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I ran a 5k!!

February 27, 2020

Written by Maria Campanella

I have been working for Hydaway almost four years now.  During my time here, I have had many opportunities to work our trail race events. Every time I am able to do this, I always be sure to hang out at the Finish Line and watch all the runners at that pinnacle moment.  Since working my first race I have always wanted to experience that accomplishment. However, it just felt like a pipe dream and I never actually thought I would be here now, writing a blog about how I ran the Arctic 5K.  But here we are…

I always felt inspired the day of these races to start running, but when it came time to actually do something about it, I never did. Until last November when my friend and roommate, Naomi, came home one day and asked if I wanted to run the Arctic 5K with her.  I immediately said YES!  We started “training” pretty soon after deciding to run the race. We ran in our neighborhood or in local parks mostly, starting with small distances and built up to the 5K. Neither of us started the process really excited to run, but as we did it more and more, we both knew it was growing on us! I always wanted to love running and although I wouldn’t go as far to say that yet, this was a good first step.

After a few months, we finally made it to February 1st, RACE DAY!! The atmosphere of the races is upbeat and exciting, we were ready to go. It was nice to be with Naomi and my work friends to help me with my morning jitters.  They made me feel encouraged and excited for the run. The actual race was really hard, I won’t lie. Even though it felt like we ran and prepared well, there was rough terrain and the majority of the first half of the race is uphill. We definitely walked a bit and I fell on the way down about four times, lol embarrassing. BUT, we crossed the finish line and WE DID IT!


If you are thinking about running and don’t know where to start, here is what I have to say.  These are what helped to encourage me and hope they will help you get there as well:

Find a running partner! I mean it when I say I probably would not have been able to run this race if I didn’t have someone who was willing to make time and run with me. It is so much easier to be motivated when you have someone holding you accountable and doing it with you! This was the most important part for me personally!

Sign up for the race early.  Register as soon as you know you want to do it. This is another small way to hold yourself accountable. Not to mention you get a shirt out of it if you do this step ?

Be aware that it will be challenging, but the racing community is so encouraging. Multiple times on the course I had positive interactions with the other people running around me. One even helped me after falling; it was a small thing but really helped me feel reinvigorated! Everyone seems to look out for each other.  You start the race as strangers, though you feel closer to them after the race.  A difficult and exhausting experience like the Arctic 5k really brings people together.

You will feel really accomplished once it is over. I was as happy to cross the finish line as I had always hoped I would be after witnessing it so many times. It was worth the process!

If you’re interested in running one of our races, check out the Outdoor Recreation website to get started. You won’t regret it!

LMTS Finisher Feature: Marina

July 1, 2019

Running through college

Written by Danielle Ledgerwood

We take pride in the fact that our Liberty Mountain Trail Series provides a way for new runners from the community to learn and gain a sense of familiarity with the sport of trail running. But we also love that the series gives Liberty students an outlet to use their competitive high school running careers in college.

At only 18 years old, Marina Iodice was our youngest LMTS finisher this past year. In her first year as a residential student at Liberty studying American Sign Language Interpretation, she ran all five races in our trail series in addition to Harvest After Dark, our short distance, Halloween-themed fun-run.


Her results in each of the 5 LMTS races were as follows:

Deep Hollow 5K: 4th in Female age group 14-19

Valley View 5 Miler: 3rd in Female age group 14-19

Reindeer Run: 3rd in Female age group 14-19

Arctic 5K: 4th in Female in age group 14-19

King of the Mountain: 5th Female in age group 14-19


Marina has been running for most of her life, and she started seriously competing around 5 years ago, when she ran track and field and cross country in high school. “I personally think running is fun,” she said. “What motivates me to run is the feeling of accomplishment after I finish a workout or race. I never found the time in college to be consistent with it, but the races gave me an opportunity to do that.”

She enjoys both the tough competition at LMTS races and the less competitive, casual events, like the Turkey Trot in her hometown on Thanksgiving Day. “This race helps raise funds for cancer research and also allows people to make room for Thanksgiving dinner.”

