Run Washington - June/July 2013

A Perfect 10

Charlie Ban 2013-05-30 07:36:44

It might be the perfect racing distance, and the Washington region has certainly embraced it. Ten miles. Philadelphia might have a bigger race — the Broad Street Run crested 38,000 finishers this year — but there are more opportunities to race 10 miles here than in almost any other part of the country. We’re chock full of them, and they’re popular. In the last year, ending in May 2013, 57,702 runners crossed the finish lines of 21 different 10 mile races in the Washington area. In 2011, the region’s 10 milers had the second (Army Ten-Miler), third (Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run), eighth (George Washington Parkway Classic) and ninth (Baltimore 10 Miler) largest 10 mile races in the country, according to data compiled by Running USA. Cherry Blossom, Army and the Annapolis were all highlighted by Runner’s World in 2007. Have you entered a registration lottery for a race? Thank the popularity that drove Cherry Blossom to sell out in less than three hours back in 2009 (more than 17,500 finishers in 2013). Shut out of Cherry Blossom? Run the Cherry Pit the same day. If you’d like to run October’s Army Ten Miler (more than 22,000 finishers in 2012), make that decision in May, specifically within the first 10 hours of registration opening, because that’s how long it took to sell out in 2013. Wear your Annapolis 10 Mile jacket anywhere and you’re sure to find a friend who ran the race with you that year. It’s D.C.’s distance. “I think it’s a product of the running boom in the last ten years,” said Keira D’Amato, marketing manager with Potomac River Running stores, which manages the Reston 10 Miler in March and Perfect 10 in September. “People started running 5k races and are starting to mature into more serious runners and want to move up in distance.” Alexandria-based journalist Steve Nearman has covered the Cherry Blossom race over almost 30 years and served on the race’s board of directors. He sees 10 mile races fitting well into chaotic Washingtonian lives. “Your life doesn’t suffer from what it takes to race a 10 miler,” he said. “ Not everyone has time to train for 26 miles. Marathon training is a tremendous commitment, but 10 mile racing is still fulfilling.” Jeff Horowitz said the distance’s combination of endurance and power is appealing. “It doesn’t chew you up,” he said. “The marathon’s appeal is that it’s a journey, but you have to pace yourself. On the other hand, 5k is all power, you run your heart out the whole time.” Nearman and Horowitz have teamed up to produce books of photographs chronicling iconic marathons, but along the way they are in the process of finishing up a book on Cherry Blossom, a testament to the race’s iconic status. The book follows a similar project depicting the Marine Corps Marathon. The book, The Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run - Unparalleled Beauty, will include more than 300 photos of the race over the years and the famous cherry blossoms. “When you think Cherry Blossom, you think beauty,” Horowitz said. “We thought it would look so amazing in a picture book that you couldn’t do it in words.” In a way, the distance itself is a throwback. When the British Invasion reached running with a metric system takeover, threeand six-mile races became 5k, 10k. It means dissonance with most people’s training terminology, though. For those who train by distance, the mile remains the standard unit of measure, aside from a European here or there who insists on running kilometers. Ten miles is clean. No decimal points, no fraction of a mile. While you’re racing, if your mind wanders to figuring out what your splits are going to mean for your finishing time, it’s a lot easier than figuring out how much beyond that last mile mark you’ll be going. It’s tidy. Nine-minute miles? You’re looking at an hour-and-a-half. Run six-flat miles, you get 10 miles. Ten miles per hour. When non-runners ask you how fast you can run, why not compare yourself to a speed they’re used to? Brandywine, Md. runner Ronette Thompson is a 10 mile enthusiast. “It’s my favorite distance,” she said. “That’s about as far as I really like racing right now, though I’m planning on some marathons in the fall. They don’t wear you out.” She’s gone to Virginia Beach for the Surf ‘n Santa 10 Miler in December, and recently did the Reston 10 Miler and the George Washington Parkway Classic (which changed in 2002 from being a 15k). She also loves the Baltimore 10 Miler, though she said that one gets a little warm, being in June. The local 10 milers generally attract more women than men. Four of the top five largest races have more female finishers, with Annapolis the only race not following that trend. The D.C. Road Runners partners with the Army Ten-Miler as the race’s coaching program. Katie Finazzo coordinates the club’s training programs. “Hitting double digits is a big milestone for people,” she said. “It’s a gateway to longer distances and it isn’t anything they can’t do. The challenge is more mental than it is a matter of their conditioning.” The club’s 10 mile training program starts in the summer at three miles (with an option for complete novices to start at one mile) and builds up consistently to 10 miles (some go to 11). “Five miles is a breakthrough for a lot of people, they know they will be able to finish when they get that far,” she said. “When we get to 10 miles in our training runs, we do a lot of running on the Army course. There’s always a lot of celebrating.” Finazzo runs the race with her athletes and considers the overall experience to be inspirational. The area’s 10 mile races attract fast competition. Running under 4:50 pace is a prerequisite for men to contend for the top spots at Cherry Blossom or Army. Daniel Salel ran 46:06 to win Cherry Blossom. For women, 5:20s or faster will give you a shot, but not guarantee anything. Cherry Blossom played host to the women’s 10 mile national championships this year, where Janet Bawcom set the national record— 53:28. When timed right with the trees, the Cherry Blossom race shows off Washington, D.C. at the height of spring tourist season, another reason it is popular with out-of-town runners. Alexandria’s Jerry Greenlaw made the Cherry Blossom his first race in the area. A few months before moving from Warwick, N.Y., he showed up to the 2010 race and was spellbound. Its reputation as a fast race was all he needed. And he got it, finishing 25th in 51:42. “Cherry Blossom is my favorite race, hands down,” he said. “Everyone involved puts on such a great event and help everybody feel great on race day and out on the course.” He credits race committee members Rob Wolfe and Chan Robbins, the latter now retired from the race, with cultivating an atmosphere that welcomes competitive runners and makes the race the highlight of the spring racing season. Like Thompson, Greenlaw considers the 10 mile to be his favorite distance. “You can run fast and hard the entire time,” he said. “There is no taking gels, taking a sip of water, or worrying about going too fast because the race is over before you know it.” D’Amato said that the Reston 10 and Perfect 10 provide a balance to the high-profile urban races, and sees the races as a comfortable place for beginners to try the distance. “For a lot of people, the Army Ten or Cherry Blossom can be a little intimidating,” she said. “’Wow, there’s going to be 20,000 people there?’ These races give them a chance to run on roads they’re familiar with and let them be comfortable with the race. Editor’s note: RunWashington follows Associated Press style, but the formal names of some races do not, so we recognize those names.

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