In DC, the weather has been cold and windy to all hell the last few days. Like, early February levels of cold, and I don’t even know what levels of windy. This past Sunday was no exception, which was super unfortunate for me because that was the day of the annual Credit Union Cherry Blossom race!
Running has been a slow love for me, and most days I’m surprised by just how much I enjoy it considering I hated it all of my life — up until I decided to actually try doing it properly last year, really. Even so, I’m still a fair weather runner. If it’s raining outside, or if it’s too cold, I’ll skip my run for the day and wait until nice weather comes back before I hit the pavement. That’s not really the best way of preparing for any sort of race conditions, and I learned that the hard way when I woke up in the middle of Saturday night to howling winds and rapidly dropping temperatures. Shoot, I thought to myself as I grabbed an extra blanket and tried to block out the noisy wind. How the hell am I going to run in this kind of weather in the morning?
The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and 5K race organizers made a bunch of executive decisions for the safest possible race, in light of the weather conditions. They canceled the half mile Kids’ Run, condensed a bunch of the tents for bag check and medical, eliminated all race signage, etc. But they didn’t cancel the race, and that was when I knew that no matter what the weather conditions were that morning, I’d be running the 5K. I mean, I’d been gearing up to running a good 5K in the last month and a half of getting back into running shape after hibernating all winter. Plus, I’d get a medal at the end of the 5K — and I really, reaaaaaaaally wanted the medal.
Sunday morning, weather.com informed me that the DC weather conditions were as follows: 37F with a “feels like” of 25F, and 36mph winds with gusts up to 40-50mph. Had it been any other morning, I would’ve stayed at home and put off whatever commitments or errands I had until the weather calmed down. But on race day, I got out of bed and pulled on a long sleeve shirt, a long sleeve running jacket, long leggings, gloves, and a headband to cover my ears and headed down to the Washington Monument. I took a cab there because I was running too late (and was too nervous) to deal with Metro, and proceeded to spend the half hour between checking my bag and starting the race trying not to freeze to death.
I don’t think I can emphasize this enough: it was so cold. And I wasn’t even running the 10 Miler, which started an hour earlier than the 5K in even colder conditions (no sun!) and obviously went on for much longer. When the 5K race did begin, I had lost feeling in my feet, for the most part, and it wasn’t until half a mile in that I started to feel them again. Thank GOD for my headband and gloves, which went a long, long way in keeping me warm, and that the majority of the clouds went away around the time the 5K started so it felt marginally warmer, even if the winds were still whipping us.
The 5K course was a really good one, and it was pretty cool to run past some of the monuments and back. The course looped around so that the start and finish line were the same. For the first half, I concentrated mainly on warming up and trying to stay upright because we were running straight into that freakin’ wind. For the second half, I managed to pick up my pace and since we were then running with the wind, I felt like I was flying to the finish line!
My best friend L came to cheer me on, but because there was no race signage, a volunteer ended up directing her to the 10 Miler finish and we missed each other. But we did rendezvous before I picked up my medal, and she was the one that awarded it to me which, if you ask me, is arguably the most important part of the whole thing because it’s why I did the race in the first place! Also, she had nearly become frozen when she waited by the finish line, so it meant a lot that she came out to support me.
Would I do this race again next year? Absolutely. I’m probably not gonna be able to do the 10 Miler because running in the winter sucks (but hey, never say never). I’d be down to do the 5K again at the very least! Maybe next year there’ll actually be some cherry blossoms to see… notice the bare trees in the photo? The blooms had been blown away long before race day!