This weekend is the Shenandoah Valley Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia. Tens of thousands of people come to Winchester to attend a myriad of festivities including parades, parties, wine festivals, craft shows, and more. The weekend also offers two premier races for the area.

Friday is the Bloomin’ Mile Kids’ Race. This is a race for kids aged six to fourteen. The course is a lap around Handley High School which includes a formidable hill. Another challenge for the race is the scale. Last year was the first time I experiences the race first-hand and was amazed how many kids showed up. Over 1200 little ones showed up to run.

Connor had just turned six years old several days before the race, so he was among the youngest participants. He was a little nervous about running the race, and to be honest, I was a little nervous for him. I had not run a real race at this point and really did not have much advice to give him, except to try his best and have fun.

When Connor’s turn to run came up, he lined up with the other kids under eight years old. They did the “On your mark. Get set. Go!” followed by the starter’s pistol. The pistol must have startled him because his hands went to his ears. But he composed himself and ripped through the course at a 10:44 pace. He got his medal and a hug from Mom, Dad and GeGe at the finish. He had fun and is looking forward to running it again this year.

The main event happens on Saturday – the Apple Blossom 10K. The 2012 race was supposed to be my first real race after I had gotten into running. But as usual, I pushed myself too hard, too fast, trying to get ready for the race and tore a calf muscle. So I had to sit this one out. My running/training partner, Steve, was ready to run it though, so I rode down with him to watch and cheer him on.

Once again, I was amazed at the number of runners for this event. There were over 1500 runners from all over the world. At the start, they let the “elite” runners go first so that the mere mortals do not trip them up. Then the rest of the masses are turned loose. The volume of people on Handley Boulevard was quite overwhelming and I imagine there’s a good bit of strategy to figure out how far up in the pack to line up.

The 10K course takes runners around Handley High School, through downtown Winchester, out Valley Avenue (with a few turns here and there) then back to Handley for the finish.

Seeing the race last year has helped me get a sense of what to expect this year as I tackle my first 10K. I trained the right way this year and expect to have a good time – in both senses of the word.

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