It is with sadness but also hope that we announce the cancelation of Freedom’s Run 2020 which was set for Oct. 3. Sad because as a team we have overcome many obstacles in our 12 years, including a government shutdown and rerouting 4 events on short notice. Sad because we had studied the logistics of hosting a run based on what other communities are doing, as well as digging deep into what we know about how and where coronavirus is spread.  It is indeed safer outside.

Sad in the world’s response to coronavirus and the fear, confusion and mixed messages that have been so divisive in our community and communities all over the world. Some simple examples; maintaining liquor stores as essential business yet shutting down AA meetings.  Locally, we have just recently been allowed to open outdoor farmers markets with strict protocol, when all through this time many people could walk into crowded grocery stores unmasked and touch multiple items. Worldwide projection models which have dramatically changed the world’s economy have been exponentially wrong in most cases. The list is long.

I have hope though, at this time as we are doing things locally to show that we can safely open society up, educate the public, protect the vulnerable, save our small business economy, and let the children learn and play.  

Shepherd University campus has been open for a couple weeks with students arriving from all over and we are not seeing increased cases. Our schools are set to have students in the classroom.  Children must have this interaction as lack of education and social isolation is devastating to children and creates a wider chasm between those who have and have not.  And yes, young healthy people will be playing outdoor high school sports even in close contact.  Currently, with our low local case rates and more importantly extremely low hospitalization and death rates, I do not deem this risky. I believe we can show hope for other counties in our four state region who are completely shut now. We will learn along the way.

I hope that we have the opportunity to educate the public.  There will be cases here as we ramp up testing of young, well, asymptomatic people.  The entire Shepherd University staff, faculty, and student body were recently tested. As isolated cases appear we can reinforce the importance of avoiding risky behaviors that make an isolated positive test case spark a cluster of disease.  Sparks ignite fire in unprotected close contact of many, mostly in indoor spaces.  

Coronavirus is harmful and lethal in the elderly and those who have co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other diet-related diseases.   

As we continue to see cases, and we likely will for the next several months, if not years, we can reaffirm the importance of protecting the vulnerable as well as the importance of getting healthy yourself. As we search for better treatments and a vaccine for the coronavirus, I hope we move from hiding from the virus to building a healthy host, which is you!

The coronavirus has brutally exposed our nation’s ill health. Those with co-morbidities are many times more likely to suffer worsened outcomes from coronavirus including death. I wrote about this in April in an article titled “Is It Time To Quarantine Junk Food?” (found here Had we flattened the still-rising curves of these diseases, it’s quite possible that our concerns with the virus would today look very different. We continue to debate what masks, if any, should go over our mouths. My hope is we shift the conversation to the food that goes into them.

Two weeks ago, I virtually testified in front of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee who will frame the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for America.  You may not care much about the DGA, but it greatly affects what is served to children at school, those in poverty, the military, as well as shapes public opinion. Indeed, the first version of the DGA created the ill-fated “food pyramid” and the parallel explosions of highly palatable carb heavy foods and obesity.

I petitioned for change and getting sugar out of schools and acknowledging the power of real food low carb diets for obesity and diabetes.

We did it at my hospital, Jefferson Medical Center, by removing all the sugar drinks and providing a low carb pathway for diabetes remission.

This week, I am in the Pacific Northwest training military members in health and fitness. We speak of the vital importance of the fuel they consume.  

In 2010, a group of retired generals published “Too Fat to Fight,” a report sounding the alarm on how diet-related conditions threaten America’s fitness on the battlefield. In West Virginia, less than one in four are eligible to enter military service with obesity the major disqualifier.  I received an education and work experience though the U.S. Air Force. Many worthy youth are now deprived of the opportunity. I hope one day we will have a nation of fit and youth ready to serve.

Many have asked us why we cancelled Freedom’s Run, as we worked hard to provide safe options for our event. With so much uncertainty as schools start to open and tourists are starting to re-enter our community there has been significant community concern about hosting any event.

Running events are not essential activity. We listened and respect that concern. We responded to these concerns in an editorial a week ago in another publication.

We have been in close collaboration with our hospital nonprofit, the Corporation of Shepherdstown, and the County Health Department and concerns exist, rightly so, from those areas. With the priority being the well-being of our runners, volunteers, sponsors, and community at large, we made the difficult decision to cancel for 2020.  The most recent mandates from the local and state governments in West Virginia and Maryland have also made this imperative for an early October date.

As runners ourselves, we are certainly disappointed. We know the dedication and excitement that goes into training, but taking time away from races also allows us to remember why we run – because we love it. We hosted 3 running camps safely this summer and it was wonderful to watch the children get out with physical distancing but not social distancing. There is a difference. We are hoping that in December we can offer a local friendly type of run, if that can be pulled off safely, so stay tuned.  We at Freedom’s Run want to get you outside, moving, staying healthy, and staying connected to the community of runners.


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