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Race gains in popularity this year

By Staff | Oct 1, 2010

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Freedom’s Run has quickly hit the maps.

In just its second year, Freedom’s Run has been named Road Runners Club of America’s “Top Marathon to Attend in 2011.”

That’s because it will serve as a state championship this year and an eastern regional championship a year from now.

The race has captured the fancy of runners nationwide.

“I hate to call it a race,” organizer Mark Cucuzzella said. “It’s an event. We don’t give prize money, so it’s more about community.”

The community – and extended community – will gather Saturday as 2010’s edition comes first.

Saturday’s event is more than just a marathon, however.

There are four competitive races of different distances and even a much-shorter race for youngsters.

Cucuzzella described it as “a grassroots event in small town,” but it actually reaches farther than that.

Cucuzzella is finding that the grass is greener for his event.

Five runners will be joining the race virtually from Afghanistan. Runners are coming from 42 states and five different countries to participate in the second annual event. The top 100-mile runner in the United States, David James, also will run.

This event has reached its capacity in three out of the four races. The capacity is limited by the route, which weaves through four national parks.

The most-hearty of runners can still sign up for the marathon, which has some 600 runners registered thus far.

The half-marathon is at its 750-runner limit. It’s the same for the 10K and 5K, each of which were limited to 500 runners.

Cuccuzella thought the event taking off like it has.

“Because running has become so popular and we’re so close to Baltimore and D.C.,” he said. “All it took was to do it. It’s a perfect settingfor these events.”

Cuccuzella likes the size of the event.

“We’ll only have a small footprint, so it’s never going to be a big event,” he said, referring to some races that attract thousands of runners.

Cuccuzella noticed there are many more local runners registered than last year.

“Maybe because of Freedom’s Run people are talking to each,” Cuccuzella said. “People are talking to each other, and not only are they doing one event, but their doing walks and runs throughout the year. Some (running) groups have formed to keep each other motivated.”

Which is part of the goal of Freedom’s Run in the first place.

Race organizers have worked with the parks to help encourage healthier lifestyles. This kind of event helps more people discover the parks and the rich heritage they are preserving.

“It’s been highlighted by national parks service as kind of a uniqie event hat promotes parks and health,” Cuccuzella said. “It’s a little event that’s gone to several layers ona national level. The theme they’re using is ‘park prescriptions,’ using parks in a healthy environment.”

The kids fun run will take a one-mile lap around historic Shepherdstown. This race still has openings and children can register until 11 a.m. Saturday or online at any time.

The other races begin in or near Ram Stadium and finish there.

Afterward an awards ceremony will take place at the Bavarian Inn, where participants and families can also enjoy an Oktoberfest celebration.

Cuccuzella pointed out that some 400 volunteers will take part in the day’s activities, “all in an essential and critical role.”

The race organizers also believe in going green.

Last year they composted 145 pounds of snack waste and banana peels and recycled 340 pounds of cardboard. They handed out refillable water bottles and supplied fountains to try and reduce the container use. Volunteers and organizers also took 13 regular-sized trash bags to the waste facility because of the bio-waste in the (what?).

While its important to organizers to keep the waste down, they also want to keep the costs down.

Money raised at last year’s race was used to build a walking trail and learning garden at Page Jackson Elementary School. Cucuzzella said one of the goals is to build trails at all area elementary schools in years to come.

There are also other charitable groups for which individuals will be running to support their causes.

Friday night there is a pasta dinner at the Shepherdstown Men’s Club, which is open to the public in addition to runners.

You can find all the details of the event at www.freedomsrun.com.