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Keeping the community running forward as Bristol celebrates Independence Day

Thank you to Sarah Dell for collaborating on this op-ed.

As we get ready to celebrate Independence Day this year in a more traditional and festive fashion than last, another celebration is just around the corner: our Independence Half Marathon. This event’s return is an incredible display of our community’s strength after a year of COVID-19. Now that we can finally be in person, I encourage Rhode Islanders to come together and show their support for our resilient community

Run by Rhode Races, our Half Marathon on Saturday, June 26 is expecting to celebrate about 800 runners throughout the early morning race through town. Many participants plan to spend time visiting and supporting the town’s local businesses post-race, and dozens are eager to join this memorable race virtually. If you’re up early, help us cheer on our athletes who have been working hard to get ready for this event.

First launched in 2015, this half marathon, in partnership with the Bristol Fourth of July Committee, will follow the beautiful downtown streets of America’s quintessential community when it is decked out in its finest – during the Oldest 4th of July Celebration in America. The course includes incredible historic homes, the town common, and the America’s Cup Museum before heading out along the scenic coastline, through Roger Williams University and finishing along the water at Independence Park. For runners getting a chance to experience Bristol for the first time from this vantage point, it’s certainly going to be a morning to remember.

As the founder of Rhode Races and also the head coach of the girls cross country team at Mt. Hope High School, my appreciation for the sport of running has only grown over the last year and half, finding ways to create new paths for participation and inclusiveness among athletes of many backgrounds and abilities. Despite the challenging circumstances of the pandemic, our ability to impact the lives of individuals and the community is greater than we could have ever imagined.

We’ve heard incredible stories of resiliency and overcoming. During a time when it was easy to feel isolated through the pandemic, our road race organization worked hard to keep people engaged, supported, and “together.” Through free tools available on Facebook and Instagram, we hosted successful virtual road races (“alternative running events”) that allowed Rhode Islanders to stay connected and share goals while supporting their mental and physical health. Our ability to share and celebrate running successes and personal victories online created a powerful and memorable experience and built a stronger community – one that’s open to all abilities. We will continue these valuable virtual and in-person events moving forward.

Looking ahead to our fun Bristol race, this will be another powerful example of our resilient community. As we take on the new normal, it is important that we continue to support each other in a multitude of ways. We’re ready to welcome brighter days ahead. Our staff and volunteers are prepared to make this event, with a new course this year, smooth, safe, and successful.

Thank you, Bristol, for being a welcoming community that Rhode Islanders from across our state look forward to running through every year.

Susan Rancourt is the Co-Founder and Chief Running Officer of Rhode Races and Events.

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