I’m in the parking lot of the visitor’s center at Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia, the first of four parks I’ll traverse today, waiting for the start of the Freedom’s Run Marathon. In the half-light of October dawn, the scene is surreal.

There’s a golden glow on everything, from the sculpted Blue Ridge Mountains above to the winding waters of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers below. At the confluence of the two, water has sliced through two separate ridges, creating a distinctive notch in the mountains. Meanwhile, a few runners wearing garbage bags to keep warm wander past.

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Runner’s World, September, 2013