Freedom’s Run is a point-to-point race from Harper’s Ferry to Sharpsburg.
The small race tops-out at 1000 runners and this year there were less than 400 in the full marathon. There were loads of 50-state runners anxious to check-off both West Virginia and Maryland in a single run.
The course itself is as beautiful as it is drenched in American history. The starting line is at the Harper’s Ferry National Park Visitor’s Centre and the run goes right through the middle of the historic part of the town before crossing the Potomac River and taking the runners down 11 flat and beautiful miles along the abandoned C&O Canal – another national park and popular cycling/hiking trail system filled with ruins of old iron works, lock stations, and more.
At mile 15, just as we were all getting tired of the long flat riverside canal trail, the course darted away from the water and began a rapid climb.
Eventually, the route heads into the Antietam Battlefield (a Civil War battlefield and the site of one of the bloodiest days ever in the United States). This is where things get real. Five miles of steadily rolling hills with steep downs and ups are not the most welcome terrain for the back half of a marathon. It’s amazing to run through such history and is really quite beautiful in the fall. The roads through the battlefield are covered in monuments to both the union and confederate soldiers and historic markers point out the locations of key parts of the battle – read-up on Antietam before the race and you’ll have a wonderful time exploring (and just might manage to distract yourself from the climbs).
The final 6 miles of the race are fairly flat or at least more gradual in its ups and downs and the final few yards of the race are run right up the football field at a local college. They gave us all free pizza, access to showers, and a free beer at a giant Oktoberfest party going on across the street from the finish line.
In all, it was quite a fun event. With all of the hills in the second half, I wouldn’t go to this course to set a personal best but it was a really cool training run. It’s also a small event that, if you’re reasonably quick, you very well could walk away with some prizes (I was the top Canadian and, despite going at a relaxed pace, still came in 4th in my age group).
The only thing I’ll fault the race organizers on was the pasta dinner the night before. Skip it. It’s just dorm food and, for us, there wasn’t even any real pasta on the university’s menu that night. There are plenty of better options right in Harper’s Ferry.