What a glorious day for a run, dear readers! And not just any run: today, coinciding with the peak of cherry blossom bloom around the National Mall, more than 17,500 runners and I completed the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Race. The weather was perfect - in the low 50s when the back of the purple corral started just before 8am up to 60° when Megan and I crossed the finish line at 10am - with cloudless blue skies and brilliant sun. One of the best parts, of course, was running through the trees in full flower that lined our course. (Jon and I woke up at 6am to drive down to the Mall for peak bloom last year, but this was a much better way to experience the glory of it all!) This is the first time the race has coincided with peak bloom since 2007 and it's definitely the most beautiful race I've ever run.
It's also the best race I've ever run, both physically and mentally. It was the longest race I'd completed since that disastrous half marathon in September 2013 and I absolutely feel like I've redeemed myself. I trained properly and, despite not having done more than 8 miles in one go in the lead-up, I was confident that I'd built up my endurance over the past six months and felt optimistic about completing the course in good time and in good health.
Knowing I'd be running with a fabulous pack of women also helped me prepare for the race. Megan, Jen, and Kelly are absolute rockstars and have made me feel like a rockstar, too, on every step of my running journey, and it's always a blast to run with them. (We started out together and then Jen and Kelly outpaced us; Megan kept me in line all the way to the end. Thanks, Megan!) There's a post on a running blog from last October titled "Thank You: From the Front of the Pack to the Back" that speaks to why I'm so lucky to have fallen in with this crew - the lessons that the blogger learned from the back of the pack are the same ones that these women teach me every time we talk about running or head out to train or race.
Megan and I stuck to 1:1 intervals and, on her prodding, came close to consistent negative splits for Cherry Blossom. I was worried for the first mile or so that we'd get swept because we were at the very back of the last corral, but the intervals worked their magic for our pacing and we started passing other runners by the time we got onto Hains Point. (By the way, not even the beautiful day or the gorgeous blossoms could prevent me from getting deathly bored by the end of that 3 mile loop.) Unfortunately, there was an accident on the course a few hours before we started - the area was declared a crime scene and we had to take a detour somewhere between mile 4 and mile 6, so we actually ran 9.5 miles instead of the proper 10. But we came in at 2:04, which would have come out to 2:10 for the full race, and I'm so pleased with that result.
Of course, I was also delighted to see Jon wildly waving a sign with my name on it as we rounded the hill on 15th just as we came up to the finish! It was the most wonderful end to a fantastic race.