HARPERS FERRY – West Virginia has been named one of the unhealthiest states in the country, but there’s one community in the Eastern Panhandle that is fighting to reverse this statistic.

Jefferson County is home to an ever-growing population of runners and races, thanks to the work of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, Katie Nolan Thompson and the team at WVU’s nonprofit Eastern Area Health Education Center.

Coming up May 18 is the 10th-annual Harpers Ferry Half Marathon and 5K. The race is a challenging and beautiful course through the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and the Civil War-era towns connecting them and includes panoramic views of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, a loop into lower Harpers Ferry and John Brown’s Fort. Even the 5K course includes a mix of trail, road and historical ruins that will leave participants wanting more.

Runners will get handmade ceramic half-marathon medals from local potter Joy Bridy and will enjoy local food and drink at the finish party. There will be volunteers along the way to encourage the participants through their final leg of the race. All youth 17 years of age and under can run the 5K free.

“Kids run free at our spring event because we do not want any barriers from allowing a youth to participate in a 5k and see the wonderful course,” Cucuzzella said.

The Harpers Ferry Half Marathon is a part of the Freedom’s Run Race Series. All proceeds from the events contribute to the Freedom’s Run Grant.

In 2018, the organization was able to distribute almost $40,000 to worthwhile projects throughout the region, putting a total of more than $230,000 into the community since its inaugural year. Race sponsors include West Virginia University Health Science Eastern Division, WVU Medicine University Healthcare, River Riders, American Public University System, Humana and Hollywood Casino.

Last year the event drew runners from more than 20 states. For more information or to register, visit harpersferryhalf.org or freedoms run.org or write to Nolan Thompson at Katie@freedomsrun.org.

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