Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 23, 2024

A running tour of D.C. and the Cherry Blossom Festival

By JULIA WANG | April 19, 2024

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COURTESY OF JULIA WANG

Julia at the finish line near the Washington Monument, sporting her medal and the Hopkins running club gear. 

Let’s set the scene: the sun begins shining a bit brighter each day, and the temperature climbs to a nice 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Sidewalks are no longer riddled with ice, and the once bare trees are now covered with lush green leaves. As cities awaken from their winter slumbers, so do runners. The longer daylight hours invite runners to lace up their shoes and find rhythm in their feet once again.

I, among other runners, like to line up the spring season with a selection of road races. This spring’s highlight takes a zoom into the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, a beloved race that draws elite fields right into the heart of Washington, D.C. And so, every year at the peak of the cherry blossom bloom, runners of all kinds awaken from their hibernation to rediscover a vibrant running community gathered near the Washington Monument at a chilly 6:30 a.m.

Big races like these are my favorite. The more renowned the race, the bigger the buzz in the air. By 5:30 a.m., runners start pouring in on the Metro. I sit on the Metro with Vaporflys laced to my feet, a small pack sitting on my back and a coffee in my hand. We all arrive dressed similarly: racing shoes, a Garmin strapped to our wrists, earbuds for upbeat music and a water bottle in tow. The cold air of Metro tunnels is met against the warm breath of the running community. By the time we transfer to the Blue line, each Metro car is packed a little bit tighter. When we reach the Smithsonian stop, everyone exits the train. It seems that we’ve all arrived at the same destination.

And so, I find myself following the crowd towards the Metro exit. There’s no need to pull out directions when a steady flow of sneakers pitter-pattering against the pavement establishes a clear path to the race start. It’s just me, myself and the 20,000 other runners that gained admission.

All around me I spot familiar running clubs from Baltimore and D.C., a collection of decentralized running entities somehow all found each other. Except today we’re gathered together on this warm spring morning. We’re decked out, repping our team jerseys and best racing gear. Around me, I spot Vaporflys, Alphaflys and Adios Pro galore. At this point in time it’s 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and there is no wind nearby. What a great day to be an amateur runner.

Warm-up, bag-check, strides and we’re just about ready to take off. I position myself in a section where the pace seems about right. And the gun goes off! Seven a.m. passes, and the elite women are on their way. Staggered waves shortly follow — by 7:29 a.m., the wheelchair competitors take off, then the elite men, then our corrals! Yellow — Red — Blue — Orange — Green — Purple — until everyone has begun. I take off, soaking in the excitement of everyone around me. 

Given the number of people, it’s not difficult to find a pack to run with. I find a rhythm and begin to cruise. The peaceful morning air begins to fill with music and cheers, and kids are lined up on the sides holding signs and their hands out for high-fives. Starting from the Washington Monument, we begin our sprint toward Independence Avenue and the National Mall, making our way towards the Arlington Memorial Bridge and crossing into Virginia. 

We then loop back to D.C. and circle Rock Creek, only to find ourselves in what seems to be a spiritedly paced tour of the nation’s capital. I pass by a myriad of memorials — the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the George Mason Memorial — all passing by in a flash. The scenic Ohio Drive takes us all the way down to Hains Point and back. I’m tired now, but I know I only have a little bit left and keep pushing. I enjoy the scenic Potomac until the Washington Memorial is back in sight. Finally, the finish line is there, too.

I cross the line filled with joy (and a little bit of pain), but I’m happy. This was a wonderful race and beautifully executed as well. Although a bit heavy on the out-and-backs, I can tell someone had a good time making this route. I’d recommend this race in a heartbeat to any runner looking for a good time and a lively community.

As the cheers of the running community fill the spring air, I’m reminded of everything this sport does for me. Simply put, running, for me, checks a lot of boxes. The miles under my feet keep my heart and lungs strong, and my penciled-in races and training plans give me something to be excited about. My running club gives me a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to start my day. Finally, races like the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler bring my running communities together. I come away from events like this feeling just a little more whole.


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