he was a reunion of sorts for me. I ran it 3 times in the 1990s (1990, 1997 and 1998) and I always loved it. I still have my 1990 shirt and wore it to the Expo. Unfortunately, this year Washington was rather short on cherry blossoms. The early spring and the weekend's chilly weather had dispatched most of them. But there were a few along one section of the race, and those were quite nice. It was a great weekend in D.C. but a so-so training experience. Some aches and pains in my legs caused me to throttle back a bit in the race so that this was hardly a time trial. But first things first ...

y running friend Susan had suggested we do this race back in January, and we had to enter a lottery to get in. Well, we did and we did, and so we hoped for good weather and a fast race. Or more accurately, I hoped for a fast race — Susan wanted to just enjoy the race and save time for the sites and museums which she had not visited since the Reagan Administration. Her last Cherry Blossom was in 1988.

So we made our plans and fit this race into our marathon training schedule, and on Saturday March 31st, got on the 8 AM Bolt Bus and arrived in Washington around 12:45. The weather was overcast with temperatures in the 50°s. We planned to walk everywhere and so off we went to the National Building Museum to pick up our stuff.

This was a grandious old building with huge columns inside and the usual assortment of running stuff for sale and of course the number and T-shirt pickup. One thing missing (at least we missed it) were details on the start of the race — where to go, when to show up, etc. Thankfully, Susan looked it up on the web using her iPhone. How ever did we used to cope?

Then we walked over to the Washington branch of Hostelling International. I have never before stayed in a hostel, but it was quite close to the concept of the shelters I had used on the Appalachian Trail. No, they had a great kitchen and library and the rooms were quite comfortable, but the idea of sharing your space with strangers, cooking your own meals and being nice to everyone carried over. There were lots of young folks there and many international visitors, particularly Germans. I had a room with 3 other guys and Susan shared with no less then 9 other women. But I'm told she had a perfect little alcove and so it was all good.

Once we were checked in, we headed down to the National Mall to visit the Freer/Sackler Galleries which are hosting a special showing of paintings and drawings of the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (17601849). He is best know for his series "", and everyone has seen the first one with the mountain seen through the trough of a great wave. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed for that exhibit, but I got a nice shot of the interior of "" by James McNeil Whistler (1756-1829), the American artist who's career was contemporary with Hokusai's.

And the last stop of the day was — you guessed it — dinner at the Capitol City Brewery, whose special brew was "Cherry Blossom Ale". I tasted it, and I would say it was rather fruity with a flowery aroma .

unday was race day and I was up at 6:00 AM, did my stretch, ate a wee bit, and was off about 6:55 for the Washington Monument. The race started at 7:30 and we were supposed to be there by 7:15. I was there with time to spare and found my way to the "Blue Wave" corral, the third of 5 such groupings. Susan came a few minutes later and by then it was harder to get in the right place. Evereyone wanted to be first! The waves went off at 5 to 6 minute intervals, and if you were near the front of your wave, as I was, it all flowed very nicely. I'm told further back the flow was crowded and difficult. Hey, just like Central Park.

I wanted to keep a sub 9 minute pace, but right away my right calf started acting up, so I had to cut back and run very cautiously. I DID NOT NEED a calf injury at this point in my training. The course snaked around and doubled back several times and it was very nice that you could see both the stream of runners in front of you and those behind a numerous points. As for Cherry Blossoms? Just one stretch along the Tidal Basin had a nice row of blooming trees. At just about that point, near mile 6, my leg felt more healthy and I could pick it up a little. I was having a really nice run so the important thing was to maintain pace and make sure you don't stress anything. Latter I did some self massage on the calf and it felt fine. Go figure!

I never did see Susan in the race, but I bumped into her walking back to the Hostel. We were both cold and tired and a hot shower and something to eat hit the spot. That afternoon I made the mistake of walking back down to the Mall for some more site seeing, but I would have been better off with a nap.

One of the high points of the weekend was Sunday dinner. Susan has a friend of a friend who was a manager at "", about a half mile from the Hostel. This place had great beers, great food, super ambiance and fine service. Susan's friend came by a couple of times to say hello and we even got some special beer tasters that went with our food on the house. A definate place to go back to.

onday was our last day but we agreed that it would be nice to take a real easy run and see a few more of the sites. It turned out to be a GORGEOUS day. The weather had finally turned sunny and as the pictures show, everything was just beautiful. I even found a spot near the race course with some cherry trees in bloom. We ran down and checked out the White House, then on down to the Washington Monument, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the FDR Memorial. But between these impressive and inspiring places, the green of the grass and trees, the flowers, and the dark waters of the Patomic and Tidal Basin were just amazing. The pictures hardly show the real beaauty.

The bus ride back was delayed about an hour by some traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. Furthermore my phone's battery had run down and it turns out my home phone was off the hook. Yes, it was a proper transition back to good old New York City . But I'm signing up early for next year's Cherry Blossom!

Papa Bear