On October 1st, 2011, local residents and travelers from forty states and five countries will celebrate history, community health, and the soul of running through four of the nation’s most beautiful national parks—Harpers Ferry, the C&O Canal, Antietam National Battlefield, and the Potomac Heritage Trail. The event is called Freedom’s Run and is founded by barefoot running enthusiast, Two Rivers Treads Founder, family physician, and West Virginia University Associate Professor Mark Cucuzzella, M.D.
The idea for the race evolved as a way to raise money for school trails and gardens, in an effort to get kids healthy. The ultimate goal is to make West Virginia—currently the 2nd most obese state in the nation—a healthier state, and Freedom’s Run makes running accessible to all ages. The event includes both full and half marathons, a 10k, a 5k, and even a kids run—through historic Shepherdstown. So, no matter what your level, you can find a way to participate in supporting Mark’s efforts for a healthy West Virginia.
The Freedom’s Run Course takes runners on a historic timeline, from the days of early invention and discovery to the most brutal day in our country’s history. It’s like experiencing a living museum, preserved for our future generations.
It begins on a loop of Murphy Farm—home of John Brown’s fort before it was returned to its original location in Lower Town, as well as the site where 12,000 Union troops surrendered. Today, it boasts what is possibly the most peaceful view of the Shenandoah River. Runners move on to explore the Federal armory at Virginius Island, then they pass John Brown’s Fort, and trace part of the route he and his collaborators pursued when they marched from the Kennedy Farm on the eve of his famous raid. Participants then move on to Harpers Ferry, where they’ll experience a town truly preserved, followed by a run upstream on the C&O Canal, experiencing George Washington’s vision of expanding commerce to the West.
The route continues along the river, following the course where Lewis and Clark tested their boats. Along the way, runners will pass the site where Lee retreated over the Potomac after the bloody day at Antietam. Perhaps the most solemn and preserved piece of land in America—Antietam Battlefield—is an experience runners will surely find strength from. It was here that 23,000 Americans either lost their lives or were wounded in the bloodiest day of our history. The land and farms appear today as they did in 1862, thanks to the efforts of passionate preservationists. From Antietam, contestants continue through the Civil War town of Sharpsburg, MD, and keep on going into historic Shepherdstown—where the steam boat was built and tested.
This is the third year of the spectacular race, and it only continues to grow—with too many special highlights to count. One moment in particular, Cucuzzella proudly shares, “In 2010, we had four hundred children running happily through our historic downtown—what a beautiful sight.”
Not going to be able to participate in the run this year? You can volunteer, go out and find one of a zillion spots along the historic course and cheer on the runners, or you can donate to efforts that will help move West Virginia out of that 49th slot. We can all do our part in supporting West Virginia health!