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Swag for Dogs? Check. Cherry Blossom Race Keeps Participants Engaged

26 Mar, 2021

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The Cherry Blossom Ten Miler may have been postponed but the cherry blossoms themselves? They’re right on schedule.

Accordingly, the District of Columbia is expecting an influx of visitors as people (safely) journey to the nation’s capital to take in the view. According to the National Cherry Blossom Festival website (more on that event in a minute), the National Park Service predicted this year’s peak bloom period as April 2-5, 2021.

The peak bloom date for DC’s cherry blossoms is defined as the day on which 70 percent of the blossoms of the Yoshino cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin are open. 

In previous years, the festivities have included a parade, kite flying – and of course, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom (CUBC) Ten Miler, a race that draws elite runners worldwide.

Last year, the race moved to a virtual format at an admirably quick pace (read about it here) and while for 2021, it won’t be presented until fall in order to allow for safer conditions, organizers also announced a virtual event in a time window that would cover the cherry blossom period so that runners can experience the blooms – either in DC or from any other location.

Registration for the Virtual Run is now open, and Virtual Runners can run their event anytime between March 20 and April 11. The race organizers also upped the fun factor; the website notes options for participation, including:

  • Pinning your blossom on a virtual cherry tree. Everyone who submits their results will have a virtual cherry blossom appear on a cherry tree along with a host of other stats about their performances through the race’s interactive RunPix graphic results page.
  • Prizes for the most scenic routes run (with participants snapping photos along the way and uploading them)
  • Dog-Friendly Option. While the traditional springtime crowd of some 17,000 runners at the in-person Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile and 2,000 in the 5K Run-Walk means dogs have to remain home on race day, there are no such restrictions in the 2021 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Virtual Run (“VR”) between March 20 and April 11, 2021. Dog-loving runners are encouraged to register both themselves and their favorite dog to run in tandem in the Virtual Run. There is no entry fee for dogs. (Oh, bonus round: Dogs get swag - dog lovers can order “My Dog Ran CUCB VR” car magnets, doggie scarves, and dog collars on the CUCB Merchandise site). There’s also voting for “cutest dog” and the ability for participants to upload photos and videos of themselves and their dogs.
  • Individuals can register for the virtual race, but so can teams. Team competition in the Virtual Run will fall into five divisions – Corporate/Non-profit, Government, Running Club, Credit Union and “Anything Goes” (this category is for any group of people who would like to create a team such as “The Wednesday Morning Runners,” or “American University Alumni,” or “Sam’s Friends,” etc.).

Under typical conditions, the CUCB Ten Miler is so popular that it sells out immediately. In fact, it is so popular that the Annapolis Striders, a Maryland-based running group, set up an overflow race known as the Cherry Pit Ten-Miler. Yes, really.

Last year, the Cherry Pit was set up as a virtual race, and this year, it is as well. The website lists a date of Sunday, April 2 (in keeping with its “overflow” roots).

In the meantime, the original in-person CUCB event, set for September 12, will see some changes as well:

  • Registration changes. Because of the cancellation of the 2020 race, 12,000 registered runners opted to defer their entry and get guaranteed entry for the 2021 event, rather than taking a refund. The remainder of the field will be filled by lottery, which will open on June 1.
  • Wave starts. The Ten Mile has previously used a wave start and it will do so again for 2021. Runners will be assigned to a color-coded starting corral based on previous race times. Colors on bib numbers will match starting corrals. There will be six waves of approximately 2,500 runners each. The waves will start in 3-5 minute intervals. Runners outside the top 25 males and females will be scored on net times.
  • One-use timing mechanisms. Runners will be timed and scored using the MyLaps Bib Tag. There is a single Bib Tag adhered on the back of your bib number, and these tags are single-use, meaning there is nothing race organizers will need to collect, disinfect or reuse.
  • Strict time limits. Due to the large number of tourists in town for the cherry blossoms, organizers will only keep the course open for a maximum of two hours and 20 minutes after the 7:30 A.M. start. (For those who do not think they can complete the course in that amount of time, participation in the 5K run/walk is encouraged).
  • Expo changes. While at the moment, the associated Health and Fitness Expo is on the schedule, it is noted that health restrictions may affect the ability to offer it, or may affect the format in which it is offered.
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