this race, he decided to run with me.  In the corral we met up with Jenny, and at 7:43 am our corral was off.

Preston and I ready for the start of the race

Preston and I ready for the start of the race

With Jenny in our corral prior to the start of the race

With Jenny in our corral prior to the start of the race

The first four miles of this course, like many other DC races, takes runners past some of my favorite DC sights, including the Lincoln Memorial, across Memorial Bridge towards Arlington National Cemetery, along the Potomac River near the Kennedy Center, and along Independence Avenue.  The course was diverted around the 4.5 mile point, where instead of continuing to run on Independence Avenue along the Tidal Basin, we turned and ran past the MLK Memorial and along a different part of the Potomac River.  We were directed back onto the originally planned course route just prior to the mile 6 marker.

Once we were back on the planned route, we started the long run down towards Hain’s Point.  Although the crowd support along miles 6-9.5 of the race was very weak, this wound up being one of my favorite parts of the course since the cherry blossoms were at peak bloom.  The course down and back from Hain’s Point was absolutely gorgeous.  At the end of Hain’s Point Batala Washington, an all female percussion band, was entertaining runners.  Their music was beautiful and very encouraging!

The blossoms were even more breath taking in person!

The blossoms were even more breath taking in person!

Mid race on Hain's Point among the gorgeous cherry blossoms

Mid race on Hain’s Point among the gorgeous cherry blossoms

Like last year, the course was extremely crowded.  I remembered from last year that the crowd started to thin out after the first three miles.  And although the crowd this year thinned out slightly after mile three, the course remained very crowded for the entire race.  This made for a lot of weaving and having to sometimes complete my walk intervals on the sidewalk or the grass.  This definitely slowed my pace down.  Jenny and I discussed the course crowding after the race, and both concluded that part of why it may have felt more crowded was since we started the race a corral ahead of where we did last year.

The course was still very crowded even during the last mile of the race

The course was still very crowded even during the last mile of the race

Had I been trying to race this race, I would have been more frustrated by the crowds than I was.  While the crowds definitely slowed me down, I wasn’t as frustrated by the crowding on the course like I was last year when I had been pushing myself for a good finish time.  One other aspect that did slow me down was the heavy crowding at each water station.  Volunteers were scrambling to keep up with the volume, and a couple of volunteers even noted that their stations were understaffed.

Preston and I crossed the finish line in 1:46:38, which based on the calculated course distance of 9.39 miles is an 11:21 pace.  Last year I would have considered this speedy for myself, but this year is on the slower side.  On Sunday I initially thought that I would have PRed this race, but after some clarification yesterday with race directors about a miscalculation of what my official race pace was, I was two minutes shy of PRing.  However, I still met my C goal, which was to finish the race faster than I ran it last year.  My estimated 10 mile finish time was 1:54:43, which would have been four minutes faster than last year.

After crossing the finish line we received water and a heatsheet.  We had to walk back towards the staging area in order to get food and Gatorade, and I was disappointed to see that all they had for slower runners was a banana.  A single banana after running over 9 miles is nowhere near enough.  The lack of food was an issue at the end of the race last year too.  When will the race directors learn that putting the food in a completely open area with zero control over who has access to the food (both runners and spectators) is unacceptable?

Despite the lack of food, Preston and I both enjoyed the gorgeous weather at the end of the race

Despite the lack of food, Preston and I both enjoyed the gorgeous weather at the end of the race

Like last year, this race had both pros and cons.  Some of the positives included:

  • Low registration cost (tech shirt, which I don’t really need more of, and finisher’s medal were upgrades for an extra cost)
  • A well organized expo
  • A flat course that takes runners past some of the must see DC sites, and was absolutely gorgeous this year since the cherry blossoms were at peak bloom (this was the first time since 2007 that the race was during peak bloom)
  • Great volunteer support at the water stations and all along the course (no race is possible without the volunteers!)
  • Loose enforcement of the corrals, which is an improvement over last year (Jenny had said the corrals weren’t enforced when she lined up, but a volunteer was checking bibs when Preston and I entered the corral)
  • Free runner tracking (last year there was a fee for runner tracking)
  • Quick response by the race directors to the emergency that necessitated a last minute change to the course

Some of the negatives included:

  • Not enough corrals (over 15,000 runners divided into only six corrals made for an extremely crowded race)
  • The water stations were super crowded and runners often had to wait for the volunteers to pour more water and/or Gatorade (more corrals and having fewer runners on top of each other could have easily alleviated this problem – several volunteers also said that their water station was understaffed)
  • Unsecure finish area
  • Not enough post race food, which was likely the result of it being unsecured and not in a runners only area

While there were some improvements made from last year, there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to the post race food.  After last year’s experience, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to run this race again.  Given how much I like the course and how low the registration cost was, I would consider running this race again.  But also like I said last year, I won’t go out of my way to make this race fit into my calendar since it is far from perfect.

QOTD: What amount of food would you expect to see made available to runners at the end of a ten mile race?

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76 Responses to 2015 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run Recap

  1. MCM Mama says:

    I’d like to run this race one year, just because it’s one of the few major DC races that I have not run. I’m not a fan of huge crowds though (the reason I’ve stopped running the Army 10 miler). I would hope for more food than that, but I’ve run plenty of races where you get next to nothing.

    Good job on a nice pace despite the crowds!

  2. This looks like such a memorable and BEAUTIFUL race! I have read many race recaps from this race… and it looks like something that I totally need to add to my running bucket list. 🙂

    Regarding how much food should be available post 10 mile race? Banana and half a bagel? lol… that is all I usually get post marathon too.

  3. The weather was gorgeous though huh? I was sorry to miss it this year. First time I didn’t get in! I don’t expect too much post race food as I am not usually hungry until way later.

  4. NutriFitMama says:

    It looks like it was great weather! It looks beautiful there, I would love to do this race!

  5. Karen :0) says:

    This looks like a gorgeous race route! I’m sorry to hear about the course crowding and lack of food at the end. That’s a bummer! Great recap! Congrats to you both! 🙂

  6. So many bloggers ran this one–sounds like a great race. But that’s rotten about the lack of food at the finish.

  7. Looks like such a beautiful race. I love cherry blossoms. Great pictures, so glad you had a good time.

  8. Tori says:

    I definitely get frustrated by overcrowding at races!
    I always wish that races had protein bars (or some kind of high protein snack) after the finish. Yogurt, maybe? I hate when it’s just fruit and carbs, because I usually just feel like I need something extra hearty and filling.

  9. i finished in 1:31 and by the time I got to the food area it was also just bananas – which I am allergic to and so can’t eat. That was my one disappointment in the race but this one will always be a favorite of mine 😉 come and link your post up on my blog! Love your mid race pic!

  10. Pam says:

    Wow, no food again after last year’s debacle? I think that is really pathetic that the race organizers did not have someone monitoring the finish line food area. The DC races tend to be really crowded and I experienced the same course crowding during MCM. Sorry this did not live up to your race expectations, but at least you had absolutely gorgeous cherry blossom trees to enjoy along the way!

  11. Looks like you had a beautiful day for running! I think it’s awful that they make you pay extra for a medal, that’s sad. I agree that the food should be in an area for runner’s only. 1:46 is not that slow of a time that they should have run out of food by then! In fact, they know how many runners registered so they should not have run out of food at all! Personally, I don’t think races can control how crowded they are unless they have very wide open roads. I feel bad when people get upset about crowding or have to weave in and out of slower runners. It’s a race. There will be people of all abilities. That is something all runners should realize going in to it. Congrats on finishing your 5th race of the year. Oh, did you ever find out if that pedestrian was okay?

  12. Great job Kathryn! I can’t believe there was only a banana at the end. There should definitely be more food options than that! The Cherry Blossoms look absolutely gorgeous in your pics! I’m sure it was a beautiful run!

  13. haleyduke17 says:

    There are so many races in the DC area that look so amazing this one is at the top of my list along with MCM

  14. Lesley says:

    They really need to put the food in a secured area, and make sure people don’t load up. I like how Disney does the food boxes at their races and each runner gets one. It would mean extra time and volunteers, but that way runners get food they need. If spectators want food, booths can be set up where they can buy the food.

  15. Chaitali says:

    We went down to the Tidal Basin on Sunday and caught the tail end of the race. I was surprised by how crowded it was even at the end! And that’s not cool that they only had bananas left by the time you finished 😦 It seems like a lot of the same problems from last year remained. On the plus side, the weather and the blossoms were perfect on Sunday!

  16. Christine @ We Run Disney says:

    Ugh, this is exactly why I decided not to run this race even though I got a guaranteed entry by volunteering last year. So disappointing that there isn’t better finish line organization and food! The photos are gorgeous so I’m sure it was a wonderful race just from the cherry blossoms alone.

  17. Sun says:

    I’m surprised a race of that size only has 6 corrals – definitely not enough. It seems there should be about double that amount to more evenly space the runners and also prevent crowding on the course.

    And only a banana at the finish line is unacceptable. All runners, regardless of pace, should be offered a sports drink, banana and bagel at the bare minimum. I think more races should also offer cookies, chips and candy, too! 😉

  18. Beautiful blossoms! I think the question about what is available at a finish line has to tie in to what the cost is of the race and what the character is of the race. I think it’s great if races can get some kind of fruit and protein bar or drink at the finish but I don’t expect anything. I’ve done some races that are low budget – they put the money toward a charity or into other features – and that’s fine with me so long as I know before hand and pack my own post race snacks accordingly. Food at the finish is a perk but I don’t think it’s required they serve me a breakfast buffet.

