The Inaugural Heroes on the River Holiday 5K


In the first year of this challenging and cold, but FUN cross country 5K race through the Kernstown Battlefield, Aaron was happy to place 4th overall.

A New Local Winter 5K

From mid-December through March there are not many local races held in the Winchester, VA area aside from the Shenandoah Valley Runners’ Winter Series (which is a great value!). So it was great to see a new race advertised in the months leading up to December that would be held by the Heroes on the River organization. Per their site:

Heroes on the River is an outdoor adventure veteran organization with the mission to bring veterans together through recreational activities and social events.

Seeing that my calendar was free on the morning of Saturday, December 8 AND that this race supports a great cause, I signed up a few weeks prior to the race. The 5K would be held at the Kernstown Battlefield area near the same course used for the Battlefield Half Marathon. I had not done any fast training since the The 20th Annual Thanksgiving Day 5K in Stephens City, VA, so I was unsure as to how I would perform.

Race Day and Recap

It was cold race day morning…temps in the mid-20s with a slight wind, so I layered-up and arrived 30 minutes or so prior to the race start time of 9:30 a.m. to get my bib. Registration was smooth and simple inside an open-air barn-type of building, with heaters, coffee, and hot chocolate for those who needed something to warm up prior to running. I also received a comfy long sleeve shirt with registration which was very nice. After warm-ups and a quick jog, I made some conversation with a few of the runners I had seen at previous races, including the blazing fast Nelson. As we gathered outside near the race start line we both were wondering where the course would run.

racing shirt

Racing shirt, bib, and sticker!

At that moment race director and Heroes on the River founder Adam Packham began pre-race announcements including a description of the course. I could not repeat the exact course path if I tried to…so I will say that it ran up a few steep grassy hills along the battlefield area, back into the close-by woods, back out again and down some hills, and then returning back up the hills run the first time and winding around again to come back to the start. Knowing that Nelson would most likely be out front, I planned to just follow him (and hope he and the faster runners didn’t get out of eye sight).

heroes 5k

All runners heading up the first grassy hill to begin the race.

After saying the Pledge of Allegiance to express our patriotism, the signal was given and the race began. Right away we found ourselves running up a steep grassy hill heading towards the wooded area, followed by another steep hill before heading into a mowed grassy path into the woods. I started out in fourth place and could see Nelson up ahead in first, along with second and third place close behind him. I was moving pretty fast and the cold air was stinging my lungs a bit, but I knew that would only be temporary for the first mile or so.

After some windy curves through the woods and down a few more hills (there were many course marshals on the course to help keep us on the right path), we headed back towards the starting line where we would run down towards the main road. After crossing a muddy area…which was actually frozen solid…it was back up another hill and then back through the starting line again to repeat the first part of the course for the last mile.

At this time I was still in fourth place. I had no idea how far fifth place was behind me as I didn’t want to turn around and look and risk wasting time (or tripping!). Third place was starting to slow down on some of the inclines and I was slowly starting to gain on him. However as we neared the finish line it was all down hill and he increased his pace. I could hear fifth place behind me starting to sprint, so I hit the gas too and held onto my position finishing in fourth place overall with a time of 23:27.

Post-Race Thoughts

While my time was over two minutes slower than my last 5K, this course was a hilly one with no road running…all grass, trails, and hills! Still I was very happy to come in 4th place and finish first in my age group too. The post race event featured many nice refreshments (with hot chocolate) and awards were given out for the first three overall places and age group (male and female combined) winners. All prizes were donated for the race and they were quite nice, with Nelson taking home a Craftsman socket and wrench set! I went home with a $25 gift card for Piccadilly Brew Pub, which I happened to use that evening to have a nice, quiet dinner with Christie.

heroes on the river 4th and 1st place

Getting a photo with first place finisher Nelson.

Adam and his wife Rebecca put on a fantastic first-ever 5K race for the Heroes on the River Organization. They were hoping for 50 runners and wound up having 88 participate. I really enjoyed the challenging course and how welcoming and thankful they were to everyone for participating. If my schedule allows next year I will be certain to run it again!

Official Race Results

Time: 23:29 (PR)
Overall: 4 of 88
Male 30 – 39: 1 of 4 (1st Place Award)
All Male: 4 of 36

Photos from Race Day

Watermarked photos courtesy of Kimberly Needles Photography.


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