About the Firecracker 5K
2018 was the 9th running of the Firecracker 5K, and my 6th consecutive year running what has become one of my favorite races. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the celebration of our nation’s birthday than with a fun morning of running with my friends. The race website says it best when explaining why runners should participate in the Firecracker 5K:
This is a wonderful opportunity to give thanks and show your support to our local military members and their families. Enjoy live music and showing off your Patriotism by waving American flags
Come out and root for your favorite military branch in the “Battle of the Branches” competition! Which Military branch runs the Metro area? Potomac River Running will make a donation on behalf of the branch with the most runners registered for the Firecracker 5K for the Troops presented by Leidos to USO-Metro.
Last Minute Registering for the Firecracker 5K
I waited until much later than usual to register for the Firecracker 5K because my back and right leg had been bothering me a bit after spending so much time sitting in a car during our recent racecation to Wyoming and Utah. Afraid that I had waited too late to register for this year’s Firecracker 5K hosted by PR Races and I would have to wait in long line on race morning, I was pleasantly surprised that online race register was open up until 7:30 the morning of the race! With registration complete on Friday evening, I volunteered to pick up race packets for my friends on Saturday while Bill and I were out running errands.
Packet pickup was a breeze with Bill dropping me off in front of the Reston Town Center Potomac River Running Store and then circling the block until I finished. I was in and out in no time with five packets picked up from these three very helpful volunteers.
I love this year’s shirt, especially since it’s red and I have very few red race shirts. You know I love the women’s cut and appreciate when a race makes the effort to please both men and women. My original shirt was too small, but I easily exchanged it for the correct size after the race.
That’s 89 5K’s
Erin volunteered to drive to the race – it was our 5th time running the Firecracker 5K together – so she and her son picked me up around 7:00 AM for the 8:00 race. This would be Michael’s 2nd 5K (so exciting!), my 33rd, and Erin’s 54th.
Ready to Run
We quickly found our friends, made a last minute stop at the restroom, and took a quick group picture before working our way toward the starting line. This was the first time I can remember not doing an easy 1-mile warm-up prior to a 5K start, but my goal for the race was to have fun and hanging out with my friends was more fun than a sloppy solo run in the sweltering heat and humidity.
Planning to run together, Kim, Brianna, and I found Erin and Michael in the starting chute and lined up with them even though we planned to run a little faster. Erin knew there would be lots of walking involved in her race with Michael, and had seeded back farther than usual. As she described it later, there was a lot of sprinting followed by walking, sprinting followed by walking, etc. in their race. 😎
There was a sea of runners behind us and many more than usual as we looked ahead toward the starting line…
A local high school Army ROTC carried out the American and Virginia flags – I think that’s called the showing of the colors. With speakers only at the starting line, we were back so far that we didn’t hear the National Anthem start until a wave of shhhhh passed back through the runners. Once we, and everyone around us, had stopped talking we were able to hear the music and sing along.
And We’re Off!
Promptly at 8 AM on this extremely hot and humid Independence Day, the Firecracker 5K was started. Spoiler alert: the man toward the left in the dark green tank and who appears to be boxed in at the moment won the race. Notice the two little boys in the front wearing a green and a blue t-shirt – they finished with average paces of 6:55 and 7:37, are brothers, and are 9 and 11 years old. The third little boy in the navy tank is 11 years old and finished with an average pace of 7:58. That’s pretty amazing if you ask me!
I had briefly seen my friend Janet (my daughter-in-law Julie’s mom) right after we got to Reston Town Center, but couldn’t find her once we walked up to where all the runners were gathering for the race. Little did I know, until I downloaded my GoPro (affiliate link) pictures and saw this picture taken by the PRR photographers, that we ran side-by-side for a little while at the beginning of the race (until she pulled away leaving me in her dust). That’s Janet in the green and pink shorts right next to me and we didn’t even see each other. Talk about focused! LOL
I’m on the far right and Janet is just to my right, behind the guy in the gray shirt.
I’d describe the course as rolling hills and not too difficult; however, the race does finish on a gradual uphill and that always makes things a little interesting!
