I’ve resisted visiting D.C. as an adult. Given that I grew up on the East Coast and have family in Baltimore, my memories contain at least a trip or two to all of the expected sites: the Smithsonians, the Monuments, the Founding Documents. My own kids have been, too — and without my involvement, whether with grandparents or their schools. I checked D.C. off of the list of places I needed to go.
Then I started running. Then I kept running. Then I saw pictures from the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run on social media and caught a case of FOMO. Cherry blossoms might just be my all-time favorite symbol of spring rebirth, so much so that I’ve pondered tattooing a stylized version on my body somewhere. What has held me back is that I’m looking for a spot that won’t wrinkle or sag too much, which leaves out most of me.
I decided that 2018 would be my Cherry Blossom year. Then I promptly started stalking the online bloom predict-er in addition to the weather. When race weekend finally rolled around, my non-running-but-always-game-for-a-road-trip buddy Jenny and I packed up the Subaru and drove south (and a little west) through springtime sleet and snow.
Let me now apologize for all of the non-feelings I had for my nation’s capital. It is a spectacular city, one that I can’t wait to go back to. Even when I subtract the joy I received from eating cupcakes daily — it was my birthday weekend and my gift to myself was unlimited cupcakes — I still had fantastic time dipping in and out of museums and walking around and around monuments.
I also might have simply been giddy because there were daffodils and green lawns, even when it was rainy. I spent the weekend drunk on spring and that feeling carried me into the BAMR meet-up at at Potomac Running’s D.C. store. A dozen mother runners (plus a few fathers and kiddos) dropped by to pick-up swag and talk running. As one does.
One of the mother runners — and now I wish I’d kept better (or, really, any) notes so I could cite her by name — compared starting corrals to a mullet. It’s all business in the front and a party in the back. Truer words have never been uttered.
The next morning, under a clear but windy a.f. sky, I wandered back to the most righteous of all the party corrals. We were in the shadow of the Washington Monument and about to head out into blossoms just the slightest bit past peak. My only goal was to run my ten miles before the course closed.
Then we were off. My super-chill party corral turned into a bunch of Kenyans racing like there was money on the line. I couldn’t slow down without causing a massive pileup. I held with the speedy pack and clipped off miles that were much faster than I’d expected. What was amazing was how good they felt, even though I strongly suspected that I’d regret them later.
Except I didn’t. Despite a case of runner ennui (that passing feeling during a long run of being bored by running but knowing you still have many miles to go) at mile six, I felt speedy and strong. The sun was shining. The wind was less windy. The scenery was divine. And I didn’t have to pee too much.
I crossed the finish in 2:00:44. I’m kicking myself for not pushing a little bit harder at the end to earn a “1” as the first number. Ah, well. There’s a life lesson buried in there somewhere but I’m still riding the bliss of such a smooth race to want to dig for it.
Once I made it back to our room and showered, Jenny and I headed out for brunch. While I was stiff and sluggish, I thought my brain was doing OK. Until the very nice Metro guy let me know that the turnstile wouldn’t work if I kept trying to pay my fare using my hotel key card rather than my Metro card.
I’ve made a note for next time D.C. Because, like Arnold, I will be back.
Have you held a pace that you never, ever thought you could? What was your first response?