Saturday, April 2, 2016

Wilson Komen's Experience Running the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler

Wilson Komen leading a pack of elite runners in the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler
Wilson Komen, center right in a white singlet
It is April 2016, and I am gearing up for my 9th Cherry Blossom Ten Miler on this Sunday, April 3. I am as excited about this race as I was when I finished my first Cherry Blossom event in 2004. This race is one of the best ten milers in the United States. With this blog post, I am offering a brief overview of my history with this race, some lessons that I’ve learned along the way, and some tips for running your best ten miler.

My Race Experience

When I ran my first Cherry Blossom Ten Miler as an elite athlete, I was focused solely on my time and staying with the top runners. I achieved my personal best in 2006, when I placed 5th in the field, finishing with a time of 47:58. The Cherry Blossom Ten Miler is always extremely competitive, because it draws top athletes from around the world, making it an energetic and inspiring event for all runners. The distance and timing of the race make it ideal for runners who are looking for a tune-up race, or who are preparing for the Boston Marathon or other spring marathons and road races. Since my first race, I have grown to love the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler more and more every year, because the race brings together a large, supportive community of runners at every ability level.

Race Tips

-Race Preparation:Train,and train well. Review the course. Stay hydrated, and eat well throughout your training. The night before the race, I recommend that you revisit the course map so that you can visualize the mile markers and the hydration stations. You should also plan the times at which you will consume additional electrolytes—GU, Chomps, etc.—prior to getting to the start line. Always begin your race with a clear plan and strategy in mind.

-Race Day: The Cherry Blossom Ten Miler course is flat and fast. The only significant turn is at the tip of Hains Point between miles 7 and 8.  The only significant hill (there are some really tiny bumps throughout the course) comes as you leave Hains Point and approach the finish, after mile 9.

The forecast for tomorrow’s race is indicating some wind and some slightly cold temperatures. Therefore, it might be helpful to dress in some light throwaway layers. (Please, make sure that you toss your clothes clear off of the course so that you do not create tripping hazards for the runners behind you.)

Make sure that you do not go out too fast at the start. Stay steady for the first few miles, and consider increasing your pace after the sharp turnaround at the Kennedy Center, right at mile 3.  Keep it steady for the next 2-3 miles, and consider increasing your pace even more as you run under the Potomac River bridges and approach mile 6.

As you leave Hains Point and begin the climb up the hill toward the finish line, focus on the sensation of finishing the race—the pride and sense of accomplishment you will feel. Don’t worry about the hill. Stay steady and strong, and remain in control of your pace. Finish strong and confidently. 

Final Tip: enjoy yourself. This ten-miler course is great. It is beautifully lined with DC’s famous Cherry Blossom trees, and there are lots of spectators who provide runner support. 

Good luck to everyone running this year’s Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. I’ll be down there with you tomorrow, and I’ll give you an update about my run next week.

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