Provo’s Freedom Run: A family tradition since WWII

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Provo and Freedom Festival officials have been hosting the city’s Freedom Run for more than half a century. The run offers a family-friendly event for runners of all ages.

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A mother and son run together during Provo City’s Freedom Run on Saturday, July 5. The not-for-profit event has been going on for more than 50 years. (Maddi Dayton)

This year’s event was held in Kiwanis Park, where runners could participate in the one-mile, five-kilometer or 10-kilometer courses. The run is sponsored by the city and hundreds of willing volunteers. This has been a Provo tradition since the World War II era.

“The event is relatively inexpensive for participants. We try to make it as family friendly as possible,” said Scott Summers, longtime board member and volunteer. Provo City hosts the not-for-profit event every year during the Fourth of July holiday.

Runners started the day at 7 a.m. at Kiwanis Park. Each contestant is given a competition jersey, food, drinks, gifts and goodies at the finish line and a great environment and trail to compete on.

“This year we had over 5,100 runners who competed, with a majority of them choosing to run in the five-kilometer race,” Summers said. “Families and participants from over 20 different states and all throughout the county join with us in starting the holiday off right.”

Because each course starts at the same time, runners are constantly crossing the finish line at the same time, with more than 200 people crossing per minute. Summers described this spectacle as “a sea of runners, which view compares to the sight one sees at the end of the Boston and New York marathons.”

The event is not only for runners who want to enjoy the beautiful course the city provides or for those who simply want to start the day off in a healthy way, but also for families with members of all ages.

“We’re really not trying to make a profit with the event,” Summers explained. “We’re trying to get families motivated to get out and be active and celebrate the festivities together in a fun and exciting way. We tailor the courses for runners with all different levels of skill and talent. It’s really for anyone.”

Chris and Julie Hillman and their four young daughters drove all the way from Irving, Texas, to attend a local wedding as well as to participate in the fun activities Provo hosts.

“We were all really excited to run the event together as a family,” Julie Hillman said. “We’ve loved the celebrations that take place in this city that we discovered while we were here attending BYU. We couldn’t think of a better way to vacation and celebrate our Independence Day.”

The Hillmans were able to reconnect with the Hall family, who had driven from Surprise, Arizona, to Provo. As some runners compete for a new personal record at their distance, others, such as Dalton Hall, compete just to get out and exercise and spend time with family and friends.

“I actually forgot my running shoes, so I had to use my dad’s,” Dalton explained. “It was either that or use my Vans and get blisters, because either way I wanted to participate.”

Dozens of families could be seen wearing their customized family T-shirts instead of the jerseys provided by the Freedom Run organizers. Summers explained that for many families who choose to celebrate reunions in Provo during the Fourth festivities, they love to start their mornings off in a fun and healthy way by participating in the event together.

Looking ahead to the run in 2015, Summers suggested signing up as early as possible, as registration is less expensive than waiting until the last minute. The Provo and Freedom Run officials hope to maintain this 50-plus-year tradition to celebrate the freedoms the city enjoys and to honor those who fight to protect them.

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