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How it all Started

‘During the holiday season of 2008, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a Professor of Family Medicine, and Lois Turco, an advocate for a heritage area in Jefferson County, met by chance in Shepherdstown. Their conversation that day sparked an idea that would eventually catch alight and one day become West Virginia’s largest marathon, the Freedom’s Run.

An Event for Health and Heritage, their goal was to promote healthy lifestyles, walking and biking paths, and more involvement in the nearby national parks.

The race has grown immensely in its short existence.

“There’s a lot of appeal to this area,” Turco said, explaining the rapid growth of Freedom’s Run. “You get to enjoy two states at once. There are five National Parks in this area.”

“Word of mouth is a huge part of this,” she said. “We’ve gotten in running magazines across the country. We have an expo the night before which starts to create a sense of community among runners who have come from all over. It’s also a big draw for veterans.”

Also pivotal to the race’s success is coordinating with town officials and tourism, sponsors, like WVU Allied Health Education Center and Shepherd University, and the three national parks the race runs through: Harper’s Ferry NHP, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP, and Antietam Battlefield NHP.

Because of the increased visitors brought by Freedom’s Run, new businesses have popped up to cater to tourists interested in running and cycling, sustained by a definite spike in recreation and leisure tourism. Turco says that cyclists now come off of the C&O Canal to stay in Shepherdstown, which didn’t happen before.

Partly inspired by this new asset and the subsequent spike in tourism, in 2011 the Canal Towns Partnership formed. The Canal Towns Partnership brings together nine towns in Maryland and West Virginia that border the C&O Canal National Historical Park to work together on generating mutually beneficial economic activity in their region. The goal is to create amenities and business to cater to visitors that are hiking or bicycling through on the towpath.’ – Courtney Roark, The Remarkable Rise and Rise of Freedom’s Run

Freedom’s Run continues to grow and with the development of the Freedom’s Run Community Grant and Freedom’s Run Race Series including Harper’s Ferry Half Marathon has donated over $200,000. The goal of developing Health and Heritage in the beautiful state of West Virginia is thriving.


Our Co-Founders

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella is a Professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine. He is also a LtCol in the US Air Force designing programs to promote health and better fitness  in the military with the USAF Efficient Running Project. (available on iphone format here) In military and civilian community he has been a tireless promoter of healthy movement, nutritional interventions in patients with any spectrum of the metabolic syndrome, and injury free training for running .

He was a lead writer of one of the first grants supporting education of Medical Students in nutrition and physical activity in Medical School.  Mark is also the lead on a large USDA  grant to double SNAP benefits at Farmers Markets- the goal is reducing food insecurity as a barrier to healthier eating.

He’s also been a competitive runner for over 30 years — with more than 100 marathon and ultramarathon finishes — and continues to compete as a national-level Masters runner. He has won the Air Force Marathon twice and run a marathon under 3:00 for 29 straight years. He is the  director of the Natural Running Center, an education portal designed to teach healthier running . Mark is also the owner of Two Rivers Treads — A Center for Natural Running and Walking in his hometown of Shepherdstown, W.Va.  Mark’s vision of a future of health is housed in his site www.drmarksdesk.com  

Mark’s innovative work and story has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, Outside Magazine, Running Times, Runners World, Air Force Times, the Washington Post, JAMA, Blue Ridge Outdoors, and other medical and media outlets.  

Lois Turco

Lois Turco is currently Chair of the Canal Towns Partnership a community and economic development project in the eight gateway towns that border the C&O Canal NHP in Maryland and West Virginia.  Beginning in 2008 she began to advocate for a heritage area project that would promote the five national parks in the region of Washington county Maryland and Jefferson county WV.  She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland in cultural anthropology and a graduate degree in Education also from University of Maryland. 

In 2009 she and Dr. Mark Cucuzzella co-founded Freedoms Run - A Race for Health and Heritage.  The event promotes three national parks and the cultural and historic landscape and towns of our region.