Her advice for anyone just getting into running would be to find their own pace and start slow. “Many professional runners have been training for years, so you shouldn’t compare yourself to other runners,” she encouraged. “Don’t focus on the number aspect of your time. Just be aware of that number and try to improve it slowly each time you practice.”

For more experienced athletes, she offered some advice for when your workout routine feels like it’s stuck in a rut: “Try to expand their drills and techniques. Maybe add more distance than usual, or try shorter distances at a faster pace. The internet is full of running videos with new ideas to try. Don’t be afraid to push yourself because you can always do more than you think.”

LMTS Finisher Feature: Tina

June 17, 2019

A family that runs together…

Written by Mike Ellsworth


Tina’s family moved to Lynchburg from Buffalo and knew that they wanted to connect to the University and the community.  They found that by running the Liberty Mountain Trail Series.  They also found a great new way to connect as a family.

Tina was new to running on trails, but not new to the sport.  She had been a runner for 36 years, but with easy access to beautiful trails, it was very quickly became habitual for Tina to hit the woods for those moments of peace.  “I like them better than just running on the flat road and pounding.  I enjoy it a lot more…”  She later mentioned how the quiet alone time that she spends on the trails acts as her downtime, where she makes time for prayer and peace.

Running for 36 years, Tina has always used running as an anchor to hold her life together.  Though she has always been a competitive and fast runner, it was always the joy of the run, not the outcome of the competition that she seemed to reflect on during our conversation.  “It has always been a quiet time for me” she says.  Through marriage, raising children, a move to Lynchburg and a battle with breast cancer, running has seemed to act as the consistent fuel to keep her connected to God and help her refocus.

Trail running has turned into a family affair for the Chriest’s.  Tina and her husband Steve both completed the entire series and with their two college-aged children, the family ran 4/5 races together.  “We used to have the kids on a bike and they would try to keep up with us.  Now, life has gone on and they are leaving us behind.”  Though the whole family doesn’t love running in the same capacity, it still is time for them to be together.  Tina’s favorite LMTS memory of course involves her kids.  She mentioned the King of the Mountain as her favorite event, when asked why, she responded very quickly, “My kids did really well in that.  My son, Wyatt ran with a 40lb weight, which was pretty cool.”


Tina and her family are looking forward to another season of trail running at Liberty, be sure to say hello if you see her training for the next race!

LMTS Finisher Feature: Shelley

June 5, 2019

A Time to Connect

Written by Danielle Ledgerwood


Running, for Shelley, started after attending other races and watching a friend compete, so she decided to try it herself. She really enjoyed the environment at those events and knew that they’d help her to grow as a person, in more ways than one.  Shelley Stephens has now been an avid runner for 13 years.

“I’ve always been introverted and have kept to myself,” Shelley admitted. “I noticed that being around people with the same interests pushed me to talk to others.”

Her time spent running on the Liberty Mountain Trail System also helped her reconnect with her husband Mark after they divorced in 2000. They’ve used their time on the trails to spend time getting to know each other better and to listen to what the Lord is saying to them. Since then, they’ve been remarried for 11 years.

“We developed a bond, and I think he started to gain a certain amount of respect for me, seeing that I was really pushing myself.” Recently, 4 back surgeries have prevented her husband from running, but they can still hike and bike together.



Shelley has definitely been pushing herself. In the 2018-2019 Liberty Mountain Trail Series, she won the female master’s category at the Deep Hollow Half Marathon, the Arctic 5k, and King of the Mountain, plus a 3rd overall female finish at Reindeer Run (pictured above).

She’s gained a sense of familiarity with these courses over time, as she’s been running our trail races since 2014. And even when she’s not competing in a race, she’s still out on the trails. Whether it’s with a friend or her labra-doodle Bella, she likes getting out there.

“Running has given me a sense of peace,” Shelley said. “I feel alive out in the woods. My favorite trail is Trail Too Far, it has a nice incline up to the top of Donahue.”

She also mentioned how much she appreciates the opportunity to participate. Shelley has no connection to Liberty University; she’s a local Lynchburg native who enjoys running. Luckily, our races are open to the public.

“I’m grateful to have run the whole series,” Shelley said. “I’ve made some amazing friends. And I don’t take walking or running for granted.”

