Running Through History, My West Virginia Marathon

Antietam Battlefield
I picked the Freedom Run in West Virginia because of the great opportunity to run through 4 National Parks and experience a bit of American History that I haven't seen before.  This Marathon didn't let me down, not a bit. 
     I decided to walk to the start, so I had about a 1 mile warm up walk in the dark, through what I was told was a forest haunted by civil war ghosts, it was dark and I was alone walking through it, but no ghosts, maybe it was the light rain falling that was keeping them away:)

C&O Canal Way
The race started at the Harpers Ferry National Park Visitor Center.  A few rolling hills in the first few miles, the opportunity to run through Murphy's Farm, and then about a mile down a steep paved incline which was lined by a beautiful green lush forest and the Shenandoah River.
The incline was steep, I was glad it was early on because a hill like that at the end, my legs would be like rubber.  However, little did I know what was coming...

Historic Harpers Ferry
The race then ran through part of the old reconstructed town of Harpers Ferry.  (The National Park Service, had the buildings & shops restored so you can have an idea of what it was like both pre and post civil war.  The original buildings were mostly all burned down or destroyed during the war.
The town is also famous for it's haunted hotel's and ghosts that walk the streets in the night.)  I was bummed I didn't see them on my trip!
After the town, we headed up a bridge walkway.  The walkway is famous for a couple of things.  Once upon it you ran side by side with the famous tracks of the B&O Railroad.  (I was just thinking about the Monopoly game though as I ran over it.)
Merge of Potomac & Shenandoah
It's also where the large Shenandoah & Potomac Rivers merge together.  It's a beautiful canyon merge, rock wall mountains with lots and lots of tree's and foliage.  That is not all, it's also part of the famous Appalachian Trail and the beginning of the Potomac Heritage Trail which is also a National Park.
The rain had semi stopped until this point but when I got to the end of the bridge the rain started up again, and I got a running first.  We had to run down steep spiral metal staircase and of course the rain decided to start back up and make things a little more slippery.
From this point on, it rained steadily.  Not a heavy downpour, but just a medium steady rain throughout the entire rest of my race.

Historic Trail
Things leveled off from miles 6-13, just gentle rolling slopes but fairly flat.  We ran right next to the Potomac River, for this stretch of the trail.  Lot's of beautiful tree's mostly green, with the beginnings of fall in them.  The trail was packed dirt.  But with the rain and all the runners, it made a few spots a little bit muddy slippery.  There were also some sharp rocks poking out of the trail, probably made worse from the rain.  Covered in fall leaves, it really was beautiful, the perfect running  temperature, the tree's keeping the rain falling on me to a minimum.  I really enjoyed this stretch!  The only problem was because the colored fall leaves on the path blocked my view of the surprise rocks and holes.  I took a little too much caution and slowed my pace much more than I should have to avoid hurting my injured ankle or foot more than they already were.  That is the only thing I would change I wish I hadn't of slowed so much.

     Miles 14-18 things started to get pretty interesting!
If you don't already know, I DON'T like to view the courses beforehand too much, and I like to be surprised instead of knowing exactly what lay ahead.
HILLS, HILLS, and more HILLS.   We are not talking small 7-8% grade hills either.  Possibly it was because my hip was killing me and wanting to give out on me because of how I had ran to protect my foot from further injury.  Or maybe it was because it was the miles of the second half of the race.  But some of those hills I remember seeing them ahead and when I got to them looking up, and wondering how on earth I was going to get up these long walls!
Lower Bridge (Burnside Bridge)
A few in particular were just insane! (But fun too!)
However, after a little struggles around mile 15 something happened and I got what I call a 2nd wind.  (Might have had something to do with the Tylenol I took at mile 14 to help with my hip pain.  That and the hip pain was working it's way out or numb, sometimes you can't tell the difference:)
Plus, there was this really annoying guy who was giving step by step instructions on how to run to his friend (who was actually doing better than him.)  It was beyond annoying, and I needed to get away from it.  It gave me the energy to charge up the next few hills, although I swear his voice carried forever...  Finally the voice disappeared and I got a few more bursts of energy.