She lived abroad from 1967 - 1985 in five different countries in both South Asia and the Middle East.  She worked for the Department of State in 1984 as the Community Liaison Officer at Embassy Amman and for the Overseas Briefing Center as a trainer from 1985 - 1988.

She retired from a job in Research and Public Relations in 2001 and moved to Shepherdstown.  She has served on numerous non-profit boards including the Shepherdstown Rotary and the Arts and Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County.

She has spoken at a number of regional and national workshops and heritage area seminars on the topic of building sustainable tourism models and experiential  tourism.

What runners have to say...

This was my 21st marathon and I think it was the hardest. However, the support from start to finish made it one of my most enjoyable. It was awesome!! I love this race!!

Marygay Cross, Annapolis, MD

This was an awesome race that I plan on continuing to run in the future. It was my first marathon and I was surprised that I actually enjoyed it! That is due in part to the fantastic volunteers and race organizers but also due to the beautiful scenery. I have a goal time in mind for next year and I WILL be back once again to conquer those hills! :)

Kasie Miller Martinsburg, WV

My 14 year old son, Jack, suffers from Tourette and OCD. This summer he set a goal of running a half marathon to raise awareness and understanding of Tourette and OCD. We originally were scheduled to run a race during Labor Day weekend, but due to the tropical storm had to rethink our options. I had participated in Freedom's Run a few years ago and had a great experience so we decided to sign up. Knowing it was a tougher course than he's used to running, we went in just hoping to finish. He managed to beat his goal time. We were so impressed by the support along the way from both volunteers and runners. It was an amazing experience for both of us and quite a touching moment for my son who struggles every day with his body and mind. Thank you for providing us with this special memory.

Anonymous 

The rolling country hills were an experience. I got the true feeling of tears, when the heavens opened up on me as I ran through the battlefield.

Ken Scarborough, Delaware

It doesn' t get any better than this!

Larry, Lovettsville,VA

I loved every bit of this race. It was so much more challenging than expected but I had a PR so I am one happy runner. And I especially loved the hand-made medal!!

Gwen Reich

Freedom's Run was a great event for our whole family. I did the full marathon and my husband and kids did the 10K, so we all had reason to celebrate. We also thoroughly enjoyed spending time in Shepherdstown and seeing Antietam the next day. It's not a particularly easy race to simply have spectators for the marathon, but that's a great reason to have your spectator(s) sign up and do a race themselves! Well organized, and it's clear that they are getting better and better every year. We would love to come back.

Joanna, Durham, NC

This was my first marathon and I'm glad it was Freedoms Run, one beautiful, instructive test. I would have preferred blue skies and no rain, but ultimately I'm glad the day was what it was for it meant we all met a tougher challenge from which we can draw strength and take pride. I thank everyone--the race organizers, the volunteers, and my fellow runners--for being so supportive and exceptional. Well done all--don't change a thing!

Joe Alexandria, VA

Part of me does not want the rest of the world to learn how great this race is. The community support is amazing, the views are increadable and the race director so dedicated to keeping everyhing fun and safe with a unique passion and continuous motivativation. Running through the historic battlefields can not be described, it should be experienced. Make the trip, do this run, enjoy the community and feel the history.

Hillary, Atlantic City, NJ

I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful time we had. We drove 1900 miles through 8 states to run 13.1 miles and everybody said we were crazy but we'd do again in a second. The weather was perfect and we couldn't have asked for a better organized run. All the volunteers along the route were first rate and took great care of us. We will certainly see you again next year! 

Jayne Hedrick - Tallahassee, FL

This was my first half marathon and I loved this race! I originally chose to make this my first half because I had a friend who had run the race before and he really enjoyed it. I also have family in the Shepherdstown area, so I used the race as an excuse to visit them. This was an extremely organized race! There was plenty of parking and lots of porta-potties. The course itself was a nice mixture of flat trails and hills. The historic aspect of the course and the surrounding area enhanced the running experience. Overall, I give this race an A+ and I can't wait to do this race again!I was nervous about doing this marathon because it was only my 2nd one and it was my first without pacer groups. I read Dr. Marks article about belly breathing and decided to try it and I'm happy to say it works!! I definitely saw an improvement in my overall stamina and performance.Judy Price - Hagerstown, Md

The marathon was awesome. Running through four national parks and on an old Civil War trail in a forest, alongside a river, was truly a memorable experience. Glad I made the trip from New York. 

