Fortunately, this year was mostly uneventful except if you were watching the weather. The majority of the week meteorologists were calling 5-8 inches of snow the day before the race, which was truly bizarre for April. They kept talking about how if it does snow, it won't amount to much, blah blah blah...Still wasn't enough to NOT make me nervous. (DC is basically crippled if there's more than an inch.) Thankfully, by the time the expo rolled around the snow threat went away and it was just going to be cold and windy.
This year the expo was a little more leisurely. Most years I've volunteered at packet pickup handing out bibs. Oddly this year the slots were already filled by the time I tried to sign up just after the lottery period ended. So I signed up to take some of the elite athletes back to the airport after the race. It was convenient since the airport was basically on the way home. My first year volunteering after the 2015 race I got to take Aliphine Tuliamuk to BWI, and it was right before her first marathon.
I went to the expo a couple of hours after it opened on the first day. It was a beautiful day--sunny and warmer than it had been for awhile. The expo was the same as its always been with similar vendors and nothing overly exciting was being sold by the vendors so I was fine to just get my bib, shirt and various snacks. Bark thins was offering samples and they were really tasty! Even my Dad (who hates coconut) really liked the bark with coconut in it. Ragnar was there offering lip balm, blinking lights (Ragnar approved!), and the chance to win a really nice blanket. (Spoiler alert: I didn't win.)
The next day I started to pack my bag to stay overnight with my parents. I knew I would have to dress warmly so I packed several options. I ended up settling on this.
Oiselle Flyte long sleeve in violet and gaiter in big blue, flyout tights in curfew, and their runwear pullover. Balega hat and quarter length blister resist socks in pink/wineberry. As always, my garmin, aftershokz headphones, Blue Q coin purse (for an id and cash), picky bar, spibelt, honey stinger chews and a random lip balm I grabbed at an expo.
The next morning my Dad and I were out the door at 6am and headed to a parking garage close to the race, but far enough away the road closures wouldn't effect it. (I had also reserved parking in advance using Spot Hero and full disclosure, if you use the link you get $7 and I get $7 for your first reservation over $8.) We arrived at the staging area around the Washington Monument at 6:45ish for the 7:30 gun time, which worked out well. We had just enough time to visit the portajohns and head over to the start. Because the National Park Service was working on turf restoration, everything was a little further away than usual. Other than having a little further to walk, it really wasn't bad. The lines for the portajohns were unusually short because the race organizers were encouraging runners to start lining up 45 minutes before gun time. We got in line with plenty of time to spare and we got to see the sunrise.
One side of the Washington Monument, over by the World War II Memorial and the Reflecting Pool
And of course a pre-race selfie.
The race was about as it has been in previous years--pretty crowded the whole way but not totally unbearable. But with every beep of my garmin signifying every mile I looked down in disbelief. The first five miles were all under 11 minutes. Then I allowed myself to start taking walk breaks, especially as we got closer to Hains Point. The cherry blossoms were at peak bloom so I wanted to savor every moment around the famous trees. (This was the second time that I've run the race with the trees in peak bloom.) And they were stunning!
Once we passed the cherry blossoms I was about ready to be done. Around miles 8 and 9 I get a little extra antsy to be done because you can see the Washington Monument but you still have a ways to go. Then there's the only real uphill on the course that feels like torture because you can SEE the finisher's area. You can hear the music. But that dang hill stands between you and the finish.
Then once I crossed the finish line, I got my post race snacks (including cottage cheese which I ended up leaving by some volunteers because that's not really the kind of thing I want to eat right after running 10 miles) and my heatsheet because I was starting to actually get cold. Then got my medal at the tent and waited for my Dad to finish. Soon after we headed back to the car and I took a shower and had a real lunch while I waited to head back out to pick up some of the elite athletes from the host hotel.
When I showed up to pickup my athlete at the host hotel, it quickly turned into 4 because they could all fit in my car. The volunteer coordinator scanned my QR code to check me in (since I get guaranteed entry into next year's race for volunteering), handed me my volunteer shirt and we were on our way! All four of the athletes were from Kenya, but only one of them could speak English fluently. We had an interesting conversation as I drove up 295 (usually scenic, but since winter lasted too long the trees were still bare) and I learned a lot about Kenya like how it's an 18 hour flight to DC from there (and a lot of the runners were coming just for the weekend!) The weather is the same year round AND it's at a high elevation so there are pretty awesome running conditions year round. (Which is also part of the reason why Kenyans are such notoriously amazing runners--they get to practice year round while those of us in more temperate climates have to adapt to the other conditions!)
Before I knew it, I was dropping them off at the airport. I was nearly home but their journey had just begun and it blew my mind that they would do so much to get here for the race. After saying our goodbyes I drove the 20 minutes home, unloaded the car and took a nap with my cats.
Overall, the race is a great one to do at least once especially if you're from out of town. It's always a gamble as far as the weather goes but the course is generally the same every year. (There were slight modifications this year because of construction on the bridge we normally run out and back on.) It's really hit or miss in terms of seeing the trees in peak bloom. This year the trees were really stunning and that made it worth it in my mind. The expo is pretty easy as long as you don't come right when it opens because the line is always long. It's also really easy to get to since it's right across the street from a metro stop. The only truly difficult part (besides training) is figuring out how to get there on race morning and even that wasn't terrible since we got there fairly early.