Event: 2015 Army 10 Miler
Event Date: October 11, 2015
Event Location: Washington, D.C.
Why I decided to run this race.
A year ago my husband ran the Army 10 Miler on a team with a number of his Air Force colleagues. I spectated with a “Go Air Force!” sign that stood out in a sea of Army supporters. But I really wanted to run it myself, so I was sure to get us in this year.
Getting there/the lead-up to the race
Speaking of signing up—it was a disaster. The website crashed multiple times and prevented a lot of people from getting in. I was lucky that I could keep refreshing the screen while at my desk at work and eventually got in. But for many people who couldn’t afford to refresh a website for 2 or 3 hours, they were out of luck because the race still sold out very quickly.
Shifting ahead to the immediate lead-up to the race: This race came just a few weeks after my disappointing performance at the Navy/Air Force half marathon. So I consulted with my coach and we came up with a less aggressive race plan that would help me achieve my very basic goal of just completing my intervals for the entire race.
The race Expo
The race expo was held at the DC Armory, just like the Navy/Air Force expo. But this is a much larger expo, on the scale of a runDisney race or the Baltimore Running Festival. All participants had to go through security, though if you had a military ID you didn’t have to go through bag check or the metal detector.
The expo itself was well organized with a good clockwise flow. We came in, took a left to the bibs and shirts, and after walking through a sensor to activate our chips we came out into the official merchandise section. From there, the rest of the vendors were laid out in front of us as we moved toward the exit. Everything seemed to flow well and I stopped at several of my favorite vendors to make purchases.
Although I got there toward the end of the first day I still had time to do a gait analysis with Brooks. Frequent readers of my reviews know that I’m partial to my Brooks Adrenalines, but the folks there suggested that I might benefit from a shoe with slightly less support. So I’m looking forward to my next trip to the running store to try on a new show style.
Swag was minimal for the Army 10 Miler: just a long sleeve white tech shirt. But I like the simplicity of the design and I expect it will make frequent appearances as an extra layer to go over tanks as the fall weather starts cooling off. And as a bonus, it’s actually a women’s cut rather than unisex.
It was cold the morning of the race and I needed something to keep me warm as I waited for the metro. But I knew it would warm up during the run, especially since I wouldn’t start until almost 9:00 AM. Since I didn’t want to check a bag and I wouldn’t have my car to store things in, I had to plan my gear in such a way that I could carry everything from the moment I left my house until I returned to it, but still be comfortable enough to run a good race.
Since I tend to get really hot while running, I opted to dress so I wouldn’t overheat during the race even if it meant I’d be a little cold on the way to the race.
What I wore: gray digital camo Sparkle Skirt with built-in shorts, black Nike dri-fit tank top, black Adidas sports bra, teal Bondi Band headband, Injinji socks, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 shoes, Garmin Forerunner 620 and Gymboss interval timer, Louva arm sleeves, and Amphipod hydration belt.
We arrived at the Pentagon parking lot between 7:30 and 8:00 AM. We stopped at the port-a-potties and then headed toward our corral but did not go in. Although my husband had earned a spot in a faster corral, he opted to hang out with me in the very last one. Since he’d done the race before he knew where we should position ourselves so we could be toward the front of the corral once it started moving to the starting line.
I was impressed by how well everything seemed to go as we moved forward. The entrance to each corral has an arch of colored balloons. You get in the corral that corresponds to your bib color. When it’s your turn to start moving, a pair of soldiers picks up the ends of the balloon arch and start walking. You can’t move ahead of the guys carrying the balloons. It all seemed very orderly and smooth.
Since we were the last corral we waited almost an hour from when the first runners started before we got to go. But since the final yards of the course run right next to the corrals we were able to cheer for the winners as they zoomed to the finish. On one hand it is a little disheartening to know that people had finished before we’d even left, but on the other hand it was cool to watch.
Finally we were at the starting line. Our gray balloons joined the others arching over the line, the cannon boomed, and we were off!
Along the course
I really enjoyed this course. We ran past some of my favorite sites including Arlington Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Tidal Basin. But probably my most favorite part was during miles 5 and 6 when we do an out-and-back loop through downtown DC. Runners occupy both sides of the street, and those in the middle can high-five each other as they pass. I got a sudden boost of energy as I cheered on, and was cheered on by, my fellow runners. I completely forgot about the fact that I was tired. I forgot to count down the seconds until my walk interval. I forgot that I had half of a race to complete. I just focused on the runners around me and how lucky I was to have the opportunity to be there in that moment.
As we pounded across the bridge out of DC toward Virginia, I started to fade. But I kept telling myself that I would not email my coach another report that started “I gave up at the end and walked the rest.” Sometimes that was the only thing that motivated me to start my running interval again. So I pressed on. I slowed down somewhat but I continued. At about mile 9.5 a runner fell into step with me and we finished the rest of the race together. I couldn’t give up because she was counting on me to pace her, and that’s the motivation I needed to push through it. And then we were done. We crossed the finish!
In the military, challenge coins are a big thing. Units will have one, high-ranking officers will have a personal one, organizations will have one, etc. And when you do something cool you earn one from that unit/officer/organization. Then you can challenge each other to find out who has the highest-ranking coin, and loser buys drinks. So in Army tradition, Army 10 Miler finishers get a coin rather than a medal. Or, at least some finishers got coins. By the time I crossed the line they had run out. It seems that some people took more than one so there wasn’t enough for the rest of us. More than 1,000 of us didn’t get our finisher’s coin. That kind of sucked.
Organizers are taking steps to send coins to the rest of the finishers, but I think there were a few things that could have prevented this from happening in the first place. First: give out the coins as people are passing through the chute rather than having people go to a tent in the celebration village. And second: take the “finisher’s coin” tab from the person’s bib. Either one of these could have prevented the situation. So…I’m sure it will be a nice SMO whenever I get it, but I wish I could have received it the day I earned it.
The post-race experience
Since they hadn’t quite decided what they were going to do about the coin situation when I crossed, we grabbed our post-race snacks and sat down on a curb to wait for further information. I happened to be doing a sugar/gluten/dairy detox at the time so I couldn’t partake in the muffins and cookies, but the banana, fruit cup, and hummus were fair game. My husband and I got our fill of snacks, heard that we had to email the event organizers to request they send us our coins, and decided to head home. As we shuffled from the celebration village back to the Pentagon metro we fell in step with a couple who turned out to be runDisney runners. They will also be running Wine & Dine and Avengers in November, so we had a great conversation during the approximately mile-long trek to the metro.
You know how some radio stations will advertise how they play the music of the 80s, 90s, and today (usually meaning the first decade of the 2000s)? Well, that seemed to be my iPod’s philosophy during this race. I had everything from some great old school tunes like Madonna’s “Vogue” and Poison’s “Give Me Something to Believe In”, to Pink’s high-energy “U + UR Hand” to Eminem’s motivational “Lose Yourself”. Overall, I had some great music on this run!
Looking back now
I am so happy I ran this race. Sure, I was slower than I wanted to be. But I completed my goal of running my intervals through the whole thing. I feel like I redeemed myself from the Navy/Air Force half.
Would I do this race again? Yes, probably. I like the course, I like the length, and the weather in October tends to be good. But with so many DC races in such close proximity to each other and sharing similar courses, I may find that I need to choose just one rather than doing them all.
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