Larry Bellorín is a musician from Venezuela, who is seeking asylum in the U.S. He thought his musical career was in the past until he met Joe Troop, a GRAMMY-nominated musician and North Carolina native who introduced Larry to the folk music and traditions of Appalachia, which seemed quite similar to the joropo he played in Venezuela. Their duo, Larry & Joe, is the realization of a dream for both musicians. It’s also a reminder for Larry of what — and who — he had to leave behind.
“Really, if we’re gonna tackle obesity, we’ve gotta look at what people are eating and what we’re feeding folks,” he noted.
History in the Race
There’s another theme to Cucuzzella’s races that he hopes will help get people out and moving – and that’s by incorporating the local Civil War history in the courses, and, at the same time, help boost tourism in the state.
“If you talk to people, they’ve come from all over the country, because this is a special place,” he said, “There’s history on almost every step of this course. This goes through Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, by John Brown’s Fort, pretty much touches every area of Harpers Ferry Park, and historic Bolivar, so they get to see things from the Civil War era.”
Of the 658 registered runners from Saturday’s event, 68 percent were from 23 other states and Canada. Some of the racers traveled from far away, but some live closer like Dubem Akunyli who lives in Frederick, Maryland.
Akunyli ran in the Kids Run, which is one mile, and he says he loves visiting Harpers Ferry.
“It’s really cool, and it’s really cool about knowing about John Brown and his raid, so it’s very interesting here, and it’s really nice, like with the trees, and all of the mountains,” Akunyli said.
Cucuzzella says a big part of his spring race is that any child under 17-years-old can run for free.
“Running is a sport that’s accessible to the entire world, in developed and developing countries. There should be no barriers to letting a kid line up and run, and some of the best runners in the world have been raised, you know, with countries where the gross domestic product would be less than our entire state of West Virginia,” he noted, “Running is the way out for a lot of kids.”
The local community also plays a large role in Cuccuzzella’s races. Restaurants, coffee shops, and others come out on race day to provide food and drinks. Local groups volunteer their time to cheer on the racers and help with registration.
Even the medallions awarded to the runners who participated in the Harpers Ferry Half Marathon and the Freedom’s Run in the fall are made locally.
That local potter is Joy Bridy. She lives in Shenandoah Junction, which is a few miles from Shepherdstown.
Bridy says it’s an honor to be part of the races, and she hopes by awarding handmade medals, it adds a little something extra.
“I think that it makes the race a unique experience, and people are looking for authenticity and unique experiences that really reflect the place where they’re going,” Bridy said, “so being able to run the C&O Canal and run up through Antietam, the battlefields, it really gives you a sense of where you are, and I think for West Virginia, we are in a very unique area, especially this panhandle; it’s not like anywhere else in the state, and it’s not really like Maryland or Virginia either, so we have a really unique, little place here.”
Bridy made 500 medallions for the Harpers Ferry Half Marathon. She will make 1500 for the Freedom’s Run. Bridy makes each medallion by hand and says making them is her “own marathon.”
Even though only a third of Saturday’s racers were West Virginia residents, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella hopes as his race series enters its ninth year, it will spark even more community involvement and continue to promote health in the state.
The 26.2 mile Freedom’s Run will be held on September 30, 2017.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.
According to provisional data, the state’s overdose rate fell from February 2022 to February 2023. The data shows that opioid overdose rates have dropped by approximately 8 percent, marking the most substantial decrease since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Master Sgt. Mike Wiley, a JROTC instructor at Monroe County Technical Center, has earned West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Above and Beyond Award for March, which recognizes excellence and creativity of Mountain State teachers.
On this West Virginia Morning, Anitra Hamilton was selected to serve out the remainder of Del. Danielle Walker’s term, and reporter Chris Schulz sat down with the state’s newest delegate to discuss her new position and plans.