Leesburg’s New Year’s Day Wake Up Race

It has long been the custom for end-of-year revelers to shake off the New Year’s Eve festivities with the reality of a brisk race in the usually chilly hours of New Year’s Day as a great way to welcome in another year.

The Rotary Club of Leesburg held its 19th annual REHAU Rotary Resolution Race 10K and 5K and 4K Fun Walk/Run this morning at Ida Lee Park and  Morven Park.

All profits from the race—more than $300,000 has been raised since 1998—go to area charities. The 2016 recipients will be ECHOworks; Loudoun Interfaith Relief; Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter; and the Rotary Club of Leesburg’s Perry Winston Scholarship Fund.

The Resolution Race is an all-encompassing event that is the club’s signature fundraiser, drawing “all hands on deck” support from club members and their families. The race has been greatly helped by REHAU North America, which has been a generous title sponsor for the past decade, according to the club. The event features live music, food and drinks, including Vie de France cookies that are baked the day before the race, a sparkling cider toast by tuxedoed Rotarians, race awards and random prizes donated by local businesses and restaurants. Ida Lee Recreation Center provides warm shelter before and after the race and Heritage High School Interact Club members also volunteer to help out.

The race has strengthened in public appeal over its almost two decades of existence. But not everyone is familiar with how it came about.

According to race co-director Carole Maloney, in 1997, her husband, race co-director Chuck Maloney, was asked by then-club President Phil Daley to come up with a recommendation for a major fundraiser. After researching various possibilities, Chuck Maloney invited a member of the Bethesda, MD, Rotary Club to describe to the Leesburg group details of the Thanksgiving Day race he had helped start in Maryland.

The idea took, and the Leesburg Rotary Club unanimously voted to hold its own Thanksgiving Day race, a 10K that would be held at Morven Park. But, because of numerous other Thanksgiving Day races in the region, incoming President Tom Horne suggested switching the event to New Year’s Day. A runner himself, Horne’s contended that runners love to start the year with a race and that there would be no competition on New Year’s Day.

For many years, Horne’s contention proved correct. But, more recently, more New Year’s Day races have sprung up. Last year’s participation was 750, down from the 900 of the event’s peak years, but still a good solid and loyal base that every year helps fund the club’s charitable activities.

The club estimates its New Year’s Day race is the second oldest in the county. It is popular with runners, drawn to the rigors (and the scenic beauty) of the cross-country course at Morven Park. Approximately 80 percent of the course is on dirt or paved roads and 20 percent grass. And there are a few rolling hills with which to contend. The untimed 4K appeals to families and those aspiring to “get in shape.” The timed 5K was added two years ago.

The club will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the race Jan. 1, 2017, and the Maloneys say there’s no reason why it should not have another successful 20 years ahead of it—providing enjoyment for participants and funds to help county charitable endeavors.

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