The First Mile
The first mile started out flat, but was followed by a short uphill section before moving on to rolling hills. I pulled out my GoPro hoping to capture the sea of runners behind me, but instead we were on a relatively flat section and I snagged this epic picture of a very happy runner behind me! On our way home, I mentioned to Erin that I hadn’t seen Ecris, someone I used to work with at Worldgate Sport & Health, and see at all the Reston races. Erin said that she had seen her, and as the picture shows, and just like with Janet, I had briefly run right next to her without even realizing it (Ecris is in the dark green =PR= tank). As always, Ecris won her age group!
I finished the first mile with a time of 9:27, running a very comfortable pace. I definitely started out much slower than usual by being back in the pack farther. Considering the heat and high humidity, my body didn’t complain at all. 😉
Jumping Ahead to the Winners
Before we knew it, we were at the water stop. I mention this only because many 5K’s don’t have water stops and I’m so appreciative of those that do.
While my friends and I were contemplating stopping for water around mile 1.5, Jeffrey Stein of DC crossed the finish line with a time of 15:21 (4:57 pace).
Shortly afterward and before I’d even approached Mile 2, Bethany Sachtleben of Stafford, VA was the first female to cross the finish line and 10th place overall with a time of 16:49 (5:25 pace).
Meanwhile, Back at Mile 2
After the water stop, we headed down my favorite section of the course, a nice long downhill. I explained gliding to Brianna and told her how she could let her running muscles rest temporarily while letting gravity pull her down the hill. She practiced it and later said she felt like she was floating.
We continued along on a long flat section until we saw Bill on his bike, waiting to take pictures of our group of friends. After he snapped this picture, we stopped for him to take one more picture. He was using a new camera and took several seconds to change settings – several seconds that allowed me to rest, but also came back to bite me later. 😉
Shortly after we saw Bill, I reminded Brianna that she didn’t need to stay back with me and if she felt like it, she should pull ahead. With that, she picked up her pace and I watched as she faded farther and farther away in the distance.
Continuing Along Mile 3 and Beyond
Now on my own, I rounded a corner and started up one of the two final hills on the course. Even though this was my tenth time running this course (it’s the same course as the Run With Santa 5K), I remembered the hill as being longer and was pleasantly surprised that I was up and over it in no time.
Bill was on the final corner where we turned to head up Market Street toward the finish line and even though he said I looked toward him as I turned the corner, I didn’t see or hear him. Here’s a picture he took after most of the runners had finished, but I wanted to include it to show what runners see after their final turn.
Instead of noticing Bill, I was focused on finishing the race and cooling down. Apparently, I was so focused that I didn’t do the math in my head to push harder to break 29 minutes, finishing instead in 29:04 (9:22 pace) and 5th out of 32 in my age group.
I finished with plenty of gas in the tank and later beat myself up when I realized that had I pushed a little harder and cut 39 seconds off my time, I would have placed 3rd in my age group. Oh well, shoulda, coulda, woulda!
- Mile 1 – 9:27
- Mile 2 – 9:03
- Mile 3 – 9:14
- Final .1 mile – 8:47 pace
Taking Care of Business
Immediately after crossing the finish line, I ran back to Erin’s car to pick up my race shirt to exchange for a larger size. I made sure to run back past the gardener spraying runners as he watered flowers along the course, and snapped a photo since I hadn’t thought of it until after I passed him during the race.
With my size small shirt in hand, I crossed my fingers that there would be a women’s size medium shirt available for an exchange and I was in luck! After chatting with the young lady in the teal shirt about my GoPro, we made the exchange, and I was on my way to find my friends and some post race refreshments!
I was thrilled to bump into Dora, a running buddy from five years ago!
As with the other Firecracker 5K races I’ve run, I was honored to be given the chance to thank our troops!
Because I’d taken it somewhat easy during the race, I didn’t stop to check the race results being posted. I have to admit that once I checked the results online, I was surprised to see that I’d finished 5th and not farther back – ahhh, the advantages of reaching a new age group!
As we were walking back to our car, the children’s fun run was just starting. We paused long enough to watch the first two age groups and cheer the little ones on. I love the competitive spirit of this little boy in front!
As in the past five years, it was fun to start Independence Day off with a bang with my running friends. If you live in Northern Virginia and are looking for something fun for the morning of the Fourth of July, join me in running this great race next year. Potomac River Running never disappoints!
- Did you run a race on Independence Day?
- Do your wear themed outfits or colors for holiday races?
- How did you celebrate our Nation’s birthday?
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