Now the 1/2 marathon merged with the full near this area, I only past a few of the 1/2 runners they were mostly off the course by this point.  The marathon had an extra out and back up to the bridge (pictured above).  I remember when I saw the HUGE hill that I was instructed to pass and go down the road I was slightly glad I wasn't having to go up it, it looked like a monster.
However, the out and back had several of it's own monsters.  Gave me an opportunity to see how far I had sped up and past the (annoying man) which I was almost a mile ahead of him at this point now.
Of course when I finished the out and back I then had to go up the massive hill I had previously thought I was going to get to avoid:)

Now this will sound gross, but I am running through Antietam Battlefield area now (The single most worst day in battle in American history.  Over 23,000 were killed on Sept. 17th 1862.)
My mind likes to run wild with imagination, and I saw what was likely the bloody remains of someone who had hit a deer on the road.  This made my imagination go and as I was approaching what is called "Bloody Lane" I thought that back on that bloody day in history the brownish/red stain on the ground was likely what covered this land, not to mention all the dead soldiers.
Sherrick Farmhouse - Civil War Ruins
While my imagination was running, I heard a single rifle shot.  I seriously thought I was losing my mind, or that I was beginning delirium...  But just as I was trying to decide if I had just imagined it.  I heard a few more shots.  Then a bunch of pistol shots, and a few miss-fires.  As I climbed to the top of the next hill, I looked to my left and there was a bunch of Civil War dressed soldiers out marching on the field, firing shots.  They were doing a reenactment for the visitors center up at the top of the hill.  This was seriously cool to hear while running through the battlefield.  Of course my imagination was really going now.  I figured what I was hearing timesd by thousands and that was likely what was going on that day back in history.

     One of the last what I called Monster Hills, there was a sign that said "Smile there is a photographer at the top".  So for the last 50 feet of the hill, I put a smile on my face and pretended to run pain free so that in case that was the picture I decided to order for this race it would be a good one. :)

Antietam Battlefield
Antietam Civil War Marker
Once up on top of the battlefield, near the cornfields of where the battles of Antietam began early one morning long ago.  The rain was still coming, and the wind kicked it up a notch, probably from lack of tree's or hills to block it.  I was really starting to get cold.  But with less than 6 miles to go, there wasn't much I could do about it.  So I ran on. 

There were still hills, but they were just large to moderate, nothing like before.  Which was good because I was really starting to get tired and my legs were just burning in pain from all the climbing.  I forgot to mention that all those crazy hills, also came a lot of steep crazy downhill.  I have strong legs because of all the running I do, but even my legs were getting tired and it was becoming harder and harder to keep them strong.
Potomac River newr Shepherdstown
We came out of the park and into Sharpsburg, and then past more parts of C&O National Parks.  Then finally the bridge to cross back over the Potomac came, and finally I was on the homestretch.  I could almost see Shepards University in the distance.
Finally the last .2 of the race came, and the stadium was within reach.  One last steep downhill and then a sharp left and down the football field to finish on the 50 yard line.
GREAT RACE!!!  The course was just beautiful and I loved it, the volunteers and race organizers were great!

A bus ride back to an area near the start and then I was told if I walked up a steep hill (wall) I would reach my hotel about a mile up.  I seriously cringed as I looked up, my legs were exhausted, I was freezing and shivering now.
So when a nice guy from North Carolina offered me a ride to the hotel, I looked up at the hill and said yes.  Now I am not one who normally gets into a car with a man I don't know.  But he was walking worse than I was, and I didn't want to freeze my tush off more with a tiring uphill walk.  So I decided to take my chances and accepted the ride. 

The race was great!  I spent 5 vacation days touring the area and visiting all the National Parks on foot.
The day after the race I drove up to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  I was very sore from the previous days ordeal, but in case I never make it to this part of the country again I just had to visit Gettysburg!!!
I took the 24 mile Auto tour, got out and stretched my sore legs at a few stops and walked the visitor trails.  Climbed the castle looking overlook tower, just about killing myself coming back down the stone spiral
steps.  Decided to climb one more overlook 98 stairs up, and 98 back down (Ouchy on my sore legs).  But if you are going to see history, you can't let some sore legs hold you back from seeing it all:)
I stood where Lincoln, gave the famous Gettysburg Address in what is now the Soldiers National Cemetery and viewed all the different battlefield areas and the really cool monuments they have constructed around the area.
On Right: Place where Lincoln gave Gettysburg address
On Left: Little Round Top Overlook Marker
Center: Lincoln Monument
I could write ton's more because it was a great Marathon trip, but I think you get the just of it.
If you love to run and like history, try the Freedom Run Marathon.  However, if you just like history you should try to take a trip to this part of the country.  West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania are all completely beautiful states full of lot's of places to see and learn more about Americans past.
Warfield Ridge
Now, the big questions.  How long is it going to take me to recover from all the muscle tears and soreness of this race?  Will I be okay if I run another one in a few days?  Time will tell....  Or a few days will tell :)


  1. First time to your blog and saw you ran Freedom's and had to comment. I've run this twice (2010 - my first and 2012). I absolutely love it!

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog! I'm glad you loved it too! That race is so beautiful, and well done. I definitely will make it back one day!!!!!

  2. I know this comment is a little late, but I figured I'd go all the way back to the beginning of your blog and catch up :)

    The data on the battle is inaccurate. I think you meant to say there were 23,000 casualties at Antietam. The number killed was around 3,650 (both sides combined). Still, it does remain as the deadliest one day battle in American history.


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