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Freedom’s Run: Runners compete to win against themselves or others

By Staff | Oct 11, 2019

Children competing in the Freedom's Run 5k do pushups with race founder Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, before the beginning of the race on German Street on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN – The winners to the 2019 Freedom’s Run were named at an awards ceremony at The Bavarian Inn on Saturday afternoon, as runners and their families and friends relaxed with beer and bratwurst in hand.

This year’s marathon winners was Kevin Saur, of Snohomish, Wash., and Jelly Tennyson, of Lexington Park, Md. The half marathon winners were Henry Schmidt, of Boonsboro, Md., and Candace DeLong, of Shepherdstown. The 10k winners were Meggan Grams, of Hagerstown, Md., and Jack Baronner, of Sharpsburg, Md. The 5k winners were Stephen Rivera, of Kearneysville, and Hannah Phillips. The running teams that won first place were: Running from Adult Problems, half marathon; and Shrivers Stampede, 5k.

But for many of the 1,862 runners, winning an award was not the main reason they joined the competition.

“This is not my first time running this race, but it will be my first half marathon,” said Harpers Ferry resident Katie Kopsick, 35, as she warmed up before the race with her mother.

While Kopsick has been running for three years, her 67-year-old mother, Debbie Kopsick, just started running in January and completed her first 5k in the spring.

Shepherd University alumna Lucia Valentine sings the National Anthem on McMurran Hall Lawn before the beginning of the Freedom's Run 10k on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

“It’ll be my first 10k,” Debbie said. “I’m just trying to age gracefully and in good health. It takes an effort to do that when you’re working. Now that I’m retired, I have more time to do it.”

Preparing to run in a race, for Katie, is one tool she and her mother use to inspire their fitness goals.

“We motivate each other. We’ve both been, over the last couple of years, trying to motivate each other to get in control of our health. So this has been a piece of that,” Katie said. “Freedom’s Run was just another outlet for energy and goal to set – we like to set goals to work towards.”

Spring Mills resident Amber Householder bent over her jogging stroller before the beginning of the 10k, wrapping her five-year-old and three-year-old up against the morning chill. While Householder herself enjoys the benefits of running, she said she also hopes it will teach her sons to maintain active lifestyles in adulthood.

“I’ve been running for about seven or eight years. It’s good for me to just get out and think about things when I’m running – get some mental clarity, as well as physical,” Householder said, mentioning this was her first 10k, and her sons would also be competing in the one-mile Freedom’s Run for Kids later that morning. “I’m using this as a way to encourage them to be active throughout their lives.”

From left, Brendan Jarrell, of Shepherdstown, and Amy Emert, of Shepherdstown, stretch on McMurran Hall Lawn before the beginning of the 5k on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

For former high school athletes Mike Kursey, 57, and John Spataro, 66, taking up running in adulthood has helped satisfy their competitive natures in an appropriate environment.

“There’s not a lot of people who can run 13 miles, so I pride myself in that. I did the inaugural marathon 10 years ago, and it almost killed me,” Spataro said, with a grin. “But I’ve done the half marathon about four or five times since.”

Spataro said he took up running when he was 30, and used it as an outlet to work off energy before going to work every day as a principal at a local high school.

“I took up running for the benefits – you feel so much better after you run,” Spataro said. “When you get out of college, you have to do something to keep yourself active. You have to compete with yourself and others, and this is a great way to do it.”

Kursey agreed with Spataro, and said he was looking forward to running in the half marathon.

Half marathon runners take off down King Street on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

“When you run for you, it becomes a passion,” Kursey said. “We do it to finish, we do it to make friends. Ninety percent of your training is done by yourself. That gets boring, so this is a nice way to get to meet other people.”

A few 5k participants walk at the end of the pack down German Street on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston