Sunday, November 15, 2015

Kickoff Party for 2016 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run

The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is a race that is near and dear to my heart. I ran it in 2013, and it was my first "big" race. In 2014, I was invited to be part of the race's social media team, which was a fantastic experience. I also coached the Potomac River Running Cherry Blossom Training Program in 2014, which was my first real coaching gig. These two factors made the 2014 race even better than the 2013 race! This year, I'm excited to be returning to both the social media team and to coaching the PR Cherry Blossom training program.

What's a Kickoff Party?

One very cool thing that the race team does is host a "kickoff party" in mid-November to launch the pre-race activities and approaching training season. Attendees receive an entry into a raffle for guaranteed race entries, a $10 gift card from Potomac River Running stores, a drink ticket, and a t-shirt with the 2016 race artwork. I attended the party with several of my running buddies - Jamie, Jen, Laura, and Shawn.

Robyn & Efren welcomed guests and
handed out PR gift cards, and raffle & drink tickets

Lottery Exemptions

Cherry Blossom is a very popular race, and the coveted entries are determined by a lottery. The big prizes of the night are guaranteed race entries (the small prizes are cherry blossom-themed race pens, magnets, and a cell phone screen cleaner). 

Last year, my friend Lynn won an entry. This year, my friends were even more lucky. Jen won an entry. Laura won a double entry, and will share one with Jamie. Shawn also won a double entry. Race entries for everyone!

Laura is all smiles after giving Glen the information needed to collect her prize


The drink tickets can be used for wine, or the signature party cocktail. This year, the signature drink was a "Cherry Swirl" - vodka, cherry liqueur, splash of sour and sprite, with a cherry garnish.

Cheers to the Cherry Swirl

I have absolutely no recollection of food from the party in 2014. I was so busy talking to people, taking pictures, tweeting, and trying to soak it all in that I never noticed the food. This year I was still too busy to actually eat any of it, but I saw it! There were many different types of appetizers being circulated, and there was a spread in one corner with rolls, deli meat, olives, and other things I can't remember. I had played the "mom" card at Union Station and encouraged everyone to eat something before we walked over to the party. We could have easily made a meal out of the food at the party. I'll remember this for next year!

photo courtesy of Laurentina Photography

Race Shirt Reveal & Voting

Perhaps the most anticipated reveal at the party is that of the artwork for the race shirt. I was excited to see that Abby Matousek had designed the shirt again this year. There is an annual contest for the race artwork, and this is Abby's second win in a row! 

Last year's shirt was an amazing stained-glass window-type representation of the Washington Monument and the cherry blossoms. This year's shirt is just as beautiful, but a completely different style. (Abby gave me a little hint about the design she is working on for next year and it sounds so cool...but my lips are sealed)

Abby, Deputy Race Director Becky Lambros,
Anna (super organizer of everything but I don't know her official title),
and Race Director Phil Stewart reveal the artwork!

Abby after the big reveal

Look at the details and colors - the Capitol is made up of pastel cherry blossoms

The artwork was revealed, along with the possible shirt colors - red or blue. The color is selected by party attendees, who vote on their preferred color. After voting, you receive a shirt in the color you selected with the race artwork printed on it. And Abby will even autograph it with a sharpie if you want. The votes were fairly close throughout the evening...

Votes were tallied electronically, with relative percentages
represented by each color's progress on the race course
...although the voting was close, blue won in the end. But there's a twist - the standard race shirt will be blue, but the upgraded technical t-shirt will be burgundy. Win-win!

New Balance 

New Balance sponsors the online training program and is the brand behind all of the official race gear. Shirts and accessories from past races are sold at a nice discount at the party. I couldn't resist picking up another shirt (I went for the light pink short sleeve, in case you are curious).

Look at all the great shirts! and jackets! and half zips!

This is Samia from New Balance.
She is one of the nicest & speediest people I know.
photo courtesy of Samia's hubby Corey

Social Media Runners

Leading up to the party, the race accepts applications for two "social media runners" to run the race and share their training. One will participate in the in-person PR Training Program and one will participate in the New Balance online virtual training program. They also receive an outfit and shoes from New Balance to support their training. They share their training experiences and thoughts about the gear and the race through their blogs, twitter, facebook, etc. There is a lot of buzz around the contest and one of the highlights of the party is finding out who the lucky winners are.

Last year I knew ahead of time who the winners were (social media team has its perks!) This year, however, I didn't. All I knew was that they weren't at the party, as one was running the Richmond half marathon the next morning and one was in Philadelphia. Since they weren't there in person, Coco (of Running with Perseverance) and I got to represent the social media team, which was pretty exciting for me. It turns out I already know both of the winners from their blogs - Courtney of Eat Pray Run DC and Janelle of Run With No Regrets. I honestly can't imagine two more perfect choices!

Phil introduces Coco & me - can you believe it?! So excited!
photo courtesy of Jen

Potomac River Running Training Program

I was caught off guard, but happily so, when Phil handed me the microphone and asked me to say a few words about the PR Training Program. I was grateful to have the opportunity to share a bit about our program - you get a training a plan to follow, people to do your long runs & speed work with, coaches to help you, and information about everything from fueling to injury prevention to preparing for race day. And for those that don't get into the race through the lottery, there is the option to enroll in the premium program, which comes with a race bib.

When I have to speak in public for work, I get a little nervous. When I am speaking as a running coach, I don't. I am so passionate about it and connected to it that I want to share what I know and help others. I find that contrast interesting.

Laura captured my big moment with her cool Polaroid camera. I forgot how fun it was to watch a picture develop before your eyes.

PR Training Program represents at the kickoff!
back row: Lauren, Jamie, Shawn
middle: Laura, me, Phil, Jen
front: Andrea (who just ran NYC marathon!)

People came over afterwards to learn more about the training program.
By the way, look how many inches I lopped off of my hair!
photo courtesy of Laurentina Photography

Wine Pull for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals
There is a wine pull that raises money for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. For $20, you pick a mystery bottle of wine. You may get a very expensive one, or a less expensive one. All five of us tried our luck. Our bottles ranged from $12 to $21 in value. No big wins there, but it was fun and for a great cause. And for the record, my $18 bottle of wine was quite nice.

Trying our luck at the wine pull

Whew, that was quite a night! My party recap is almost as long as a race recap. The party certainly got me ready for Cherry Blossom training to begin. Mark your calendars - the race lottery opens on November 30 (my birthday!) More information about the lottery can be found here.


  1. Great wrap up of the party! I love the shirt design - can't wait to be on the starting line for 2016!

    1. Thank you Elizabeth! The shirt is even more beautiful in person. See you at the starting line (or hopefully sooner!)

  2. Awesome recap, Kim! I'm sorry I couldn't be there. And Abby did a fabulous job with the shirt!

    1. Thank you Megan! I agree about the shirt. Abby's artwork is beautiful.