One week ago today, John and I got up ridiculously early (for a Sunday morning) (no, 5:20 is always ridiculously early) in order to get to DC (via metro) so he could run in the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. His training had completely derailed, since we had three feet of snow clogging all the paths and streets, and then when it finally melted, he got sick, he was working late, he had schoolwork – everything came together to make it hard for him to be ready. He ran the Army Ten-Miler about three and a half years ago, but he hadn’t hit that distance since then. And since he didn’t feel prepared, he was half-convinced the sweeper bus was going to pick up and take him out the race. He had to keep up a 14-minute mile pace to avoid being picked up. He knew (and I definitely knew) he’d do better than that, but that didn’t stop him from being nervous.
We go to the metro at Dunn Loring and got on the train. Everyone who got on that train, at every stop, was a runner. (They’re the only ones crazy enough to be going to DC that early.) By the time we got into the district, the train was packed, and we all got off at the Smithsonian stop. I wish I’d had my camera out because I looked back over my shoulder as we rode the escalator up and saw that the platform next to the train was one solid mass of people. It looked really cool, but since I was part of that mass, I couldn’t get into my bag. (I was playing sherpa, so I had the backpack to hold all sweatshirts, towels, water, etc.)
We followed the crowd from the metro to the grounds around the Washington Monument. The race started in waves, so they didn’t expect all 15,000 people to be at the starting line at once. The first wave was scheduled to go at 7:40, with the last wave at 8:00. John was in the red wave, which I think was the second one. All John had to do was pin on his number and go. Of course, we’d just commuted in for more than an hour, so John (and every other runner) needed to find a port-a-potty. Fortunately, there were tons of them. Unfortunately, probably 7500 other runners had the same urge. We joined one of the REALLY long lines and started to worry. It didn’t look like it’d be possible for him to make it to the front of the line before the last wave started. (It didn’t matter which wave he joined, so missing his wave wasn’t part of the worry.)
We waited in line for a while, and then he sent me off to find any alternatives. I ran across 14th Street (near the starting line) and found another row of port-a-potties with NO LINES. I raced back to John, waved him out of his line, and sent him running in that direction. Feeling much better, he found me again as the next to last wave was starting, and we got him in the crowd. And it was a crowd. SO many people. They were sent off, but they were packed in so tightly that they all walked for another few minutes. So I walked along with them, outside the railing.
The crowd of runners (only one wave, I think)
John in that crowd. The race has started, but nobody's running yet.
There they go.
I found a great spot along the rail right by the finish line (I was already there when I look that last picture), so, along with some other very enthusiastic spectators, I shouted myself hoarse cheering on the finishers. Long before John came in, Erik and Margaret joined me at the finish line, bringing much-needed caffeine. We cheered John across the line, and then headed for our meetup point. Here’s Erik, convinced he can spot John in the sea of people:
And here’s John, triumphant and sweaty. He finished almost four minutes faster than his last 10-miler time.
From there, we hopped the metro out to Ballston to have a yummy brunch with Erik and Margaret at Whitlow’s, and then we went home, where both of us collapsed of exhaustion, even though only one of us deserved the rest. Go John!