Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run

The Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in Washington, D.C. is so popular entrance is by lottery. Every year on the first Sunday in April, the race is held to coincide with peak or near-peak blooms of the thousands of cherry trees in the area. The course winds past several monuments including Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR Memorials, Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Tidal Basin.

This race was on my bucket list of races I wanted to run once I finished my quest of running a half marathon in all 50 states, which I did in November of 2021. I was happy to see I got in for this year’s Cherry Blossom Run when I got the email earlier this year. However, my training wasn’t the greatest for this race. I had some personal issues I was dealing with and hadn’t been able to run as much as I normally would have so I had pretty much no expectations for this race, at least going into the race. That changed a little once I started running.

Cotton shirt received at packet pickup

When I arrived in Washington, D.C. on Friday before the race, it was extremely windy and chilly. I’m talking wind gusts that physically push you back when you’re walking down the street. It was also overcast and overall pretty dismal weather. “This is why I’ve never been a big fan of spring races,” I thought to myself. The weather can be so unpredictable in this area in the spring and one year for this race it might be sunny with light winds and the next year it could be in the 40’s and raining. In fact, just three days before I arrived it had snowed and the lows were in the 20’s.

Packet pickup was Friday late afternoon for five hours and Saturday most of the day at the National Building Museum. I went to the expo on Friday and found everything easy to navigate and picked up my cotton t-shirt (there was an option to upgrade to a technical shirt), bib, and bought some cherry blossom-themed compression socks. Several other cherry blossom-themed items were for sale like many different types and colors of shirts and pullovers plus things like hats, patches, and even coasters for drinks and dog bandanas. There were many vendors selling running clothes and shoes plus things like Honey Stinger gels, bars, etc. in addition to local running clubs with tables.

Race day was Sunday April 3 and the first runners to begin were the elite women at 7:18. Elite males and runners in the yellow wave began at 7:30, followed by runners in the red wave at 7:32 (which I was a part of), then blue, orange, and green waves were staggered thereafter. We had the option to submit recent race times to aid with selecting which wave to put runners in before the race. 5k runners started at 9 am on a different course but still in the same general area as the 10 mile race. At 9:10 am, any runners not maintaining a 14-minute mile pace would have to stop and ride the sweep bus to the start/finish line.

Some views along the course (taken the day before)

The first couple or so miles were crowded (there were 14,663 finishers this year), despite the staggered starts and my first mile was the slowest at 8:56 because of the crowd. I felt good so my goal was to maintain around an 8:45-minute mile pace for the race which would put me just under an hour and thirty minutes at the finish. While there were pacers, there was one running 9:00-minute miles and one running 8:30-minute miles so as long as I stayed ahead of the 9:00-minute mile pacer I knew I would be good.

This course was absolutely beautiful and for sure one of my favorites of all races. It was flat and not only wound around and past several monuments like I mentioned earlier, there were also many areas where we ran past water and past the bulk of the cherry trees in the Tidal Basin area. The weather was picture-perfect for racing, with the start around the upper 40’s, little wind, and a bit overcast. We truly got lucky with the wind because as I mentioned before, just a couple of days before the race the wind was brutal and it turned out that a few hours after the race the winds picked up again. It would have been miserable to run in that wind so I felt fortunate indeed. In fact, I kept saying to myself how lucky I was to be able to run in this race all along the course.

My split times for miles 2-10 were as follows: 8:31, 8:20, 8:46, 8:37, 8:39, 8:41, 8:48, and 8:33. There was water and Gatorade on the course and porto-johns in a couple of spots. Crowd support was great in the Tidal Basin area and areas around the monuments and thanks to our names printed on our bibs I heard several times, “Go, Donna!” from the spectators.

When I saw I was less than a half mile from the finish I knew I could finish in 1:27, which is what my secret goal was, and I did just that. I also knew there was no chance of winning any age group awards for this race. When I looked at previous top three times for my age group I saw there were some fast women (and men) that run this race. Interestingly, Joan Benoit Samuelson holds the course record for the 50-54, 55-59, and 60-64 age groups for women. If you don’t know who she is, read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Benoit.

Race day photos

We finished in the same area where we started and there was water immediately available. Further down there were granola bars and bananas. Mylar blankets were also being handed out. Medals were available for those that paid extra (I did not). I made my way to the bag check and put on my winter coat I had put in there; I didn’t care that it would get sweaty, I was happy to have it after the race.

Although I loved this race and thought it was well-organized with a beautiful course, this isn’t a race with a ton of bling, or I should say bling that’s included in the $54 registration fee. As I mentioned, medals were extra, as were technical shirts and the post-race food was minimal. I’m not one for the bling so those things didn’t bother me. My goal was to have fun, run a well-organized race on a beautiful course, and this race fit the bill completely. Here’s the link to the race: https://www.cherryblossom.org/

Have you ever run the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run? If so, what was your experience like? Tried to get in the lottery but didn’t? Have you been to the Cherry Blossom Festival here?

Happy running!

Donna

Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

15 thoughts on “Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run”

    1. Since it’s not a state I never considered it part of my 50 state challenge. I also didn’t count the marathon I ran in California so I went back to run a half at another time. Now I guess I can truly say I’ve completed it, though since the 10 miler counts for DC!

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  1. No to all your questions. I want to because I’ve heard so much about the race.

    I love how you could pay extra for a medal and a shirt….

    It is an expensive place to visit but it is one that I need to visit – it’s been like 30 years since I was there.

    Congrats on a great race n spite of the crowd. Lucky that you had perfect weather too.

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    1. I highly recommend this race and also like the option of paying extra for a medal and technical shirt.
      DC can be expensive but there are also many free things to do and the METRO is cheap and easy to navigate. Parking is outrageous and driving is an absolute nightmare, on the other hand. I saw one hotel charging $58/night for parking for people staying there and it wasn’t even located in the most touristy place.
      We definitely got lucky with the weather during the race.

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  2. I have never run it but a couple of blogger friends were running it. I lived in MD 1 year, and often went into DC, but for whatever reason never got to see the Cherry blossoms! Some day, maybe — I’ve also never run a 10 mile race!

    Glad you guys had such great weather. Bad weather seems to follow me around . . . you did great! Especially with training not being quite what you wanted.

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    1. Oh, I’m sorry you missed the cherry blossoms when you lived in MD- you were so close too!
      Thanks, Judy! I was happy with my results especially given my lack of adequate training beforehand. I’ve found I definitely run faster when I really love the course and my surroundings.

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  3. Nice job! The course sounds very scenic but I don’t know that I could enjoy that large of a crowd to run with. I’m so used to smaller races, I think the largest one I’ve ever ran was years ago, the Spirit of Gettysburg 5k which had around 1k people I believe.

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    1. Thanks! It seems like people either love or hate the whole idea of paying extra for medals and tech shirts. I personally like keeping registration fees lower and giving people the option of paying more if those things are important to them. It is very much in line with the airlines, however, and you make a good point. I had missed the connection before you pointed it out.

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