Bridges prove popular for patriotic runners

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The inaugural Home of the Brave 5K received a warm reception from athletes in downtown Suffolk on Saturday, even if the weather was somewhat chilly.

The pre-Veterans Day race featured drew 249 registrants. Runners and walkers — who were encouraged to wear red, white and blue — enjoyed the challenge of two bridges over railroad tracks during the race and then warmed up with beer, pizza and other treats, as well as live entertainment, at the post-race party.

Jack Powell, 16, smoked the course to win with a chip time of 17:04. He said he liked the hills, which aren’t a common feature of most run courses in South Hampton Roads.

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“It was just really cold, and I was trying to finish,” Powell said of coming down the home stretch on Bank Street all by himself. “I liked it, especially running up the two hills. It was kind of challenging.”

U.S. Navy veteran Jessica Whitaker said she was excited to sign up for a race in Suffolk, especially an inaugural one.

“It was the first one, so I wanted to come and support,” she said. “I thought it was good. I wasn’t ready for those hills, but it was good. I was excited it was in Suffolk.”

Whitaker, a North Carolina native, was in the Navy for 10 years, serving as an operations specialist aboard two amphibious ships. She was stationed in various places such as California and Hawaii, and her last duty station was in Norfolk. She now lives in Chesapeake.

Mark Drew arrived at the starting line in full Captain America gear, including a homemade shield.

“I’ve been doing Marvel characters for each run this year, which I do pretty much monthly,” he said. “With this being ‘for the brave’ and all the military people, I thought it would be a good one.”

Drew also said the hills surprised him, but he was happy to be out running on a beautiful autumn morning.

“Some of the hills were a bit steeper than I thought, but I enjoyed it,” he said. “It was a good challenge, and it was nice to see the city.”

The race was put on by Suffolk Parks & Recreation, and race director Russ Turner conducted the event.

“I think everything went really smooth,” Turner said. “The police really helped out a lot. We didn’t have any major injuries, and the weather wasn’t too bad.”

Turner said the train tracks are a drawback to trying to draw a race course in downtown Suffolk, but the challenge of the bridges on Broad Street and Pinner Street turned out to be popular with the runners.

Turner said there is a hope to add a 10K race to the event next year.

Results from Saturday’s event are available at