You all are the heros of the day. For those of you who volunteered or ran Freedom's Run, I hope you all have warmed up. And to the volunteers, it is easier to run than to work a cold, rainy race. At least you are generating body heat while running.
Despite the cold rain that greeted us race day, we have been overwhelmed by the kind emails thanking our towns for the friendly welcome they received while visiting us for Freedom's Run on Oct. 1. We would not have been able to pull this off without your incredible help. We had 2,600 finishers from 43 states and five countries. The 200 kids in the free Kids Fun Run was a highlight of the day for us. We were about to call this off, but the kids insisted we run it. Good advice. They were happy and smiling as they ran through the puddles.
Three of the four events sold out, and for the second year we are the largest event in the state of West Virginia by a large margin. We gathered some inspiring data from our post-event survey, with about 500 responses.
Ninety-seven percent were either "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the event, with 70 percent being very "satisfied." Fifty-five percent were visitors to the region, 30 percent shopped, 50 percent dined and 40 percent spent a least one night. There is a large economic impact.
We are creating a festival weekend with the Friday pre-race expo and pasta dinner downtown and the post-race Oktoberfest at the Bavarian Inn. We are continuing our themes of health and heritage through continued community outreach for family and youth fitness and financial contributions to local trail projects.
I wanted to share one especially nice message from a visitor which I have the OK to share:
A mere Thank You seems inadequate. A parade, confetti shooting out of cannons or perhaps a shiny marching band playing songs of jubilation would be better ways to say thank you and congratulations on the success of the Freedom's Run.
My reasons are thus:
The simplicity, spirit and intent of the event's central idea shone through every executional detail.
I enjoyed the fact that entry fees and sponsorship dollars went to support school edible gardens and exercise trails.
The clarity of all communication, across all channels was outstanding: website content and navigation, email updates, verbal instructions at the start and ALL signage (to the start, the pasta dinner, mile markers etc...)
At packet pickup, I appreciated The NO Plastic Bag Filled with Paper Brochures and Advertisements that I Will Just Recycle Anyway (what's really important? A race number and a very nice long-sleeve souvenir shirt, thank you).
Let's talk about the marathon start experience:
The low-key idea of a duct tape starting line
The pot of coffee on the ledge
The race strategizing via bullhorn from the back of a pickup
The local high school student singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic
The cozy, small numbers size of the marathon
The course. Need I say more? Rounding the corner into Antietam and seeing the monuments rise up out of the mist hanging low over the cornfields, the soul of the battle became alive and present.
The food waste/recycling bins at all the aid stations was a nice touch...composting and running? What's not to admire?
The hands-free wrap at the finish (one plastic garbage bag - poke a hole, pop it over my head and presto - I can hold a cup of Gatorade and post-run snack without losing heat or the wrap is there a patent in the works for this?)
The kids fun run. (Little bellies sticking out with race numbers pinned over hoodies flashed me back to 1976. Inspiration starts young)
The motivating coaching tutorials on the website is reason #876. Really, I read them all and in the course of a few weeks, I could feel a difference in my running form.
And last, but certainly the most important, the smiling friendliness and helpful energy of every single volunteer I encountered was overwhelming. It's inspiring to come face to face with such an great spirit of volunteerism. Life is too short to sit on the sidelines, a big THANK YOU to everyone who stepped forward to participate and help. And thank you to you for the idea that started it all.
I will be back next year.
Thank you again,
A few special thanks go to some special folks who without them the event would never occur.
All the sponsors of the event especially, West Virginia University-Hospitals East and Eastern Education Division, for their financial support; Shepherd University for the amazingly generous use of facilities; hundreds of volunteers; and The National Park Service for the open door to four national parks. River Riders, Stasis Engineering, The Bavarian Inn and Hollywood Casino also are huge contributors. Please visit our sponsor page, www.freedomsrun.org/Sponsors.apx, and thank and visit all the kind businesses.
One individual who deserves special recognition is Co-Director and Logistics Lead Tom Shantz. Tom has worked a year on the permitting, town and law enforcement coordination and all the course support. This is a year of work which all seems to come together seamlessly on race day. Thank you Tom!
We are already planning for 2012, so save the date of Oct. 13 -and invite your friends.