LMTS Finisher Feature: Derek

May 28, 2019

Jumping Right In

Written by Mike Ellsworth


Talk about jumping into trail running!  Derek’s first experience with trail running was right on our home turf on the Liberty Mountain Trail System.  In December of 2017, Derek set out on the Deep Hollow course armed with a new Garmin watch and a Strava account.  He might have got a little lost and felt miserable for a few days, but the love for trail running was ignited and he ran the Deep Hollow Hal-Marathon the next October.

Derek ran Indoor and Outdoor track in high school right here at Jefferson Forest.  He was involved in short distances mostly, the 400M and less, as well as hurdles.  From there he went on to ran one season at Bridgewater College.  After that season he basically took a 13 year hiatus from the sport. Derek shared with me his thoughts on how he transitioned from being a competitive track sprinter into the trail distance runner that he is now.

“It is a different world.  I saw my competitive 7:30 half marathon pace drop to 8:30 overnight.  I though “Aww man, I’m going slow!”” was his initial response.  It really was a slow and steady transition for him.  In the beginning Derek had a great friend who was able to prepare him for success.  Derek remembers that “He set up a training sheet for me and held me to it.  I was running 6-7 days a week and hit 100 miles in his first month. I also was able to utilize Strava to keep track of times, distances and receive the coveted “thumbs up” from my friends.”

As we chatted for several minutes, I was very encouraged to hear that Derek and I have the same favorite race in the series.  Valley View race day is a different feel and it is evident to everyone who participates.  Not only does the race has special meaning to those who knew Major Mike Donahue (the race is in memorial to him), but the course gives the best comprehensive snapshot of the trail system.  Derek agreed, “For everything that the trail system has to offer, you get a touch of it.  You’re running on the wider roads, you’re running on the narrow one lanes.  You’re getting the elevation…also running through the creeks and getting the view of Lynchburg” he stated.  Derek also spoke to the distance being perfect.  “If you’re a short distance person that normally does 5k’s, you can push yourself that day to do the five mile.  Or if you’re a person who likes to do 7 or more, it’s not too short where you wouldn’t want to do it.”

Though Valley View is his favorite race, his children cheering his finish during the Arctic 5k is his favorite memory from the series.  Derek has three kids; 5 years, 7 years and an infant.  He is just starting to run with the 5 and the 7 year old as they participated in last year’s Virginia 10miler. Teaching healthy running habits to children can be challenging.  It is important to encourage and support, but sometimes we can put a little too much competitive pressure on them.  Derek says that “I want to make sure that my kids understand that they’re gunna be out there racing somebody else, but they are there doing it for themselves…I don’t want to be that person putting the pressure on them to not have fun.”  I think that is the best advice to give to those running moms and dads who want to share their passion with their children.

As we finished up our conversation, I asked him why does he continue to stick to trail running?  He had a rather simple answer…

“It is a whole different feel.”  Avoiding the crowds and finding peace is one of Derek’s reasons for hitting the trails.  “You are out there by yourself or with a few friends.  You can just zone out in the shade and fresh air.  I just get more pleasure out of it.  Pick a good trail, push yourself and go out there.  Just turn off and enjoy it.”

Valley View Mike Donahue Memorial 5 miler

November 15, 2018

Written by: Mike Ellsworth

Valley View 2018 is over.  As Director of Outdoor Rec, I have been a part of a lot of events through the years.  I have helped out with the Liberty Mountain Trail Race Series since 2009 and have directed each of them since July 2016.  Each race feels very different and has unique moments of excitement.  Our largest and most popular race is the Deep Hollow half-marathon and 5k.  This race boasts the most runners, is scheduled on Homecoming weekend and has the most energy on race day.  Our newest race is the novelty “hill kill”, King of the Mountain.  This shorter race is quickly becoming popular and appeals to the non-runner just as much as the experienced racer.  But by far, my favorite race-day environment of them all is the Valley View Mike Donahue 5-miler.

First, I think this race is the perfect distance.  I love a 5-mile race.  It can be a challenge for a beginner runner, though it is a manageable distance that anyone can train towards.  A more advanced runner will get a good workout out of the mileage and the peaks of Liberty Mountain ensure that the race still pumps up your heart rate.  5 miles is also a great timing distance.  On average it takes around an hour to finish and with a 9 a.m. start time, that means you can be home and showered by lunch!

