Monday, December 3, 2012

0 Cherry Blossom Registration is Now Open: On Your Mark, Get Set, GO! :)


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Most of you who are interested in entering the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler probably already know this, but just in case, the lottery for this race is now OPEN and will close on December 14.

For those of you who haven't run this race before, I can tell you from past experience that online registration process is usually a frenzied madhouse and seems to get crazier with every passing year. So, if you want your lottery entry to be received well before the cut-off date, I suggest you enter the lottery NOW, and here's the reason why: Their servers tend to get really busy during this period, so you may have to try multiple times just to submit your lottery entry. If you don't win a place in the lottery, you can still run the race if you run it for charity.

The 2009 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.
Here are just some things to be aware of if you are running it: The race is crazy-crowded and people can easily lose each other. So, be sure to establish very specific, distinct meeting points with your party for both before and after the race. Also, if possible, keep your mobile phone somewhere on your person during the race; you'll be glad that you did, especially should you have trouble finding each other after the race. :) Also, watch out for flying and fallen cups: racers tend to throw their cups everywhere onto the road, which amounts to literally thousands of cups (!), so any water stop can quickly turn into an obstacle course. ;) Also, don't forget to check out the race expo: I remember it being fun.

I ran the race back in 2009, and a lot of things have changed since then: First of all, back then, there was no lottery. I remember sitting in front of the computer an hour before registration began, with my web browser already opened to the race registration page. With one hand poised on my mouse and another on my keyboard, I was all set to register the SECOND it officially opened. I remember thinking that the race registration process was just as much of a race as the actual race itself. Lol. With each passing year, the pool of people vying for entries kept getting larger and larger, and so much so, that the registration process soon became a bit too unwieldy. This, of course, is probably why they decided to change over to the lottery system.

The race tents (2009).
I seem to recall that the year I registered, available race registration slots filled up in a mere hour or less, but maybe I'm not remembering that correctly. (The mind tends to exaggerate memories sometimes when looking back.) In fact, there were so many people trying to register at once that the servers actually crashed in the middle of the registration process. So, even though I'd already entered my credit card number and had pressed the "submit" button, my registration didn't go through. At first, I was crestfallen. Then, I got an idea. Undeterred by what had happened, I called their event office's number only minutes afterward and told one of the staff members what had happened to see if anything could be done about it. The lady who'd answered the phone was very nice about it; she told me that since I'd already submitted the registration during the server crash that they would honor my registration and still count it as an officially accepted entry. She then sent me a special paper registration form to complete the process. YES!!!! I was so ecstatic and relieved. I was also really happy that they took me at my word. Guess they could tell I was an honest person over the phone. :)

The 2010 medal. Pretty design, if somewhat odd shape.
I personally prefer round or symmetrical medals, but
overall, it's not a bad looking medal. It'd be even
prettier if it was included as part of the registration fee. :)
Back in 2009, if I remember correctly, you could upgrade from a cotton tee to a tech tee for an additional fee. That hasn't changed. In fact, I still have my tech tee from that year. It's rather nice and I still enjoy wearing it. This race is not only popular, but it's special in a way that's hard to describe. So, if you're lucky enough to get into this race, the tee shirt will bring back memories of your race day experiences and the glow of accomplishment you felt after completing it, and so is something you'll most likely wear with fondness and pride. :) Of course, the nostalgia factor always adds meaning to a race day tee shirt. It's not just a tee shirt from some race you ran. Well, it is, but it isn't. Runners, you know what I mean. :) Some races stand out in a runner's mind and for me, this was one of them.

Here's another change: There was no medal back in 2009, like there is now. However, this time, both the tech tee and the medal are add-on costs to your $40 registration fee. Upgrade fees for tech tees are standard for most races, but in my opinion, the cost of a medal should really be included in the race registration fee, like most races seem to do these days. Most people I know really enjoy receiving a medal after a race, whereas to some, the regular cotton tee shirt is often not as important, but regardless, no one wants to feel like they're being nickeled and dimed, even if in fact, they are. Lol.

The 2011 medal.
I understand that races have become about making money to a large extent, but I also think there should be a better way of handling this aspect. Runners have become accustomed to paying more (a lot more!) for major races these days. However, if we know that we're getting good value for our race day fee, and even better, if some part of that fee is also going to charity, that can help to take some of the sting out of the fee a bit.

And then there's this:  No matter how large or crowded the race, it's up to the race director to set the tone of a race via its policies and treatment of its participants and volunteers. These things are important; runners will remember how they felt about the race from registration to the finish line to the after-party and beyond, and that feeling can affect their decision as to whether they'll want to return or not. Sure, there will always be runners clamoring to get into a major race in spite of those factors, but I still think it matters, regardless. Even though the Cherry Blossom is now even more popular than ever, I still remember the pleasant, kind, and helpful demeanor of the lady I spoke with on the telephone that day back in 2009. I greatly appreciated her willingness to help resolve the situation. It matters.

Here's the 2012 medal celebrating the race's
40th anniversary. Nice, isn't it?! Now THIS is
medal I might consider paying a little
extra for . :) Or better yet, for future races, they
could offer a standard medal as part of the
usual registration fee, and then offer something
extra snazzy like this for an additional fee.
The communal feeling of a race is also matters as well. While many of us run races to compete, best our previous times, &/or just simply feel that sense of accomplishment of crossing over the finish line, those aren't the only reasons that most of us race. We run races to feel part of, and when the opportunity arises, contribute to, something larger than just ourselves. And if race organizers can find a way to reinforce this feeling by creating a welcoming atmosphere and a sense of community, this is what will keep people coming back for more. When you run a race, you literally become part of the throng of humanity; and when race organizers imbue a race with unifying, uplifting messages, that can be an even more powerful experience.

Then, there's also the energy of the people at the race as well -- the volunteers, the racers, the crowds. Sure, the race itself is a bit chaotic and crazy-crowded, and there might be times when you may start to feel like you're being herded like cattle in your race "corrals," but you can literally feel the visceral energy of the crowds at this race --  it's indescribably fantastic! They are also super-supportive along the route -- loud cheers, signs, and cow bells, etc. -- and the runners are also very nice to each other as well. For example: The year I ran it, I remember one racer's shoe flying off in the middle of the race and immediately, without any hesitation, a few racers stopped running and came over to help.

The race is also super fun. People dress up in some hilarious costumes and wear funny t-shirts too. It's not uncommon for people to joke around with each other while they're running. It's just a fun race atmosphere, plain and simple.

I think that all of the above reasons are why runners want to race this particular race.

So, good luck to those of you who are trying to get into this race! I hope your race day experience will be a good one, just like mine! :)

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