Marathon attracts thousands
SHEPHERDSTOWN – This morning, if you can honestly say the thought of running a distance race has never entered your mind, then it’s a pretty safe bet that you weren’t in Shepherdstown Saturday morning for Freedom’s Run.
“It’s inspiring,” said Marc Briod. “Everyone is so encouraging. We saw it last year and decided to participate this year.”
Briod and his wife Judith, a pair of retirees from Michigan who relocated to Shepherdstown, joined in the 5K race at the second Freedom’s Run event Saturday. “It couldn’t have been better,” Briod said. “It was a little cool this morning, and then the sun came over the horizon as we started and warmed everyone up.”
Inspiration and encouragement went hand-in-hand Saturday as those watching the events yelled, waved, rang cow bells and continuously supported the hundreds of racers, who came in all shapes, sizes and levels of fitness. Cheers of encouragement sounded for the swiftest marathoners and the slowest walkers. Young children and senior citizens all received shouts of praise and support. Race Director Mark Cucuzzella, announcing race results and updates on the public address system at Shepherd University’s football stadium, kept the hundreds of people seated in the stands and those milling around the campus area informed of outstanding efforts and special achievements.
“Preparation for racing is very solitary, but the race is a very social event,” Briod said. He and his wife were seated in the stands, surrounded by participants and their families and friends. Baby strollers were almost as common as running shoes and water bottles as spouses watched the children while the other ran or walked.
Dave Strausbaugh of Greencastle, Pa., kept track of his three children, Ana, 6, Eli, 4, and Jaeven, 3, while watching for his wife, Shonelle, and father-in-law, David Leaman, to run by their spot along the race course.
“We came early,” Strausbaugh said. “It was a little crazy because we weren’t sure what to do or about parking, but it’s been a nice day.”
A former resident of Martinsburg, Strausbaugh said staying with the kids and supporting his wife wasn’t hard. “She’s got the tougher job,” he said, adding that he wasn’t really a runner.
When asked to describe Saturday’s event, the common response was “beautiful.”
“It couldn’t be a better day for the racers,” said Gary Dubrueler, a Winchester, Va., resident, who was seated along the race course with his dog, Minnie, watching for his wife, Tammy, to pass in the 10K race. “It’s a beautiful day, and this is a very nice race.”
Dubrueler said his wife ran the Disney Princess half marathon in March. After Saturday’s Freedom’s Run, however, he said they had to “run” to the gift shop they own in Harpers Ferry.
Many participants said the morning event was just the start of the day.
For 11-year-old Austin Huff, who ran the 5K event, there was another commitment in the afternoon. His parents, Billy and Traci Huff of Charles Town, and younger brother, Will, cheered for Austin during the race. His mother was glad the race was so “very organized” because they had to get the boys to soccer games later Saturday.
While very impressed with Saturday’s event, Leah Mack said she and her husband, Owen Faris, often come to Shepherdstown for a different reason. “It’s our favorite date location.”
This year’s Freedom’s Run was a new experience. “It was my first race. I went slow at first and then picked them off in the second half.”
Mack, of Knoxville, Md., was waiting for her husband to finish his event. She was accompanied by mother-in-law, Maryrose Wilson, and children, Hope and Davin, who planned to join in the Kids Run. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”
The family was watching the race near the “Dry Clothes Tent” where participants came to collect bags of dry clothes and other items they had left at the various starting lines. Chris Ankrum of Shepherdstown was working the tent with other volunteers. He had expected to run in one of the races but missed the start and decided to volunteer at the tent instead. “The weather is great. Some thought it was a little cold, but it’s been good. I’m glad to volunteer. We like to give something back to the runners. A lot of family and friends of the runners help. We have one lady from South Dakota helping. She’s a friend of one of the runners.”
Ankrum said volunteers gather all of the bags from the start areas and bring them to the tent, where participants can pick them up. “Some of them had warm clothes on before the race started. We collect the bags and bring them here. It’s very organized.”
Gavin Brubaker, a Cub Scout in Pack 33, was at the stadium selling popcorn for the scouts while he waited, with his mother, Carolyn Brubaker of Shepherdstown, to help with the cleanup afterward.
Den Leader Chasity Plaza said many of the boys were helping with the event. Some handed out water; others would help in additional ways. “I think the racers were excited to see the boys help with the race,” she said, adding that Cucuzzella also was involved with the scouts.
“This is great,” Carolyn Brubaker said. “It’s great for the town, and we all have fun.”
With parking lots full, foot traffic moving around the the campus and town, and traffic backed up at the major intersections, it was evident Freedom’s Run had attracted people to Shepherdstown.
Some of the inspiration that Judith Briod found in Saturday’s event was for the community. “We’re thrilled,” she said of the Freedom’s Run’s impact on the community. “What a shot in the arm for the whole town. It comes at a good time. There are a lot of people in for the weekend.”
– Editor Don Smith can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 139, or firstname.lastname@example.org