The 20th Annual Thanksgiving Day 5K in Stephens City, VA


Not knowing what to expect in his first 5K since July, Aaron set a 10-second PR at the 20th Annual Thanksgiving Day Race in Stephens City, VA.

One of the many reasons I love Thanksgiving is that it’s the one holiday known for having a race to kick off the day’s events. While I can’t speak as to why this is, I’m pretty sure it started as a way to burn off some extra calories to make the soon-to-follow gluttony of food easier to handle. Regardless, the annual Thanksgiving Day 5K in Stephens City, VA put on by the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department is one of the most popular in the area…this year seeing over 580 people participate.

There is no record of me (or Caitlin) running the race last year (which we did) as when we picked up our race bibs we failed to realize that an additional chip timer had to be used on our shoelaces. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, the first thing I checked for when I picked up my race bib the day before Thanksgiving was the timing chip! Sure enough, this year the chip was incorporated into the bib itself (phew). The race swag was a super bright orange long sleeve t-shirt with the phrase “Run. Gobble. Nap.”, and is one of my favorites I have gotten from any 5K (in fact I’m wearing it right now as I write this).

Expectations and a Run-Away Dog

Leroy the Dog

Don’t let the cuteness fool you. Leroy was most likely dreaming of his plans to run off in the morning before my race.

My expectations for this race…well…I had no real expectations. I had not run a 5K race since July (4th of July Liberty 5K 2018) having done two marathons and a half marathon since then. While I try my best to work in some type of speed training each week, I had not been focusing on trying to break my 5K PR of 21:14 (set at the 8th Annual South Berkeley Christmas 5K almost a year ago). Really I hoped to go out and perform respectably and come away not injured…especially since this race has a trail portion mixed in.

Race day morning it was cold with temps in the low 20s and a slight wind. I personally enjoy running in the cold, so after layering up and preparing to leave for the race I realized that Leroy, our beagle mix, had run off. He has a border collar on to prevent these type of shenanigans, but the battery must have worn off. I spent 20 minutes calling him and even hiking down into the lower part of our woods to see if I could see him running around after a deer or another wild animal. Time was ticking and I didn’t have much more to spare, so I had to leave for the race. Luckily Christie and the girls were staying behind to have a relaxing Thanksgiving Day morning, so they would be there in case the knuckle-head dog would come back.

Race Recap

Arriving at Sherando High School I did my usual race day warm-up and put on another layer of sweats to keep me warm until start time. I made my way down to the track where the race begins and said hello to a few of the other local runners. Fellow runner Mike Legge was there at the start (who bested me at the Battlefield Half Marathon 2018), so I knew it was going to be another race where it would most likely come down to the wire between both of us.

As the race began the first portion takes you around the high school track for one loop and then out onto the roads through the parking lot. I felt a big short of breath, but that was just my body adjusting to the cold weather. Mike was directly in front of me so I knew that if I could keep pace with him in my view I could finish in a respectable time. As we hit the trail portion I kept moving fast and kept thinking to myself “watch your step, careful positioning”…when I hit a slick mud patch and went skidding off to the side. Luckily I caught myself and it also gave me a boost of adrenaline, and I started moving quicker.

At this point the course had a few inclines up the trails and then onto paved roads with more inclines. This is where my mountain hill running comes in handy as I gained ground and passed a few runners, including Mike by a nose. With only less than a mile to go as the course opened onto a grassy field I knew Mike was right on my tail. I was not going to make the mistake of looking back and slowing my pace, so I really kicked it into high gear for the last portion of the race. The course ends with a quick half loop around the track that we started on, and I sprinted through the finish line. I knew my time was in the low 21s…which I was shocked by. Only when I checked the result as they began to show online did I see that I had set a new 5K PR with a time of 21:04 (a 10 second improvement)! I also was fortunate to finish 3rd in my age ground of 35-39.

Thanksgiving Day 5K Medal

A cool turkey medal and a sweet orange long sleeve t-shirt for my participation.

After I finished Christie texted me to inform me that the wanna-be wild dog Leroy had returned and was having a time out in his crate for his excursion. She said he should get some credit for my PR as his actions got me riled up in the morning and gave me an extra boost of energy. Ha!

I want to give a HUGE thank you to Mike for a great challenging race. He and I always seem to be right around the same times and paces at the local races. This race I was fortunate to come in only a few seconds ahead of him, and it could have easily gone the other way (and most likely will next time).

Aaron Riddle Thanksgiving Day 5K 2018

Feeling much warmer after setting a 5K PR.

Official Race Results

Time: 21:04 (PR)
Overall: 27 of 588
Male 35 – 39: 3 of 25 (3rd Place Award)
All Male: 24 of 246

Thanksgiving Day 5K 2018 Aaron Riddle Results

Official race results.


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