Freedom's Run Marathon
05 October 2019
Before you put your shoes on to walk or run the trails and roads, explore the history of the land you will explore. We give great thanks to our partners in the National Park Service, the towns of Sharpsburg and Shepherdstown, and Shepherd University for the privilege of hosting this event. The entire marathon course is encased in National Park Land, with some brief detours through the country roads and preserved history towns that connect them. Near the start, there are occasional hollers from spectators, but soon it's just the soft padding of shoe on pavement, then shoe on gravel as we make our way through a field enveloped by fog and dotted with cannons. Hill's Confederates would have been more likely to hear the clatter of canteens and rifles rattling as they stumbled ahead—their pace was grueling, so fast that hundreds of Hill's exhausted men were left behind. Freedom's Run is the right name for this remarkable race. After all, Harper's Ferry is the place where abolitionist John Brown led a slave rebellion in the fall of 1859 that agitated Americans in a way that nothing ever had before. Authorities crushed Brown's uprising after a brief standoff, but historians still credit him with igniting one of the first sparks of the Civil War. Around mile four we pass a brick building, part of the arsenal where his raiders made their last stand. Settled into a comfortable rhythm. Crossing over the Potomac River on a pedestrian bridge. The river, glimmering in the sunshine below, is breathtaking.
The full marathon is a point to point with a small net elevation loss. You course 4.5 miles Harpers Ferry National Park, cover 10 flat miles on C&O Canal, roll over a country road to Antietam Battlefield for 2 miles, cover 5 rolling miles of the rich land of Antietam, and finish with 4.5 flat to downhill miles into Shepherdstown.
The scenic rolling hills of the lower Shenandoah Valley, as well as four of the country’s most historic national parks (Antietam National Battlefield Park), will be the setting at the Freedom’s Run Marathon, which start and finish in West Virginia and take runners across the Potomac River into Virginia for most of the race.