Freedom Runs

Four world races to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of running

Running is a form of freedom.  It’s what we do when our basic needs are met, and there’s energy left to spare. It’s perhaps no surprise that people who’ve had their rights repressed, turn to running to express their new-found liberty.

Here’s the MR list of Freedom Runs. Each race has an inspiring story behind it. They are about people who have made a stand. So read the list, then put your foot down.

Boston Marathon

On April 15 2013, two bombs exploded near the finish of the 117th edition of the Boston Marathon. The terror attacks claimed four lives and injured 260 others.

In 2014, Boston residents turned out to show they were not cowed. A near-record 36,000 runners were registered to run and an estimated 1,000,000 spectators (double the normal crowd) lined the streets. “We’re taking back our race today,” said race director Dave McGillivray at the startline, “we’re taking back the finish line.”

Boston Marathon is all about determination. Just to qualify, a 18-35 age grouper needs to run 3:05:00 or faster. Reclaiming the Boston Marathon still continues and in 2016, amputee survivors Patrick Downes and Adrianne Haslet completed the race on prosthetic limbs.

Entry: 2018 entires now closed. Qualifying window for April 15, 2019 race now open.

The Great Kinder Beer Barrel Challenge

On April 24 1932, a band of 400 local ramblers climbed to the 636m plateau of Kinder Scout. The walkers from surrounding towns gathered at the highest point in the Peak District to protest their lack of access to open country. They clashed violently with gamekeepers, and organisers received prison time ranging from two to six months.

Today the Kinder Trespass is heralded for establishing freedom to roam, whereby UK runners and walkers have access to much of UK’s mountain, moor, heath and down.

The annual Great Kinder Beer Barrel Challenge started out as a late-night bet in the Old Nag’s Head Inn. Now, a maximum of 11 teams of eight competitors carry an eleven gallon beer barrel from the Snake Pass Inn, across country, to the Old Nag’s Head Inn. All teams get to enjoy the freedom of crossing the Kinder Plateau, but only the fastest team gets to drink their barrel.

Entry: Next race is September 8, 2018. Entry is online.

Barkley Marathons

On April 3 1968, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr gave his “I’ve been to the mountain top,” speech. “We, as a people, will get to the promised land,” King said, but admitted that recent threats to his life meant he might not personally get there. The next day, King was assassinated.

Eleven years later, in the dense woods surrounding the Brushy Mountain maximum security prison in Tennessee, King’s assassin spent 58 hours on the run. He had covered a mere eight miles by the time he was detained. On hearing of the escape, ultrarunner Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell mockingly claimed, “I could do at least 100 miles” – and the Barkley was born.

Only 15 runners have ever finished the Barkley since its inception in 1986. The five lap course of 100miles (although most agree it is far longer) must be completed in 60hours. A feature length documentary – The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young – was aired on Netflix in 2012.

Entry: April Fool’s weekend 2018…Successful applicants of a cryptic application process pay the $1.60US entry fee.

Nagasaki Peace Marathon

On August 9 1945, the “Fat Man” nuclear bomb was dropped on the port city of southern Japan. It was the second (and hopefully last ever) nuclear bomb deployed in anger, and occurred just three days after the first in Hiroshima. Despite bungled efforts to alert citizens, more than 100,000 citizens died, with warning flyers fluttering to the ground the next day.

Last week, at the Tokyo Marathon, the massively underrated Japanese running scene had nine runners cross the line in under sub 2hrs 10mins (only four Brits have done that this century.) The Japanese don’t really care about the London Marathon, (the Ekiden relay is far more important), and even some Japanese monks run a special initiation (a cool 1000 marathons in 1000 days.)

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bomb being dropped, the local government are organising the Nagasaki Peace Marathon in 2020. 10,000 runners will take part, according to a translated press release at Japan Running News. Hosted just three months after the 2020 Olympics in Japan, it offers a chance to soak up some of that international spirit.

Entry: Race website launched soon.

Matt Maynard

Written by Matt Maynard | 16 articles | View profile

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