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Freedom’s Run draws thousands

By Staff | Oct 7, 2011

Start of the 2011 Freedom’s Run one Mile Kids Run Saturday afternoon in Shepherdstown. (Ogden Newspapers photo by Ron Agnir)

Fall temperatures and pouring rain didn’t stop Freedom’s Run, as thousands turned out for the third annual running event in Jefferson County and surrounding areas.

Billed as a run for health and heritage, Freedom’s Run included a full 26-mile marathon through four local national parks – Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the C&O Canal NHP, Antietam National Battlefield and the Potomac Heritage Trail – and historic Shepherdstown.

It also included a half marathon, 10K, 5K and one-mile kids’ fun run.

Co-founded in 2009 by Shepherdstown residents Lois Turco and Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, the event serves as an opportunity for runners from across the country, all around the world and right here in the Eastern Panhandle to compete.

John Combs, a 1979 Shepherd University graduate, traveled from his home in Florida to run in this year’s half marathon.

Combs said that he enjoyed the race despite wet terrain.

“It was hard because conditions were tough, but it made it that much more fun,” he said.

Combs said he appreciated being able to compete within the historical landmarks that make up Freedom’s Run course.

“It was just fantastic running through Antietam. I was humbled by the experience,” he said.

Sarah Ayers, a Charles Town resident, ran the 5K for the second time. She said that although the weather proved a challenge, she managed to improve in her second race.

“Besides the rain and the cold, it was good. I shaved time off of last year’s,” she said.

Ayers said she finished the 3.1 miles in 33 minutes, a three-minute improvement from last year.

“That was my goal,” she said.

Donald Boucher, 17, from Harpers Ferry, also ran the 5K. A track and cross country runner for Jefferson High School, Boucher said he had a personal standard to live up to in his first race at Freedom’s Run.

“I’m about a 19-minute runner,” he said.

Boucher, who ran with his friend and fellow track team member Blake Stanley, 16, admitted that he didn’t do as well as he wanted.

Stanley, who normally competes as a sprinter, explained that Boucher slowed down his normal running pace so that the two could finish the race together.

“I think I’ll have to come back next year and set my own pace,” Boucher said.

Crystal Rainey, a third-year psychology major at Shepherd University, came across the finish line after the 10K, coughing and smiling. Though this was her first major running event, she said she liked it so much that she already plans to return next year.

“I finished strong, so I feel good about that. … Next year I think I want to do the half,” she said.

Freedom’s Run veteran and Shepherdstown resident Jared Matlick, 25, returned for his third Freedom’s Run event on Saturday.

Matlick, who placed fourth for his age group in last year’s race, said he felt good about this year’s run, despite the unfavorable weather.

“Despite the wind, it went really good. I don’t mind rain,” he said.

Matlick, who walked off the course in his bare feet, said that he opted to run the half marathon instead of the full.

I didn’t want to go through that pain again,” he said, chuckling.

Although Matlick said he trained more casually this time around, he managed to finish the half marathon in approximately 1 hour and 21 minutes, placing fifth.

“It felt really good. I didn’t have to walk,” he said.

Matlick said he has definite plans to return for Freedom’s Run next year.

“Have to. It’s my hometown,” he said.