Second, the course is near perfect.  This race gives one of the fullest and enjoyable routes through the Liberty Mountain Trail System.  With over 60 miles worth of trails, 5 miles is just a snapshot, but it is a great snapshot.  The course starts towards Snowflex from Hydaway along Falwell road where you pass by the faux-snow ski resort.  Right around the 2-mile mark, the course moves onto the single-track stretch of Peak-to-Peak and climbs to the top of the LU Monogram.  If you wanted to take a breather to enjoy the view of Liberty campus you could, it will give you a chance to recuperate after your brutal quarter-mile climb.  Then the course follows Valley View road to Split Decision all the way back to Hydaway.  The stretch near Oaks Way is a beautifully serene section of the trail that follows a small stream as it meanders through the valley.  This course represents the best and worst (over 1300ft of elevation change) aspects of Liberty Mountain.

Third and most notable, it is held in remembrance of hero.  I was only able to meet Maj. Mike Donahue a few times.  He was much closer to my boss at that time and probably never knew my name.  But, every time I had an opportunity to engage with him, it was a joy.  He made me feel like I belonged, like I was a part of “the gang” and that he valued the opportunity to meet with me.  I think that is why so many people have such a noble opinion of him.  Mike was engaging, passionate and excited about everything.  His personality seemed to “jump start” everyone he interacted with.

As every year passes, I am saddened that another generation of students is not able to understand who Mike was and what he meant to LU Army ROTC, the Liberty trail system and the Lynchburg running community.  I become burdened that the runners of the race that bear his name will never understand why he was significant.  But, this year, Major Winkelmann helped ease this burden.  He is a current professor in the Army ROTC department and he was able to share a few words about Maj Donahue in a very noteworthy way.  He declined using the microphone and chose to bring all the runners closer together so that he could speak more expressively and with more familiarity.  He shared what he had learned about Donahue and told Mike’s story.  He did it exactly the way that Mike would have.  He brought every runner, spectator and staff together in that moment.  He unified us in one memory and in one person.  Winkelmann caused us to pause, take a breath, enjoy life together and attack the next moment.  He reminded us, much like Mike would have, that “Every Day is a Good Day.”

This year, the race was blessed with a wonderful Army ROTC color guard, the support of the Military Affairs department, Major Winkelmann and a solemn playing of taps.  The pre-race ceremony at this event is always special, though this year felt a little different.  For that I am thankful.

2017 Deep Hollow Course Guide

October 5, 2017

Written by: Race Director, Mike Ellsworth

It’s that time of year.  The Deep Hollow half marathon and 5k is upon us. This year, I want to take the time to give a nice course description to help you prepare for the race.  Earlier this week, I took the time to rough mark the half marathon a bit.  Using the permanent markings and the pink streamers that I tied along the course you should be able to get a full run in before race day!  Be sure to look at the map as you follow along below.  Good luck on the 14th!

