“Disclaimer: I received free entry to Fredoms Run Half Marathon race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”
Freedoms Run Half Marathon
The weather was perfectly cool for what has probably been one of my favorite half marathon experiences so far! I have spent the better part of 5 months training to run a Half Marathon under 2 hours, and the outcome was unexpected, but more on that later. Let’s talk shop.
West Virginia, “almost like heaven”, is a great place for an early fall half marathon. The season is fresh and the possibilities for cooler weather are nearly endless. Shepard’s town is a sleepy little village north of Harpers Ferry, and sits in the heart of the Antietam battlefields.
If you know me, I’m a history nut, and we discovered the Freedoms Run on accident when we planned a family vacation to Antietam two years ago. During a tour of the battlegrounds we noticed runners (okay, I noticed runners) trotting down the roads toting a bib which only meant one thing! Later in our hotel room I googled “races near me” and the Freedoms Run popped up.
So it should have came as no surprise, when I discovered this was a BibRave partnered race that I immediately signed up.
Friday, October 4th: Registration and Packet Pickup
Packet pickup was a breeze, the event coordinators did an amazing job of keeping everything orderly and structured. The race director’s email updates on registration, pickup locations, as well as the timing of events was spot on and provided excellent notice for participants to not be confused on race day.
They even had a large number of volunteers walking around during packet pickup that were more than welcome to chat and fill you in on all the necessary race details. I had a great conversation with a volunteer that gave me the scope on parking for the day of the race and I left feeling confident I wasn’t going to have any logistical issues the morning of the race.
Email updates included photos, maps, and links to addresses for various locations. Again, I can’t express enough how great of the job the team did on executing this race.
Saturday, October 5th: Race day!
The air was cool and refreshing as we gathered near town hall. I had layered up to combat the 46°F temperatures. The crowd was buzzing with excitement as music played from loud speakers on the front lawn. When the race director took to the mic, there was a silent hum of anticipation as he filled us in on some pre and post-race information.
The Mayor of Shepardstown gave his remarks, encouraged us to have fun, and most importantly thanked the running community for making this such a great event.
After listening to “The Battle of the Republic” and “Take Me Home County Roads” sung by a wonderfully talented young lady, the race was off!
The Course: in a Nutshell
The Half Marathon runs through Shepard College’s campus and down onto the Canal Trail. In this first few miles, the course is relatively crowded and has a few bottleneck twists and turns, but eventually opens up and gives you an opportunity to cover ground.
The RD said this was a called a “Run” and not a “Race” given the amount of hills on the course, to remember to have fun and walk if you have to. After the Canal Trail, there was an immediate climb at one of the very first inclines of the course. A number of runners took advantage of the walk method, and since I wanted to remove a layer of clothing and shed my gloves, decided to follow suit.
I honestly lost track of time in the first 5-6 miles. I was catching up on the BibRave Podcast, enjoying the scenery, and just happily trotted along remembering to sip on some water at the aid stations as I passed.
I wore my Ultimate Direction vest to carry my phone, car keys, and a few gels I picked up the day before. I felt kind of silly rocking the vest, but my go-to fanny pack is too small to tote my gear on longer runs, and I like how the vest gives me easy access to the pockets without having to stop.
The half marathon course takes you from the college campus up to the Antietam National Park. You get to run along the hilly roads catching some of the most beautiful views West Virginia has to offer.
By the time I hit mile 8-9 the course flattened out, and it was then I realized I hadn’t been keeping track of the time. My goal of crushing 2 hours wasn’t going to happen- but that was okay.
For the second time racing a half marathon, I was on autopilot and just enjoying every moment. My heart rate had remained in an aerobic state for over an hour and I was feeling awesome. The metrics don’t lie!
Once I saw the 9 mile marker something clicked and I just ran. I gradually increased my speed mile after mile and felt amazing finishing mile 13 at an 8:33 pace. In those last 4.1 miles I felt amazing speed and happiness. I was able to really flex my baseline fitness muscle by finishing strong and knowing that my next half marathon will be even better!
The Handmade Medal
This race was made even more personal by the handmade medals given out at the end. To know someone had sat down and made each medal by hand really reminded me how special this event has become.
If you ever were considering running this course, I’d highly recommend signing up! It’s an experience unlike any other! I know I had a blast!
Ken’s Final Stance
Hands down, every part of this experience was 5 stars. I felt well informed before the race that gave me the confidence to show up and know where things were and what I needed to do to prepare myself. The day of the race I felt confident in knowing where the aids stations were located and had an idea of where the course ran. Post-race there was much to celebrate and I think this is probably one of the better coordinated and cleanly executed races I’ve been to in the +5 years I’ve been running races.
Well done Freedoms Run!