This past Sunday I ran the Army Ten Miler race around Washington, DC, and it was awesome!
Usually when I run longer distance races like this one, I plan for weeks in advance and include plenty of long training runs to lead me up to race day, but this time I went in without any official “training” at all. And I survived!
As I mentioned on Friday, my friend Lauren contacted me in the middle of last week letting me know she had hurt her knee and wouldn’t be able to run the race. Although I happily took her bib, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t terrified. Even though I’d been running multiple times a week all summer and fall, I hadn’t gone farther than about six miles since April, so conquering ten was not going to be an easy feat.
I was pretty nervous during the days leading up to the race, and on race day I awoke to a tummy full of butterflies. Even after running multiple races over the last couple years, I still get butterflies every time!
The race didn’t start until 8:00 am, and since Lauren’s bib was part of the second to last wave (purple), I knew I wouldn’t actually start running until around 8:30 – 8:45 in the morning. This gave me time to “sleep in” until about 6:15, at which point I ate a piece of peanut butter toast and walked down to the Rosslyn metro station.
When I arrived at the metro it was packed! The metro doesn’t normally open this early (they had it open just for the race) and I was surprised at just how many people were there; it looked just like rush hour! After two quick stops on the blue line I arrived at the Pentagon, which was where the race began.
Once I exited the metro, I was treated to this gorgeous sunrise.
So pretty! The Pentagon is located right near the airport, and it was really nice being able to watch the planes take off while I walked down to the race lineup area.
Of course the occasion called for a sunrise selfie! 😉 Gooood morning!
After a quick walk down the hill, I arrived in the Pentagon parking lot where the runners in the last four waves were told to line up. The area was well-organized, and it was very easy to tell where to go. There were plenty of porta-potties available too, which I was worried about with 35,000 other runners joining me in the race. I stood in line at a porta-potty for about five minutes, and then made my way over to the purple wave’s standing area.
At this point I was mostly waiting around without a whole lot to do, and since this was my first big race without Fabio, I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Boo! Luckily the race organizers had planned some events to keep us occupied. After just a few minutes of standing around, paratroopers came out of the sky and landed by the start line. Look how tiny they were at first!
It was fun to watch them get bigger as they landed. So cool!
A few more came down after the initial two.
After the paratroopers landed, the entertainment continued with patriotic songs played by marching bands, and kind words spoken by the race organizers about the military personnel this race is held for. There were a lot of people near me who were running for someone specific – a husband, son, brother, wife, mom, sister, etc. – and some of their signs and t-shirts brought a tear to my eye.
It’s moments like these where you have to remember that your race time is not important and it doesn’t matter how fast you run or if it’s your best race, but that you are doing this for the people who keep your country free. Thank you to all our brave military men and women out there!
Then after the National Anthem was sung, the first wave started the race! Then went the next wave. And the next one. And the next one. Finally after about 25 minutes of waiting, the Army volunteers started walking my wave toward the start line, which apparently was still a good 15 minutes away. At this point I was really cold and bristling with energy and nerves, and I just wanted to get the darn race started!
Here’s my wave walking to the start. In case you’re wondering what 35,000 people look like, this is a picture of about 1/8th of that.
Finally when we were in sight of the starting line, they blew the cannon and we were off! (This is how far back I was when they blew the cannon, lol).
If you want a visual representation for the next part of the recap, here’s a map of the course we covered.
Miles One – Three
The first few miles flew by in a blur for me. I had decided I was going to re-listen to my Harry Potter audiobooks during this race, so as soon as we kicked off I started chapter one of book one. At this point the roads were pretty crowded, but I just listened to my audiobook, smiled/waved/high-fived spectators, and enjoyed the familiar DC route. Like most DC races, we ran over the Arlington Memorial Bridge and then looped down toward the Kennedy Center and the Georgetown Waterfront.
I was aiming for a 9-minute mile(ish) and hoped the roads would clear out a bit after the first mile or two, but they stayed pretty congested this whole time. This, naturally, made it really hard to control my pace. Grrr.
I ate a sport bean right after mile three, since eating one every three miles seemed to work well in my last ten-miler.
- Mile One – 8:54
- Mile Two – 8:49
- Mile Three – 9:14
Miles Four – Six
These miles were probably my favorite of the whole race! At this point we had finished running along the Georgetown Waterfront and were making our way toward the National Mall. As with the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, the crowd support was the thickest in this spot, and it was so fun to read spectator signs and listen to all the cheering and support. There were even a few bands playing! Every time I saw people offering high fives, I always tried to run over to them to smack their hands. Spectators totally make or break a race, in my opinion.
At this point I also saw the folks from November Project, which totally made my day. Love those guys!
Once I got to mile 5.5 or so, I saw Lauren, Fabio, and Jack who had come to cheer me on! (Fabio and Jack were actually a little late so I missed them the first time I passed by, but I saw them when I looped back around!) Having the three of them there to support me was so amazing, and it gave me an energy boost to finish these miles off strong.
(Funny side story – apparently Jack pooped on the grass RIGHT next to the course and Fabio didn’t have a bag, so he used the race map to pick it up. Haha! Whatever works!)
The course was still really congested at this point, so I had to run on random sidewalks or areas of grass to get by at times. I’m not sure if it’s just because I was in a later wave or if the race is always this crowded, but the congestion was really starting to annoy me! Luckily I still did ok pace-wise.
- Mile Four – 9:04
- Mile Five – 9:04
- Mile Six – 9:29
Miles Seven – Nine.Five
This is where things really fell apart for me at the race, which makes sense since it’s about as far as my training carried me. At this point of the course we left the National Mall with all its crowd support and headed back across the river to Virginia. The entirety of mile seven was spent running over a hilly and boring bridge, and all of eight and nine had us looping around the Pentagon in a circle just so we could get all our mileage in.
Honestly I thought this part of the race would never end, and I saw tons of people stop to walk the hilly sections. The last portion of a race is notoriously difficult for me (it’s a mental thing) and this is always where I count on having Fabio by my side to push me to keep going. Although he wasn’t there running with me, I knew how disappointed he would be if I told him I had stopped to walk, so I kept going. My pace was ridiculously slow, and I was so tired of running, but I didn’t stop to walk even once, so for that I was happy.
- Mile Seven – 9:25
- Mile Eight – 9:30
- Mile Nine – 9:50
Finally when my Garmin said we had gone about 9.5 miles, the crowd support came back, and I could hear the celebration at the finish line. This was all I needed to get my butt in gear and finish the race strong. I tried to sprint (as best I could at this point) to the finish and was so, so happy to see that darn finish line on the ground.
Woohoo! I did it! My official time was 1:33, which was only 5 minutes slower than my PR for this distance. Considering I didn’t train at all and didn’t have my usual support buddy by my side, I was really happy with this time. Plus I didn’t stop to walk at all, which I totally wanted to!
Finish line selfie!
After the race I grabbed a banana and a water, stretched a bit, and then hopped right back on the metro. I wanted to see Fabio! As soon as I got back he was waiting for me at the metro, and we headed off to a buffet brunch where I enjoyed two well-deserved mimosas and ate plenty of bacon. Then I took a nap. The end.
Question of the day: What’s your favorite post-race or post workout celebration?