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Freedom’s Run canceled for 2020

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Aug 31, 2020

A previous year's start of Freedom's Run shows the large number of participants drawn to Shepherdstown. With the restrictions due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the organization has canceled the 2020 event. Toni Milbourne

SHEPHERDSTOWN — It is with sorrow that the organizers of Freedom’s Run have announced the cancellation of the annual event that had been scheduled for Oct. 3.

“It is sad, because we as a team have overcome many obstacles in our 12 years, including a government shutdown and rerouting four events on short notice,” said race founder Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.

“We are also sad because we had studied the logistics of hosting a run based on what other communities are doing, as well as digging deep into what we know about how and where coronavirus is spread,” he said. “It is indeed safer outside.”

Cucuzzella explained that the uncertainty in hosting an event helped determine that cancellation was the best route.

“With that uncertainty as schools start to open and tourists are starting to re-enter our community, there has been significant community concern about hosting any event and running events are not essential activities,” Cucuzzella said.

The decision to cancel the event did not come easily. Collaboration with health agencies, town officials and many other entities has been ongoing.

“With the priority being the well-being of our runners, volunteers, sponsors and community-at-large, we made the difficult decision to cancel for 2020,” Cucuzzella said. “The most recent mandates from the local and state governments in West Virginia and Maryland have also made this imperative for an early October date.”

The organizers of Freedom’s Run share in the disappointment felt by hopeful participants who have been training and looking forward to the event with excitement.

“Taking time away from races allows us to remember why we run — because we love it,” Cucuzzella said.

He went on to say that three running camps have been safely hosted during the summer, through which his team helped the children get out with physical distancing but not social distancing, which he explained are two different things.

“We are hoping that in December we can offer a local friendly type of run, if that can be pulled off safely, so stay tuned,” Cucuzzella said.

In addition to commenting on Freedom’s Run, Cucuzzella shared some of his personal and professional thoughts on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“Sadness is in the world’s response to the virus and the fear, confusion and mixed messages that have been so divisive in our community and communities all over the world,” he said.

“Examples include maintaining liquor stores as essential business, yet shutting down AA meetings,” Cucuzzella said. “Locally, we have just recently been allowed to open outdoor farmers markets with strict protocol, when all through this time people could walk into crowded grocery stores unmasked and touch multiple items.”

It is Cucuzzella’s hope that locally actions are being taken to safely open up society, educate the public, protect the vulnerable, save small businesses and allow children to learn and play.

“Currently, with our low local case rates and more importantly, low hospitalization and death rates, I do not deem children being in the classroom or playing sports as risky,” he said. “I hope we have the opportunity to educate the public. There will be cases here as we ramp up testing of young, well, asymptomatic people.

“The entire Shepherd University staff, faculty and student body were recently tested. As isolated cases appear, we can reinforce the importance of avoiding risky behaviors that make an isolated positive test case spark a cluster of disease,” he said.