My first very awesome Cherry Blossom!

My Cherry Blossom race review is the perfect post for Motivation Monday, because it has left me super excited about all upcoming 2014 races especially my next half marathon. I don’t actually have one planned yet, but if my performance at Cherry Blossom is any indication of what I am capable of this year, I CANNOT WAIT!

My last half marathon was the 2013 Nike Women’s Half here in DC, which had a course similar to Cherry Blossom. I’m not running Nike this Sunday, but if I was,  my 9:48 Cherry Blossom pace would bring me across the finish line well below the 2:15 half marathon goal I have been chasing since I finished my first half in 2:43 in 2005.

But enough about my half marathon ambitions!

IMG_3007The Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run was awesome for many other reasons. Besides the fact that the cherry blossoms weren’t actually in bloom yet, there isn’t really anything to complain about. The race is a lottery system, which can suck if you don’t get in, but the nice thing is that if you are running with another person, as Pablo and I were, you can register together so that either both of you run or no one runs. Luckily this year we got in!

IMG_2978The course is flat and fast and, whether you’re a tourist or a local, running past DC sights like the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Tidal Basin never gets old. There is also something amazing about running with over 17,000 other people; while I love running alone, I love racing with crowds! I know it sounds counter intuitive, because crowds can be annoying when someone steps right in front of you or when a turn causes a bottleneck effect, but there is something special about sharing your race experience with thousands of other runners.

The crowds on the street also did not fail to deliver. People lined the streets carrying signs, cowbells, riding their trainers -yeah DC Tri Club- and even handing out beer (which I politely declined). There really is nothing greater than a “You got this Gabrielle” at mile 9 or high-five from a little 4 year old smiling up at you. Those moments make the entry fees, aching knees, and early mornings totally worth it. IMG_2999 Then there are the volunteers. If you ever run a race, consider taking some time to thank all the people at the start line, water/aid stations, finish line, medal distribution and recovery stations. Most of those people are volunteers and all of them are typically wearing a big smile, handing you your water, gatorade and banana lifelines while offering encouraging or congratulatory words. The Cherry Blossom aid station volunteers worked hard. I swear at one point I saw a guy holding out 8 cups of water at the same time! If you volunteered, THANK YOU! My race experience was wonderful thanks to you!

I was also impressed by the event’s environmental initiatives. As someone who is always trying to reduce my environmental footprint and live a more sustainable life, it was great to see recycling and compost bins at the finish line. Even better was the fact that there was actually someone there helping runners use the correct containers! Did you know there is a Council for Responsible Sport? Now that I know that, I am definitely going to encourage other events to make efforts to reduce their environmental footprint!

Last but not least, our parents (in France and Curacao) got to see the start of the race and watch us cross the finish line thanks to the webcast, which is still available here. How cool is that? Oh and I can’t forget the medals…I like to say I don’t race for the medals, but who am I kidding, medals are pretty cool and the 2014 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile medals do not disappoint!

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