District of Columbia,
- 10 miles
- Road Race
Full disclosure - I have been involved with the blog for this race for the past few years, but this is my personal review of this race!
I will start at the beginning - Registration is by lottery, which usually takes place the December before the race. BUT if you volunteer you earn a lottery exemption for the next year. You can even volunteer and still race if you sign up for a Friday or Saturday volunteer slot, and then you will be all set for the next year.
The expo for this race is usually at the National Building Museum. There are usually a ton of vendors, expert/athlete clinics and even a "happy hour" on Friday evening.
The race starts and ends on the grounds of the Washington Monument so it's pretty easy to get to by Metro, driving (if you are willing to park a few blocks away) or bike -- they offer free bike parking as part of their efforts to be "green".
The course really is mostly flat (many races say that, but it's true for this one!) -- over Memorial Bridge and back, out to the Kennedy Center and back, over towards the Washington Monument again and then around Hains Point and back to the finish line by the Washington Monument. The crowd support is sparse along Hains Point but HUGE at mile 5 and along the last mile.
Although the race usually is held during the National Cherry Blossom festival, whether the trees will be in bloom is anyone's guess. Last year (2015) they were in full bloom for race weekend, but this year (2016) they had come and gone even before the wind that led to race-day modifications.
About that wind. I think it was Friday when the race organizers first alerted us to possible weather issues -- by email and on their Facebook page. By Saturday they had canceled the kids fun run and down-sized the festivities by cancelling the pre-race warm-up, eliminating the start/finish banner, eliminating the mile split clocks (but they had volunteers posted at each mile), and basically eliminating anything elevated - stages, tents (except the medical tent), speakers, signs, etc. This was all done for safety in conjunction with the National Park Service, and was communicated in advance.
Winds were so bad overnight many runners expected (hoped?) the race would be canceled, but there was an early morning e-mail confirming that the race was on! It was REALLY windy around the Washington Monument, but as the sun came up it turned into a glorious day! While we could feel the wind on Memorial Bridge and the last mile of Hains Point, it really wasn't bad. It was hard pushing to the finish line with a finish line banner to set my sights on, but I could tell by the crowds where the finish was. They handed out space blankets and water right in the finish area, and then I made my way to get a banana and a bagel, picked up my medal, and headed home.
There are so many things that make this race great, but my favorite moment is lining up to race on the grounds of the Washington Monument and listening to the National Anthem before heading out to run with thousands of other enthusiastic runners.