  19. Oh man, the pictures of the cherry blossoms are awesome.
    I ran a 50k last year and by the time I finished they had NO food and NO water for the runners. It was pretty terrible. I ended up messaging the race director about it because I had no way to refuel (I forgot my emergency snacks at home) and was a zombie for a day after.

  20. Christy says:

    This was my last Cherry Blossom…more because I’ve had horrible luck with this race than for any other reason, but I agree with the negative points of the race…especially since it’s so rare that the trees are actually in bloom!

  21. Love all the pictures I’ve seen of this race from everyone – how gorgeous was this course! I hope the pedestrian was ok – but that sucks you didn’t get to run the entire race. Sounds like you had a great race, sucks there wasn’t any food after – I would have been a hot mess!

  22. Wow, the Cherry Blossoms look gorgeous! I can’t believe such a large, popular race doesn’t have better organization when it comes to the food situation. It’s definitely not fair to people towards the back of the pack to not get some nourishment at the end.

  23. The course looks so beautiful! That’s a bummer about the food at the end though. That’s always disappointing when that happens.

  24. One of our 10 mile races has bananas, subs, cookies and water (possibly milk or juice) after. It’s a smaller race so there’s always enough food but I have definitely been on the receiving end of zero food left (and sometimes empty aid stations) by the time I cross. Very frustrating for a slower runner like myself to be forgotten when my race fee is the same as the faster runners.

  25. Love the pictures!!! It looked just beautiful that morning! Hate there was so many people in the corrals and running out of food! 😦

  26. Heidi Nicole says:

    Quick the eventful race! And wow, those trees sure showed up for the race! Beautiful! Great job!

    As for post-race food — give me chocolate milk and I’m happy. I’d rather pay less for the race overall then actually get post-race food. Granted, if I’m paying for than $2-3/mile I do expect real food — bagels, bananas, oranges, cookies, chips and maybe even more meal-like food such as burgers, brats, sandwiches. Maybe I’m greedy but come on, we spend a ton of money on races just to sweat on a closed street!

  27. I’d love to run this race for the beauty of it, but bummed to hear it’s so crowded. It’s also a bummer they had to shorten the course, but good that they responded so quickly to the issue at hand, like you said. Maybe 3rd times a charm?

  28. The route that this race took sounds great. That, coupled with the gorgeous cherry blossoms must have been awesome.

  29. GiselleR says:

    DC looks so beautiful and green! Pretty sure I’d get out and run more if I had such a nice view #Canada

  30. Sharon says:

    Sorry to hear the race was so crowded and that there weren’t any goodies post race other than a banana. On the plus side the blossoms are beautiful! Love all the pics you took!

  31. I would LOVE to do this race — I’ll bet the blossoms really ARE breathtaking — but I’ve heard lots of complaints just like yours. Over-crowded corrals and nothing but bananas as post-race food is NOT acceptable, and girl, you are NOT “slow!” So that is just ridiculous. Hopefully, race organizers listen to the complaints and make some changes.

  32. I’ve read a number of reviews of this race and everyone is talking about how crowded it was. What a bummer. The views though! The cherry blossoms are stunning!

  33. great detailed race recap-even though it seems like there are many things that need to be fixed, i do want to run this race one day! they definitely need more corrals with more time in between them. people always complain about disney corrals but when they are spaced out, it really does help course crowding.

  34. Jennifer says:

    I wish they put the food in a secure area, perhaps by the water bottles? Even some of the 9min/milers mentioned they only saw bananas at the finish (could be a little more organized). I wouldn’t mind if there were more corrals spaced apart, but I guess with the road closures that may not be possible. Perhaps a proof of time for seeding? Good to see you as always, and see you next weekend!

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  36. Caitlin says:

    Just started reading your blog as a dancer-turned-runner and teacher myself! This was my first ten miler (after many 5ks/10ks/5 milers and a half marathon) so I ran with the goal of feeling strong at the finish- goal met, hooray! I ran the Disney Princess Half in the last corral (due to a qualification time mishap), so I was feeling okay with the moving crowd of this race as opposed to the stand still moments I had on that course. More than crowding, the pedestrians were awful- trying to cross the street with bikes and strollers in the first mile (bad idea) and last mile (worse idea). And the food was a major problem. They have used this set up for the Navy 5 Miler, but there are significantly fewer spectators and tourists (and runners I think?), so even back-of-the-packers have a big selection of recovery food. A beautiful race, great course, and overall I enjoyed it, but there are some big areas to work on!

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