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Freedom Run turns 40

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Walkers leave the starting line at the Liberty Freedom Run event last summer. The 2018 run/walk event will be held Saturday in front of the Liberty courthouse. Walkers will leave the starting line at 8:05 a.m. this year. The runners will follow at 8:30 a.m.
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Moments from the beginning of the race,runners at the 2017 Liberty Freedom Run prepare at the starting line last summer in Liberty. The40th annual running of the event is set to take place onSaturday morning in front of the Liberty courthouse. Walkers and runners are both welcome to sign up for the 4.7-mile event Saturday. Walkers will leave the starting line at 8:05 a.m. and runners willfollow at 8:30 a.m.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

LIBERTY — There won’t be anyone singing Happy Birthday at the Liberty Freedom Run, prior to the event on Saturday morning.

But maybe there should be.

For a 40th year, walkers and runners will start at the courthouse in Liberty and make their way along a 4.7-mile course to nearby Brownsville, where the finish line will await.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s been around this long,” race coordinator Tim Woodruff said of the race turning 40. “We’ve been blessed with great participation and support for all these years, and that’s allowed us to go this long.

“It’s been a very worthwhile experience for all of us involved with it. We’ve had a lot of fun with it throughout the years.”

Held in conjunction with the Liberty 4th of July Freedom Festival, the course for Saturday’s event will start at the northeast corner of the courthouse at the corner of Union and Market streets.

Participants will go two blocks before turning west on Sycamore Street, crossing US 27 and leaving Liberty on Brownsville Ave. They will then proceed directly to Brownsville, where the walk/run will end at the main intersection in town.

While the course sounds plain enough, anyone who has ever completed the course knows that challenges stand in the way.

“Of course we are known for our hills,” Woodruff said with a smile. “But pretty much everyone signing up knows what they’re in store for.”

After tackling those hills on the way to Brownsville, transportation will be provided back to Liberty upon completion of the course.

In addition to the terrain of the race, heat is always an additional concern for the race, Woodruff said.

“I have people every year, and even some this year, that tell me they want to wait to see what the weather is going to do before signing up,” he said.

While temperatures have hovered in the mid-90s in recent days, Woodruff believes that the event might just catch a break on Saturday.

“The forecast is that the weather is going to be unbelievably cool,” he said. “If that holds, that’s really going to help out a lot.”

Just in case it doesn’t, and the sun decides to bear down on the participants, the course will have three water and Gatorade stations for those taking part.

Walkers will leave the starting line at 8:05 a.m., and the runners will follow with an 8:30 start. 

Awards will be given in the following age groups: 12-under, 13-15, 16-18, 19-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-47, 48-55, 56-63, 64-71 and 72-over.

A Clydesdale division for runners over 200 pounds will also be awarded.

Trophies will be given to the day’s top five male and female finishers, and ribbons will be awarded for each age group.

Cost to participate on Saturday is $10. While T-shirts were included to those who pre-registered, shirts will not be available those signing up on the day of the event.

The defending champion runners for the Liberty Freedom Run are Chelsea Halderman for the women’s division and Matt Hill for the men.

Halderman, from New Paris, Ohio, completed the run in 31 minutes, 51 seconds last year.

Hill, a 2014 graduate from Connersville High School, claimed top honors for the men last summer with a time of 24 minutes, 53 seconds.

Hill’s effort fell just short of the course record. Brookville’s Jeremiah Vaughan established that mark, finishing in a time of 24 minutes, four seconds in 2010.

The best time in the women’s division has lasted even longer. 

Richmond’s Anne Clinton holds the fastest time turned in by a woman, crossing the finish line in 29 minutes, 8 seconds in 2003.

 The number of competitors leading up to this year’s run have been fairly typical, Woodruff pointed out.

“I think we have about 60-70 people already signed up, which is pretty normal,” he said. “We have a lot of folks that wait until the day of the race to register.”

Having the race moved to the Saturday after the 4th of July certainly helped he added.

“Moving it to this Saturday, instead of the Saturday before the 4th allowed us to avoid competing with another run over in Richmond,” he said. “I think that’s certainly going to help a lot.”