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And they’re off

By Staff | Oct 7, 2016

Photo couresy of Margaret Mercer Tice Runners take their mark for the start of Freedom’s Run 5K and half marathon on what was a damp Saturday morning.

Despite the drizzle, thousands gathered to participate in the annual Freedom’s Run held Saturday. Many were repeat runners while some were here for the first time. Whether those gathered were running the full marathon, the half marathon, the 10K, 5K or even the one-mile kid’s fun run, each was eager to get started.

The marathon event started at the Murphy Farm in Harpers Ferry taking runners through the C&O Canal to the Antietam battlefield and into Shepherdstown. The half marathon runners,10K and 5K runners all left Shepherdstown to run along different courses. The half marathon runners headed into Maryland to the Antietam Battlefield while the shorter distance runners traveled down River Road and around county roadways back to Shepherd University where all of the races concluded.

The historical route and race organization has earned a “Top 25 Half Marathon” by Runner’s World Magazine in February 2013 and is the Highlight Race in October 2013 Runner’s World. Read the Runners World piece. Freedom’s Run is listed as a “Must Do” race in Competitor Magazine September 2014, and a featured race in The Runner’s Bucket List: 200 Races to Run Before You Die by Denise Malan Harpers Ferry was also just named the top fall destination in the country by Yahoo travel.

Developed to encourage a healthy lifestyle, the run has gained size and momentum over the years.

Runners joined in for many different reasons.

Gavin Watson, 4, finishes his third Kid's Run at Ram Stadium.

Dani Sales Thomas shared, ‘This was my first “real” race. I did the 10K. I’ve been running since high school for exercise, but never entered a race. I really didn’t see what the point was. Finally, after some urging from a fellow runner friend, I decided I would give it try. It was so much fun!! Now I can see “what the point is!” I loved all the camaraderie and energy. Everyone was so encouraging and uplifting. There was definitely an adrenaline rush at the start and end of the race. I am excited now to run more races and hopefully do the half marathon next year.”

This reaction is typical of those participating in the event.

Teresa Jackson, who ran her first 5K on Saturday, along with her daughter, said, “As both my daughter and myself were running (mind you she is a lot younger and ahead of me) we both befriended people that asked us to run with them and finished the race together. It was just a wonderful atmosphere to be a part of. Not to mention I set a goal for myself and exceeded that beyond anything I had imagined.”

While there were many “newbies” to the run this year, there were also hundreds who have run the course previously.

John Bonbright shared, “2016 marked the fifth consecutive Freedom’s Run for me and each has meant something uniquely important to me.” He shared that 2012 was his first 5K after completing a Couch to 5K program.

This was that 5K and I instantly became totally hooked to the sport of running,” he said. He worked his way up to the half marathon in 2014 and used that to train for the Marine Corps Marathon. This year’s half was a bit of slower pace for Bonbright.

“This year I paced a friend who was doing HIS first Half Marathon. The slower pace (compared to the two previous years) allowed me to really savor the comaraderie, scenery, and sheer joy of running in the event. It was perhaps the most enjoyable race I’ve ever run, very satisfying in its own way, especially when my friend was able to exceed his goals for the race and credited me for helping achieve that,” he shared.

Funds raised through the run are generally donated to areas that promote healthy living. Some of the projects that have received funding include trails at James Hite Park and North Martinsburg Middle School, the T.A. Lowery Elementary School Green House Project, the South Jefferson Elementary School Outdoor Classroom and Trail and the C&O Canal Classrooms Education Program.