Like I mentioned yesterday, I got the amazing opportunity to run the Army Ten Miler on Sunday (one of the women in my small group hadn’t trained and was giving away her bib). I was so excited to experience one of the races on my bucket list and one of the biggest races in our area (close to 30K runners, I think?).
To be honest, I’ve had a hard time with racing this year – of the six races I signed up for from the beginning of the year till now, I DNS/DNFed (did not start, did not finish) ALL of them for one reason or another. Sometimes I was injured, sometimes the weather looked bad – but mostly I just didn’t feel like racing this year. Yet I knew this race would be different – I was better trained, I wasn’t planning to all-out race, and I knew my small group would want to know how the race went. #accountability
Transportation – The race starts at the Pentagon, so metro is an easy option for transportation if available. I don’t live near a metro station, so I was considering taking a bus to the Pentagon, but then I realized that buses were being diverted due to road closures. I ended up taking an uber to Pentagon City and walking about 10 minutes to the staging area. The traffic was pretty bad, so I would highly recommend adding about 20 minutes to your usual travel time (my 10 min ride took about 35 min).
Pre-Race – This was by far the smoothest pre-race experience I’ve had at a big race – there were plenty of port-o-potties at the staging area and near the corrals, bag check area was well-organized with no lines, and corral colors were marked by big balloon columns. Waves were sent about 5 minutes apart to prevent crowding. I arrived a little late and ended up running with a later wave, but I think the waves all started on time and I didn’t have to wait long in my corral at all.
Course Support – There are no headphones allowed on this course, so lots of people were running with a buddy or two to chat with. There were lots of spectators at the start and finish, and a few bands along the way, but other than that you’re running on the energy of the crowd around you :) Water/ Gatorade stations every two miles with plenty of cups.
Course/ Elevation – The race took place on concrete/asphalt roads around the Pentagon and National Mall and crossed two bridges. The race elevation chart is relatively flat, but the bridges have a little incline/decline to them (the 2nd bridge after mile 7 felt like a mountain at the time).Post-Race – The race organizers very thoughtfully didn’t place any water/ medals close to the finish line chute – you have to walk a little ways to get water/medal/ food box, which prevents a jam at the finish line. The finish line is about a 10-15 min walk from the start line (where the bag drop is), but they also ran shuttles between the two areas. Then you can take the metro back home, or walk over to Pentagon City and catch an uber or ride from a friend.
My Race/ Goals
I mentioned before that I knew I wasn’t going to be “racing” the race – I had done a couple of hard workouts in the days before and I also wanted to minimize recovery time after the race to continue to train for my half marathon. I decided to shoot for a “faster long run”, which meant about 10-10:30 pace miles, but my real goal was to enjoy the race experience again.
I checked the weather when I woke up, and realized that it would be cooler than expected and MUCH windier than I thought (20-30 mph winds), so I added arm warmers to my shirt/shorts ensemble and pulled on a jacket to wear pre and post race. Arm warmers are my favorite way to adjust to temps because you can pull them down at any point if you get too warm (I pulled mine down around mile 9). I also brought my phone and a gel in my flipbelt. Pre-race logistics were very easy – I left the house around 7:30, arrived at the Pentagon by 8:20, and was making my way through the corrals 10 minutes later.
I think I started a corral behind, but there were plenty of people with the wrong color bib so I knew I wasn’t the only one. Our wave started at 8:40, and we were off! I decided to start with a conservative pace; the beginning of a big race is always pretty crowded so it can be hard to hit a fast pace right away, and I really wanted to have some energy in the second half and finish feeling great. For entertainment, I listened to conversations around me and counted my steps and breathing to keep a steady pace. The wind was very strong at times, but I kept telling myself, “small like a bullet” and tightened my form to drive into the wind. Miles 1-6: 10:11, 10:01, 10:18 (water stop), 10:03, 10:10, 10:29 (water stop and gel).
By the time the second half of the race rolled around, I was feeling pretty good so I decided to pick up the pace just a little. A friend had warned me that the bridge after mile 7 was pretty brutal, so I knew I had to conserve some energy for that. The bridge was tough, but not as bad as I was expecting – the wind was at my back for once, and I’ve done a lot of hilly runs with Pacers this summer ;) Miles 7-10: 9:55, 9:48, 10:01, 9:50.
I ran the course a little long and had another .11 miles to go, but at this point, there were tons of spectators, I could see the finish line and I knew I ran a great race and wasn’t going to stop now. I started to sprint a few minutes before crossing the finish line, but have no idea what my time was for this section since I forgot to stop my watch, lol. Final time: 1:42:01 (worked out to be exactly 10:00 pace with the extra distance I tacked on)
This was a great race for me. I felt like I ran a very smart race with a solid negative split, and I didn’t feel like I wanted to quit at any point. I stayed focused in every mile despite the lack of music, and got to listen to the people around me motivating themselves and each other. More than anything, listening to those conversations reminded me why I love racing – you know that everyone around you is pushing themselves, and we’re all hurting and striving towards a goal. It was incredibly inspiring to hear someone say, “I want to quit, but I’m not going to” and her friend replied, “Yea, we’ll be in pain but so happy when we cross the finish line”. In pain but happy -> isn’t that true of achieving anything hard in life? Okay, I’ll end my philosophical ramblings here :)