When I first ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in 2009, I posted a time of 1:29:47.
That race was a pivotal moment for me since, at the time, it was the longest distance I had ever run and the first time I had ever run under a 9-minute pace.
History, it seems, has a way of repeating itself.
After not running it last year, I raced Cherry Blossom again yesterday and posted — yes, you guessed it — exactly 1:29:47.
What are the odds?
Not one second off from my previous time. What are the odds that that could happen? I don’t think I could have hit that if I had tried to match the same time.
I didn’t go into the race thinking I would beat my course PR. In fact, I had the same attitude I carried into the SunTrust Half last week and just wanted to enjoy myself and not have any ITBS pain.
Epod and I woke up at 5:30 AM and took the Metro down to the Mall. I felt very excited to run the race again after missing last year’s to go to my best friend’s bachelor party (I gave my bib to a buddy) and had memories of my 2009 race, the run that changed the way I even thought about running.
Epod putting on her bib while we wait for the Metro
Ready to go
That was the race that made me feel like a real runner. I had such a tremendous runner’s high that lasted days if not weeks that it probably led to my original ITB pain from overuse. For days, I couldn’t not run. I was out on the roads every day, pushing too hard, not being smart, and chasing that elusive high. After a couple of weeks of increased workload, I felt pain in my left knee and realized I had aggravated my IT band.
Many miles later, I learned my lesson. And yesterday was my reward.
I ran the beginning of the race extra slow, pacing the first 2 miles in a very easy 20:15. Epod and I ran together for the most part, chatting and doing some fun people-watching.
Outta my way!
But after crossing back into DC on the Memorial Bridge, I felt great and pushed my speed into the low 8:20s and 8:30s over the next 7 miles.
As each mile came and went, I knew I had a shot at beating my course PR and decided if I was pain-free and felt good, I would go for it.
View of Memorial Bridge and Lincoln Memorial from Arlington
Cherry Blossoms at Hains Point
At mile 9, I looked at my Garmin and realized I would have to run exactly an 8-minute mile to match 1:29:47. I knew I had the energy to try but if there was anything that would stop me, it would be the packed course. I had been dodging runners left and right throughout the entire race and in the last stretch, it wasn’t showing any signs of thinning.Still, I buckled down and got to work. My side was hurting and my legs were sore from the faster-than-expected turnover, but I told myself that if I didn’t try as hard as I could, I would be pissed at myself. Just try, I told myself, and who cares what the clock says.
The last mile of the Cherry Blossom race course is lined with thousands of supporters, many with great signs (“You think this is hard, try dating ME”) and doling out high-fives and words of encouragement. I busted ass up the hill and when I saw the finish line banner, I sprinted with everything I had.
I barreled that last mile in 8:05, plus the final .11 on my Garmin at a 6:40 pace. I literally could not have run any faster.
I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and gasped for breath. I walked a few steps after steadying myself and looked down at my watch. 1:29:49. Two seconds? I thought. I missed it by two seconds?
I would find out later, obviously, that my Garmin was off by those two seconds in my favor. But at the time, all I could do was smile and shake my head. I tried the hardest I could and made it close, so I was satisfied.
CB race medal
I picked up some water, a banana, a muffin, and my medal and met Epod by the Washington Monument. We took some photos and shared stories of our respective race experiences (she also killed it, beating her course PR) before getting cold and going home.
Starting to freeze our asses off
After realizing I had matched my 2009 time, I thought about how I could have beat my course PR if I had just run one second faster. By the same token, though, I also realized I could have missed my course PR if I had run one second slower.
Maybe next year, I’ll go for three in a row.