About the Firecracker 5K

The 2019 Firecracker 5K, hosted by PR Races, celebrated its 10th anniversary on Independence Day. It was my 7th consecutive year of 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 hanging out and running with my friends. Race organizers made a donation to the USO-Metro with proceeds from the race.


Waiting out Registering for the 2019 Firecracker 5K

Much like last year, I waited until the week of the race to decide for sure if running the race would be a good idea. With my SI joint finally feeling back to normal, I decided to register and if things got ugly during the race, I’d either slow down or walk the rest of the way.


Packet Pickup

While out running errands on Wednesday afternoon, I picked up my friend Tracy’s and my race packets (in exchange, she drove us to the race). Packet pickup was a breeze with Bill dropping me off in front of the Reston Town Center Potomac River Running Store. He circled the block while I ran in and grabbed our packets and was surprised that I was back outside so quickly.

2019 Firecracker 5K


These three very helpful volunteers were more than happy to pose for a picture!


I love this year’s shirt, especially the color and the softness of the fabric. You know I love the women’s cut and appreciate when a race makes the effort to please both men and women. I even wore the shirt (with white shorts) to our block party on the evening of July 4th.


Ready to Run

Tracy and I arrived at Reston Town Center around 7:10 for our 8 AM race. We went into a secret restroom before heading out for a short warmup run. While running, I got a text from Kim letting us know that she and the kids had arrived. On our way back to our designated spot for our MRTT pre-race picture, I headed back into the restroom one more time, but by this time there was a short line (nothing like the porta pottiy lines, though).

Tracy and I easily found Kim, her two children, Cindy, and Maureen (along with baby girl) and after catching up while chatting for several minutes, we took a quick group picture before working our way toward the starting line. This was Maureen and baby girl’s last race before the big arrival in approximately nine weeks. Isn’t she the cutest?

2019 Firecracker 5K


Once we got to the starting chute, we self-seeded ourselves according to our race goals. Tracy, Cindy, and I stayed together and were soon joined by Cindy’s friend Gregory. Gregory went on to run two more races over the course of the weekend!

2019 Firecracker 5K


There was the usual sea of runners behind us…


But there were many more runners than usual in front of us as we lined up just in front of the 10-11 minute/mile pace sign (we moved to right in front of the sign before the race started)…


A local high school Army ROTC marched to the front of the race start arch with the American and Virginia flags for the singing of the National Anthem. It’s a nice touch that this race does every year.

2019 Firecracker 5K


And We’re Off!

Promptly at 8 AM with the temperature stuck at a humid 78°, we officially began our Independence Day celebration with the start of the 2019 Firecracker 5K. And that arm that’s sticking out of my visor? That’s Cindy waving to the GoPro (affiliate link).



The Course

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 fact that I’ve raced this course so many times certainly helps in not having any surprises along the way.

Map credit: PR Races

The following elevation chart makes the course look extremely hilly; however, when the hills are squished into a 3.1-mile chart they look a lot steeper than they really are.


The First Mile

Despite what the elevation chart above looks like, the first third of the first mile seemed relatively flat, followed by a short uphill section and then finally a more rolling hill section. Early in the race, I saw my friend Kim running with her daughter and son (I ran with her daughter Brianna at last year’s race). That’s Cindy in red running right beside them.

2019 firecracker 5k


Just as I was coming up on the one mile marker, I caught up with Susan and pulled out my GoPro for a quick picture. Full disclosure, I’d seen Susan before the race and chatted with her for a little while, but could not remember her name (I remembered her Twitter handle, though). 😉 I was too embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t remember her name so I just didn’t bother introducing her to Tracy. I know, I’m so pathetic! Anyway, after the race I stopped to chat with her and Kim, and I finally had to admit that I couldn’t remember her name. Of course, if I’d met her thirty years ago and hadn’t seen or thought of her since, her name would have popped right into my head – sometimes I hate these senior moments! LOL


Right after seeing Susan, I saw my friend Cheryl who was one of the race photographers. I think she captured exactly how happy I am to see friends at races!

2019 Firecracker 5K

2019 Firecracker 5K


I finished the first mile with a time of 8:52, running a relatively comfortable pace. I definitely started out slower than usual by being farther back in the pack. Considering the heat and humidity, my body was happy with how things were going.


Moving on to Mile 2

I’d describe the second mile as starting out with a few gently rolling hills followed by the majority of the mile being on a comfortable downhill grade.

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. As I mentioned earlier, I know this race course well, and look forward to this water stop that’s located near the halfway point.

Notice the guy in the white shirt and teal shorts – he became my rabbit and I kept him close in my sights during the second half of the race when I wanted to slow down. After we finished, I thanked him for pulling me along! Of course, he was unaware that he’d played a role in my race, but seemed pleased that I’d taken the time to thank him.


After the water stop, we headed down my favorite section of the course, a nice long downhill. I finished mile two with a time of 8:32, taking advantage gliding down as much of the downhill section as possible.


Continuing Along Mile 3 and To the Finish Line

The third mile continues as mostly flat, but at the halfway point of the mile, it starts a noticeable uphill climb. At this point I just reminded myself that I was almost done and to try to maintain a sub-9 pace. I met my goal with not a second to spare, finishing my third mile in 8:59.

As soon as we turned onto Market Street, we could see the finish line in the distance. As we climbed that gradual, but noticeable hill, we passed the 3-mile marker. I turned on my jets and ran the final section at a 7:30 pace.


I finished tired, but not completely spent, and later realized that if I had pushed a little harder and cut 14 seconds off my time, I would have placed 3rd in my age group. My official time was 27:23 (8:49 pace) and 4th out of 32 in my age group. According to my watch, I didn’t run my tangents very well because my Garmin showed 3.14 miles at 27:23 (8:44 pace).

  • Mile 1 – 8:52
  • Mile 2 – 8:32
  • Mile 3 – 8:59
  • Final .1 mile – 7:30 pace

2019 firecracker 5k


Once we crossed the finish line we were handed a medal and a small American flag. This was the first year the Firecracker 5K gave medals to finishers; although, one year we received a really cool dog tag when we finished.


Planning Ahead for Medal Monday

And of course with today’s social media frenzy, I planned ahead for my #medalmonday post on Instagram by taking this picture shortly after crossing the finish line. And yes, I was quite surprised to get a medal for finishing a 5K. As I mentioned, one year finishers got dog tags at the end of the race which I though was pretty cool since it’s a race “for the troops.”

2019 firecracker 5k


Post-Race Fun

After the race and while milling around looking for my friends, I saw our MRTT chapter leader Sarah. She ran a 5K PR with a time of 21:48 (7:01 pace) and had won her very competitive age group. Congrats, Sarah!


After I found the rest of my friends, we headed over to the pavilion to listen to the band while munching on our post-race refreshments. I thoroughly enjoyed my blueberry bagel while we chatted about the race and our plans for the rest of the day.


Shoutout to the Winners

Finishing before I even got to the second mile marker was Mark Blackmon from Silverspring, MD who won the race with a time of 15:19 (4:56 pace). Congratulations, Mark!


Winning the women’s division was Lindsay Wilkins of Arlington, VA with a time of 18:24 (5:56 pace). Congrats, Lindsay!


Final Thoughts

As in the past six  years, it was fun to start Independence Day off with a bang with my running friends at the 2019 Firecracker 5K. 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!


  • Questions:
  • 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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