Despite a government shutdown and a series of constant rain showers, Freedom’s Run was a successful event. Over a thousand runners from different states throughout the U.S. showed up to the marathon and competed in four different race events.
Karen Pelton, a runner in the Freedom’s Run marathon event, shared her compliments on the event’s Facebook page saying, “So well organized, great volunteers, beautiful course and the medal and shirt are pretty damn sweet!”
As the runners made their way to the starting line, they were relieved to see no rain clouds; instead they saw clearer skies off in the distance. All four races — the marathon, half-marathon, 10k, and 5k — began in the center of Shepherdstown in front of McMurran Hall right along the King Street and German Street intersection. Each race began with a two-part cue by Dr. Suzanne Shipley, president of Shepherd University, to signal the start of the race.
The full marathon began at 7:30 a.m. and was to be followed by the half-marathon at 8:30 a.m., but the half-marathon runners were delayed a short time while the marathon coordinators waited for a train passing. Both the 10k and 5k began at their scheduled time and all runners were on their way by nine o’clock.
No sooner than the 5k began, did the full marathon runners begin to complete their first loop. There at the halfway point in the marathon route were a number of volunteers to cheer on the competitors and offer refreshments before the runners began the second half of the full marathon. Despite their initial lead over the rest of the pack, hopefully those who were first to the loop didn’t exhaust all of their energy only halfway through the course.
Mark Cucuzzella, race director for Freedom’s Run, published “How to Run the Freedom’s Run Marathon” on the event’s website and called the 5k and 10k races “all gas events,” warning, “Many runners are in great ‘10k shape’… then run their marathon in the all gas mode – and usually crash.”
Back at the Ram Stadium, the 5k runners reached the finish line first. Finishing in third place with a time of 19:39 was Chad Merrill, age 32, of Hagerstown, Md. At 19:30, the second place position went to Jan Smilek, a 15-year-old from Mercersburg, Pa. Another 15-year-old from Mercersburg, Gabriel Allgayer, who was only a few strides ahead, took the first place position with a time of 19:10.
In the 10k, Jack Conant, age 23, a local competitor from Harpers Ferry, W.Va. led the race with a time of 37:27, crossing the finish line close to three minutes before anyone else. Second place went to Timothy Bambrick from Brunswick, Md., and his time was 40:18. Only a few seconds behind at a time of 40:34, Ben Herrmann from Greencastle, Pa. nabbed the third place position. Just a few seconds shy of placing among the top three overall, Ethan Connelly, a 15-year-old from Sharpsburg, Md., finished in fourth place with his time of 40:49.
“I get a little nervous before the race,” said Ann Gentile, who is a half-marathon veteran and a current student at Shepherd University. She reflected on the run saying, “The hills were challenging,” but “the runners cheered each other on and motivated each other.”
The first of the half-marathon runners reached the finish line in little under an hour and twenty minutes. First place in the half-marathon went to John Laracy, 28, of Silver Spring, Md. with 1:18:08. Not far behind, Jacob Green, 29, from Ashburn, Va. finished in second place at 1:18:32. Then in third place, coming from Chambersburg, Pa., Tim Schuler, 50, crossed the finish line at 1:20:15.
In the longest event, the full-marathon, covering 26 grueling miles, Michael Wardian took first place. At age 39, Wardian, who is from Arlington, Va., led the pack with an impressive pace of 5:51 and finished the marathon with a time of 2:33:14. Second place went to Sean McGowan, 33, from Harrisonburg, Va. who kept a pace of 6:06 and completed the race at 2:39:46. Receiving third overall in the Freedom’s Run full-marathon with a pace of 6:19 and time of 2:45:42 was Dominic Grillo, 39, from Whitehouse Station, N.J.
In the end, the 2013 Freedom’s Run was a success thanks to all of the runners who traveled from across America despite the drastic changes in the marathon route, the more than a hundred volunteers, and those who, despite the odds, coordinated this impressive event.