  • Mile 1 and 2:  These are the easiest miles to get lost on, so be on the lookout for the pink streamers the entire way.  The course follows the portion of Trail Too Far that meanders through the disc golf course, Spirit and a rogue trail.  So, be sure to stay focused here.  The elevation is just a slow and steady uphill as you approach the first Aid Station!
  • Mile 3, 4 and 5: Can be a lot of fun and is my favorite section.  You will have a mile long* downhill along Lake Hydaway Road before dropping onto Lake Trail. Lake Trail is another long mile* uphill, though I think it is one of the prettiest (and coolest temp) on the mountain.  Lake Trail climbs to the Snowflex parking lot where Aid Station 2 awaits at the 5k turnaround.  Be sure to fill up your water bottle here and get hydrated!  Running the next stretch fast is a great way to make up some time.  Aid Station 2 is also great location for your loved ones to wait and cheer you on!
  • Mile 6 and 7:  This is all double-track mountain road.  A great surface to kick it hard and make up some time.  These roads are dusty right now due to dry conditions, so practice a couple rinse & spits along the way!  Aid Station 3 sits at 5 points, this is the first Aid Station with GU energy gel and cookies!  I’d grab one and run with it if you think you will need it before Aid Station 4!
  • Mile 8:  Right around here you will hit Aid Station 4 and drop back onto the single-track A Walk in the Park.  Though, it isn’t exactly a walk in the park.  Around this section you will hit your highest elevation!  Aid Station 4 will also have gels and cookies.  Fuel up!  I also think this Aid Station is the right one to take a longer breather.  Stretch, re-tie your shoes and eat a cookie.  Get ready for the rest of the race.
  • Mile 9-12: Great Escape the whole way!  This section is switchbacks, hill climbs/falls, and single-track the whole way.  It will include the most technical sections and you will be getting tired, so be careful as you run.  You will get some aid as you cross Clearcut Rd (around mile 10) and Champion Rd (approx. mile 12).
  • Mile 13: You are on the home stretch as you get into sight of Hydaway.  Be sure to follow course markings here at the end, we have had runners get off-track in this last mile.  You will begin to hear the waterfall at the dam (or maybe that’s just your exhausted brain splashing around in your head).  Either way, in just a bit you will have a finish line full of friends and spectators to cheer you on!  Oh, and pizza

*Distances and descriptions are approximated.  Be sure to be familiar with the race course and follow course markings appropriately.

Deep Hollow Half Marathon and 5k

October 18, 2016

by: Mike Ellsworth

This is a landmark year for the Liberty Mountain Trail Series. We will be hosting our 10th annual Deep Hollow Half Marathon and 5k at the Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center. This event has been the most popular race in the Trail Series through the years. It draws experienced trail runners who compete in the 13.1 mile course as well as many other runners who choose to participate in the 5k. In lieu of the history of this year’s event, I talked with Josh Yeoman, one of the previous directors of the race, to gain some more insight on what this race means to him.

The half marathon course was developed in 2007. The first Deep Hollow race director was Dave Christen, who is currently the race director for the Boulder Ironman and Triathlon series in Boulder, CO. The initial course was very tough due to a much larger elevation gain and loss compared to the current course. It included the old “Deep Hollow Trail”, from which the race initially got its name. That trail no longer exists, having been incorporated into what is now “Horton’s Loop”, but the Deep Hollow name has survived to this day. The first Deep Hollow event was a very grassroots event with 76 finishers.  Josh remembers a “very competitive spirit in the air that morning”, something that has defined the event ever since.

Deep Hollow is our longest course, typically has our most participants, has the longest standing history, and requires the most preparation. This makes it our favorite event! Race weekend usually occurs around peak foliage and ensures a beautiful event on Liberty Mountain. Josh shared that “the most vivid memories are the hours of hard work behind the scenes, the late nights getting final preparations and the early mornings getting last minute details organized.”

This race has meant so much to Josh over the years because it is tied to many of his lifelong memories, both good and bad. Josh shared with me that the first race was held only two months after he married his wife and the event has always been a milestone for them. The event also reminds him of his mother, whom he lost just one week before the 2011 event. During that difficult season, he found encouragement through the race: “I was able to see so many people come together from different walks of Lynchburg in support of me and this event.” In 2009, Josh met the late Major Mike Donahue for the first time at Deep Hollow. Their relationship grew and Mike was integral in establishing the Liberty Mountain Trail Series. Sadly, Major Donahue passed away in 2014 serving our country in Afghanistan. One of the other races in the Series, the Mike Donahue Memorial Valley View 5 Miler, bears his name in remembrance. “To me, Deep Hollow is a testament to what can happen beyond just running, when a community of people come together for a common purpose,” Josh said.

I have spent the last 7 years working this race with Josh and it has always been a highlight of my year. My favorite memories include dropping aid stations before sunrise and the spirit of camaraderie after a successful event. Josh has grown into a good friend and mentor to me over the years and I couldn’t be more honored or excited to take the reins this year. He will be running the course this year as a participant for the first time, and with him runs the legacy of this event. Deep Hollow continues to be a race that brings people together year after year, and I am so thankful for him, Dave Christen, and many others for making it a continued reality.