Andrea D. - Seaford, New York

I was in bad shape around mile 21 and a volunteer assisted me to get liquids and checked my condition carefully. He even ran with me for a short distance and then shadowed me in his car so that at water stops he could monitor my physical state. As it turns out, I did finish and the volunteer turned out to be a local educator and M.D. What a wonderful person! Dr. Nau

Ran the altered course last year and had to come back to see if the real course was easier or harder ... It harder. Wonderful organization, beautiful course, great volunteers and a rocking post race party. Loved this years medal more than last years too.

Jody R - Asburn, VA

I had a heart attack and quintuple bypass surgery in Jan 2014. Training for and completing the 5k became a goal for me. This was my first race ever as most of my athletic experience is in basketball, baseball and golf.

The fruit packs were FANTASTIC!!! A beautiful course, I've ran over 166 marathons and this was the most beautiful by far!

we drove from New Hampshire just to run this race, stayed an extra two days after to tour the area, but could have easily stayed a week to take the beauty, history, restaurants, fine shops, etc. all in! We'll just have to come back next year!

Joe Snow - Concord, NH

As I was breezing along, about mile 5 of my half-marathon, I was thinking 'This is going to be my best half yet. I'm a tiger today!' And boom. My right foot begged to differ. A tendon strain knocked me out of PB contention. But I finished the race, much more slowly than I'd hoped, and still had a terrific race. Because I went slowly I finished feeling as if I could have gone round the course again (without the foot pain that is) and got to appreciate the beauty of the course, the gorgeous weather and the encouraging volunteers. So despite the disappointment of not improving on my time, and the worry of an injury, I still had an incredible time. I love the Freedom's Run autumn races and look forward to next year.

Suz Thackston - Sharpsburg

I'm so glad I ran my first half marathon with Freedom's Run. The course was every bit beautiful and scenic as everyone claimed it would be. Thank you for making it a wonderful first experience for me. I will definitely be back next year!

Somaly Pal - Frederick, MD

i ran the half marathon in 2011 then in july of 2012 right in the middle of training i was diagnosed with prostate cancer putting an end to that year i came back this year cancer free so far now i have loftier goals will always have freedoms run on my schedule men take care of yourselves get checked by your doctor it can save your life it did mine thanks.

Greg Frost - Crewe, VA

This is my 4th year participating in the Freedom Run. Just love the scenery, how well organized it is and the volunteers that are so encouraging! It's always a great experience. I'll be back again next year for sure!

a great race for the state of West Virginia!

At 68 I was the oldest female in the half marathon and this was a strenuous race for my first half marathon. At mile eleven I was a mental mess, but I was delighted to finish with 2:55 for my time. My daughter Anne who works in D.C. ran her first marathon with this race in 2013. I live in Memphis, TN and came in 2013 to support her. I promised my daughter that I would run with her the following year, but expected to do only a 6k at the most; however, because of some consistent training, I dared to try the half. Less than two years ago, I had colon cancer and had to have a colon resection. From that low point to half marathon is absolutely amazing, and I hope to continue running for health and enjoyment for a long time. The course was incredible. Having run it once will definitely make it easier the second time!

Molly Zobell - Memphis, Tennessee

The very first 5K of my life was the first Freedom's Run in 2009. Since then running has become my hobby/therapy and I love it. Just did the half marathon and was pleased to check that off my bucket list prior to turning 40. Thanks for having such an awesome event right in my backyard!

Aaryn - Kearneysville, WV

Of the 8 marathons that I have run this was by far the most difficult course, however I will run it again--the whole experience is remarkable--a class act.

