The race honored veterans and active military men and women

This Veterans Day weekend, runners showed up for the Valley View Mike Donahue Memorial 5-Miler race to honor veterans and active men and women in the United States military
Nov. 12.

The race took place at the Hydaway Outdoor Center. 

Maj. Mike Donahue was a paratrooper for the XVIII Airborne Corps, former faculty member and Liberty alumnus. He was an assistant professor of military science for Liberty’s Army ROTC program from August 2008 to July 2010. He gave the ultimate service for his country and perished in an attack by a Taliban suicide bomber on Sept. 16, 2014, in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was 41 years old. 

During his time at Liberty University, Donahue was an avid runner and was instrumental in building bonds between ROTC and the Liberty Mountain Trail Series. Once he passed, Liberty gave the race its current title and memorialized him by renaming one of the trails on Liberty Mountain
in his honor.

Mike Ellsworth, the director of Outdoor Recreation, had the chance to meet Donahue a couple of times. 

“He made you feel like you knew him personally even if you did not,” Ellsworth said. “He always treated you like one of the gang. He was really a connecting and very empathic, encouraging person … though I only met him a couple of times, he really made an impact on me.”

The race began with the ceremonial Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem, a moment of silence and a special announcement recognizing the cadet who won the Mike Donahue Scholarship — a scholarship that is awarded to a senior cadet who has shown examples of selflessness and integrity, just like Donahue did. This year it was awarded to Jake Novak. 

Novak hails from Rocky Mount, Virginia. Novak’s goal is to go into combat engineering, and he does not shy away from challenges, which is evident in his favorite trail on Liberty Mountain: “Psychopath.” He chose to go into military service in his sophomore year. 

“I just felt led to serve God and my country through the military,” Novak said. “I wanted to give back to the nation that has given so much to me.”

Once the runners made it over the finish line, they were welcomed back with food, awards and giveaways. This included a $50 gift certificate for Outdoor Trails, a pair of hiking shoes from Outdoor Trails and two $10 gift cards to local restaurants.

Katy Ward, the assistant director of Outdoor Adventure, grew up in Colorado. Her love for the outdoors started young and carried over to her work at Liberty. She said that this race is the only 5-mile race within the trail series, and her advice for aspiring runners is to “just start.” 

Students Behind our Military also came out to cheer on the runners and bring awareness and show appreciation for military members. They regularly create care packages and minister to those in hospitals and nursing homes and family members of service members. They also offer
CSER opportunities.

The race was sponsored by Outdoor Trails, Liberty University Military Affairs department, Live Healthy Liberty, Riverside Runners, Rehab Associates of Central Virginia and Domino’s Pizza.

More information on Campus Recreation and other events held at the Hydaway Outdoor Center can be found here

Stiner is a news reporter for the Liberty Champion

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