Race report 2013: Cherry Blossom 10K (Branch Brook Park)

Cherry Blossom 10k (Branch Boork Park) Course map

Cherry Blossom 10k (Branch Boork Park) Course map

The Cherry Blossom 10K in Newark’s Branch brook park, is a popular 10k race held in mid-April (typically during the height of the cherry blossom bloom) and sponsored by the Essex county parks system ,part of the race proceeds go towards the  Special Olympics and its a well organized and attended local race.

This is my personal favorite running race of the season, because its the one in my backyard I run through this park frequently and its the only race I can actually walk to the starting line, love that!  So it’s very convenient and the race course itself is beautiful (well its prettier when the blossoms are out, this year was too early to do it justice) , but its a great course through one of the best designed urban parks in the country.

The park was designed by the the Olmstead Landscape architectural firm  ,the  same renowned American Landscape  architectural firm  that designed Central Park and Prospect Parks.

Also because its a local race  its popular with many of our circle of running friends, so all the usual suspects Duncan, Devang, Sheshawn were all there.

Past Years

Last year was the first year all three of the (three running amigos ran the race)  and in an upset Christine, eaked out a win (<1 sec), here are some other past performances by the group.

year Runner time place
2012 Christine N.  51:31 238
2012 Duncan N. 51:32 239
2012 Tony B. 53:36 317
2011 Duncan N. 51:31 207
2010 Christine N 52:55 194
2009 Christine N 55:55 313
2008 Duncan N 51:13 372
2006 Duncan N 50:47 518
Christine runs past Basilica in 2009 Cherry Blossom 10k

Christine runs past Sacred Heart Basilica at the  2009 Cherry Blossom 10k

2013 Cherry Blossom 10K

This year the race was held in early April, about a week earlier than usual, not many cherry blossoms were in bloom because of the colder than usual early spring.  As usual the race was very popular and over 500 runners were ready to prove themselves.

My goals.. Race morning

As I had mentioned in my 2013 sports goals, I really wanted to do well here, my goals are to redeem myself from last year’s third place finish among the group, but more importantly is to do a sub 50min 10k on this course, that amounts to an 8:03/mile average, doable but tough… so let’s see how I fared..

Duncan, Tony and Christine .. pre-race

Duncan, Tony and Christine .. pre-race

Duncan, Christine and myself relaxed and got ready to run, peeling our warmup clothes. That’s when we noticed a younger gentleman who looked like a fast runner.

And Christine unbeknownst to her predicted he would win the race, that young runner was none other than Edward Cheserek,

Ed Cheserek (Race Winner) and Christine, pre race

Ed Cheserek (Race Winner) and Christine, pre -race

the young running phenom from st. Benedicts prep and likely future Olympian. Will be seeing a lot more of him when be joins Oregon University as a freshman this year.

So it was time to go off to the start we went , all three of us chatted as we walked towards the start.

Start to  .. 5K

Start of 2013 Cherry Blossom 10k

Start of 2013 Cherry Blossom 10k

The start was pretty quick this year, just a few announcements and we were off. Right away I felt good and pulled in front of Christine and Duncan. Hoping to keep my pace steady mile one, I found the energy to put in two sub 7:30 first miles.

The sun was coming out and at this point it was just a matter of trying to maintain my speed. I could feel my heart rate was high and it stayed in the 170+bpm range the entire race.

Before the 3 mile mark we can see our race leader heading back to the finish, the speedy Ed Cheserek with a sizable lead over the pack chasing him. he would go on to win the race in a blistering 30:44 (4:56/mile pace)


At the 5k mark is the first one of two quick turnarounds, and this would be my first opportunity to see how far back Duncan and Christine were. I looked and looked, but I did not see them, so I ran further up to the course turn around at the Basilica and on the way down, I first saw Duncan, who made his way to the center of the road for a high-five, a few second later Christine did the same. Now I was pretty confident I was a good 0.3-0.4 miles ahead of them, but I had to keep pushing.

From the turn around its mostly down hill and I tried to maintain the pace. But I could feel I was not really accelerating and I felt me sub 8:00 minute pace wasn’t happening, but i maintained my stride best i could.

I still need to improve this part of the race, because, now a small group of runners slowly crept up on me and passed me. This is a sure sign I’m drifting back. Its normal for an occasional runner or two to pass, but when everyone else is doing the passing and not you.. you know what that means.


With Heller parkway Ave in sight , it was only about 0.3 f a mile to go. My hear rate monitor was beeping like mad, as I was now pushing and going over 175bpm (ner my 180bpm max) but it was almost over, once under the short bridge walkway and you can see the flags at the finish line, a final push and I passed a few runners (finally) right at the finishing straight, looking up  i was happy I had run a 48:25 10k , accomplishing one of my goals for the year of a sub-50 10k. I waited a few more minutes and Duncan came through followed  by Christine just 45 seconds later.

Post-race we all gathered and chatted, picked up some post -race refreshments and I enjoyed a bagel or two.. It was a blast. I was pretty happy with my performance and can scratch off one of my 2013 athletic goals to do well in this race. We’ll do this all over in two weeks, when we all have a re-match at the 2013 Rutgers half-marathon.

Post Race: Jeff Chelelu (Ed's coach), Devang, Ed Cheserak, Duncan , Christine, me

Post Race: Jeff Chelelu (Ed’s coach), Devang, Ed Cheserek, Duncan , Christine, me


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