Potomac Valley Track ClubWhen it comes to Fourth of July racing, the Potomac Valley Track Club (PVTC) Go Fourth 8k is about as humble as a summer family barbecue. There are a number of Independence Day road races in the DC area, but PVTC’s 8k is the D.C. area’s best mile-per-dollar deal.

The weather was merciful early in the morning. Cloudy skies and a gentle breeze kept things fairly comfortable in the mid-70’s despite the humidity.

“Well, we’ve got about 10 minutes. Maybe we should mosey on down to the start line.” With those words from a race official, the crowd walked from the registration site to the race’s starting point, a simple sign standing over a chalk line near the 12-mile marker on the W&OD trail. Brian O’Hara of Arlington liked this race for its distance; according to him, 8k is a good distance, especially for the $8 early registration price (race-day registration still only cost $20). He and his group of three other Arlington residents ran at the Go Fourth 8k last year, when it was in Bluemont Park.

The decades-old race has jumped around the D.C. area, with former locations in Alexandria, Hains Point, and Arlington before this year’s debut in Vienna. PVTC President Craig Chasse said the W&OD trail worked well for the expected crowd size of 100-150 racers. Caitie Meehan of Alexandra liked the location. “Vienna is beautiful,” she said, adding that she liked to get up and do something fun before the holiday celebrations.

The PVTC hosts five road races each year and a series of popular all-comers outdoor track meets throughout the summer. The Go Fourth 8k is third in the road race series, with the Cranberry Crawl 5k and 10k scheduled for November 23 and the Christmas Caper 5k and 10k in December.

The club has about 250 members, and race volunteers noted that it’s nice to see regulars at events. The Go Fourth race itself was started decades ago by racewalkers in the club, a group still represented in this year’s Go Fourth. John Morrison of Essex was the first place racewalker.

This is definitely a no-frills race. Participants were assigned leftover race bibs from past local competitions. The group sang the national anthem together on the starting line, while bikers and other trail runners stopped and joined in. The water station featured a single volunteer standing on the side of the trail. The short finish chute allowed another volunteer to string finishers’ tags in order. The post-race festival offered cookies and watermelon.

Kristin Lubeck was in town for the holiday, and said she chose this race to fulfill her “one race a month” goal; plus, she used to run on the W&OD trail when she lived in Falls Church. She looked forward to a day of barbecue, pools, and, her favorite, fireworks.

Jonathan Baker of Cambridge, Mass., had at least a 60-second lead with two miles left, and opened the gap to win by nearly 3 minutes to finish in 27:15. Craig Chasse of Reston and Luis Navarro rounded out the top three finishers. DC’s Rachel Clattenburg also won handily with a time of 33:16, finishing fifth overall. Macy Louise Warren of Springfield came in second place (35:55), closely followed by Gillian Livingston of Vienna (36:02).

There were almost 100 racers scattered along the trail, but you couldn’t miss Irene Gillenwater. Decked out in red, white, and blue from head to toe, he visitor from Wheelersburg, Ohio, said her wide skirt and patriotic headband didn’t slow her down; the spirited runner said she always dresses up for the holidays. After the race, she planned to go forth and watch the fireworks downtown that night.

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