Butch Harmon - Magee, Mississippi

In the dozen or so races I run every year, this is ALWAYS the best, and it's not even close. Thanks to the organizers and volunteers for a wonderful 2014 experience.

John Bonbright - Shepherdstown, WV

Always consider the source when a runner describe hills. Rolling hills in West Virginia are not like the rolling hills by my house in Georgia.

Rodney Smith - Carrollton, GA

 

The first year I did the Freedom's Run half marathon it was cold and rainy. When we entered Antietam there was a foggy mist in the air, coming up off the wet earth, swirling low at our heels. Everyone grew quiet and we ran with one another as a reverent, unified group -- feeling the presence among us of those that fought for freedom on this hallowed ground so long ago. Of all the racing I've done over the years, it is one of my favorite race memories, recognizing how lucky I am to have the opportunity to push myself and do races thanks to the men and women that served then and the ones that continue to defend our freedom today. Each year I look forward to the feeling of connectedness to our country's history that I experience when I do the Freedom's Run.

Lara - Silver Spring, Maryland

I posted a Freedom's Run post race blog report at http://halfcrazedrunner.blogspot.com/2014/10/freedoms-run-half-marathon.html. My name is Elizabeth Candela, and I am a 9/11 widow. I am running in a half marathon in every state to show my children that you keep moving forward, positively. My 1/2 marathons races are also a testimony that they even though they killed my husband, they will not get my children, not in NY, NJ or any of the other 48 states!

Although this was a difficult course, it was by far my favorite. Excellent scenery, beautiful region and very friendly community. I also loved the medals, it was very thoughtful for someone to hand make. THANK YOU FOR A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE!

I came to run a trail as I love trail running but ended up dealing with hills, puddles, gradients and so much more that I don't get to experience when I train on a flat pancake course in Palm Beach FL. Best decision I ever made to run Freedom's Run Marathon. Thanks.

Manish Sheth - Boca Raton, FL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ran with 8 guys from all over the country (West Virgina, Maryland, Penn, Arkansas, Texas) We ran to raise money for African relief. I had a friend in Inwood WV that had heard a lot of great things about the 1st race and we decided to give it a shot. We were not disappointed!

Marathon - Longview, TX

Great organization. No ridiculous bathroom lines.

Half-Marathon - Frederick MD

 

Beautiful course, friendly volunteers, gorgeous weather - could not have asked for better! - plus history of the area....incredible.

Marathon - Vancouver, BC, Canada

It was small and INCREDIBLY well-organized. You all did an amazing job. The t-shirts and medal were great, the support along the course and at the finish were just wonderful. Best race I have ever run.

Half Marathon - Alexandria, VA

 

I enjoyed how many activities there were and the encouragement of all participants and volunteers. I also thought that for a first time event there, it was well-organized! Great job motivating others to have fun, stay healthy, and help our environment!!!

Kris Connors - Lexington Park, MD

I enjoyed the historical aspect of the run and the aspect that I was supporting the local community.

Ron Johns - Martinsburg

I enjoyed the local "association" of the event. The pride and excitement that it was "in my back yard." That being said - kudos to Mark and his team for doing an outstanding job. My husband and I had committed to and registered for the Army 10-miler (which was run the following day) when we saw Freedom's Run announced. We wanted to support the efforts of Mark, the team of volunteers, and our community, so we ran the 5K. I promoted the event at my work in Virginia and 2 work associates completed the 10K and loved it. They plan to return next year. I wish local merchants would have "welcomed" participants more by shop window banners and even the bank electronic sign extending well wishes to participants. What a spectacular day it was. I think it was a fantastic turn-out for an inaugural event. I hope to train for and participate in the half or full marathon in 2010. I salute you all. I know you'll tweak the things that need a bit of adjusting for future events. I think you did a great job. I'm proud to have been part of your efforts.

Rebecca Ayling - Shepherdstown

I enjoyed watching the marathoners after I did my 5 K I was looking for a weekend getaway that involved history and outdoors, I decided to see if there was a 5K in the area and Freedoms Run became the main reason for getaway. Awesome!

Kevin Giorno - Philadelphia PA

 

It was a big race in my hometown, the organization and support were awesome!!!! This was my first half marathon and I loved it!! The crowd support was great and I loved the part through Antietam:):) I run better on hills and I had a great time. I would definitely do it again. The fact that it is so close to where I live is a major plus as well!!!

Michelle - Harpers Ferry, WV

It was close by and very well organized. Every runner was important. I got more than my money worth

Tom Huffman - Keedysville MD

It was extremely organized. The staff/volunteers were very nice and supportive. I really liked us being able to take the bus to and from the event. It was very generous of the local people and businesses to donate their time and buses. My sister, her niece, and I decided to participate. We discovered that Shepherdstown is a great "family reunion" spot for us because it is the half way point between NJ and NC. This was my first half marathon walk. The course was very challenging, but I feel very good about finishing it. The volunteers were very nice, supportive and encouraging along the way. I really appreciated them. I really like the fact that we had 5 hours to complete because I thought I could complete 13.1 miles in that time. That was enough incentive for me to practice and give it a try. My goal was to complete the walk. Now I am encouraged, motivated and working on speeding up my pace. We have decided to make this a yearly family event along with participating in other half marathons throughout the year. We have caught the half marathon bug!!! That wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the great experience we had at the Freedom's Run. Thank you very much!! I can’t wait to return next year! :)

Elizabeth Ridout - New Jersey

It was just an overall great race. Also the emails kept us well informed.

Felicia Albert - Thurmont, MD

 

May favorite part of the challenging Freedom's Run was the beautiful scenery. Overall, this was a great race! The race director did a wonderful job in the inaugural year! The volunteers were wonderful and extremely supportive! Great job everyone!

Stacey - Beavercreek, OH

 

 

 

Sunrise on the river This was a very well planned event. The communication prior to event was very much appreciated. The history of the people involved was quite impressive and was the main reason I decided to do this. The focus on people,their health and the environment made a very impressive statement.

Jean "Mama Jean" Evansmore - MD

 

 

Very nice half marathon course. Well organized. Nice free stuff! Didn't have a chance to stay for post race events. I drove in that morning from Silver Spring then drove home afterwards. I'd do the race again. I'm usually always signed up for a fall marathon so I'll either return and do the marathon or the half again. Thank you. Overall, I thought it was a great half marathon. Sometimes when there's a marathon / half combo at the same time, the half marathoners get the 'worse' part of the course (not as scenic, etc). This half course was beautiful. Loved the last 3 miles on the C&O.

Keri Jacobs - Silver Spring, MD

Very nice run through the battlefield. Excellent overall course. Great time of year. Not an overcrowded event. Excellent job! I really enjoyed the run. Best 1/2 marathon course I have run. Though I did not stay in town, I have visited previously and have really enjoyed the town.

Chris - Reston VA

Very organized, liked the free massage/acupuncture tent afterward Great job!

Meg Z. - Shepherdstown, WV

Very well done event. Affordable. Proximity to Hagerstown where I live.Overall - a day of great fun. I especially enjoyed the event up at the Bavarian Inn.

Steve Johnson - Hagerstown, MD

Very well organized and good pre-/post-race communications; good/interesting - albeit challenging course. I was VERY impressed with this race and the great organization of everything. I was also really happy to see the strong commitment to environmental sustainability, connection to the heritage of the area, and desire to help improve the health of the community. What a great mix. Thanks!

K. Mattice - Hagerstown, MD

very well organized, good course support, challenging course, small event (not too crowded!), liberal finishing time (my boyfriend did the early start) I have run many of the big marathons (NYC, Chicago, Marine Corps) but would do this one again in a heartbeat. The beautiful scenery, friendly volunteers and sense of history make this event one that will soon be on every runner's "must-do" list!

Kristin Swanson - Reston, VA

Volunteers, history of the area, weather Had a great time and was glad I could finish the marathon.

Luanne Turrentine - Centreville, VA