With so much going on, participants at the Valley Forge Revolutionary 5-Mile Run® can easily overlook some of the poignancy of its Valley Forge setting.
But with a little awareness, race day can transcend a chilly Sunday and its hilly miles.
As race preparations for April 17, 2016, start to rev up, Black History Month presents an appropriate time to highlight one of its most significant memorials.
Rev Run athletes, toward the end of the course, find themselves pushing along the trail that parallels Route 23. Beyond Washington Memorial Chapel, to the east, a ten-foot slab of granite rises impressively.
This particular marker is the Patriots of African Descent monument, placed onsite in 1993 as the nation's only commemoration on federal property honoring those African patriots who served in the American Revolution.
It was placed through the efforts of the Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Paulette Jones, member, was involved with the project from its inception.
"When the Valley Forge Alumni Chapter was chartered, this monument was its premier project," she remembers. "It's what we set out to do, to correct a historical wrong."
The fix she and her organization were trying to enact was an official remembrance of the 5,000 African American patriots who served in the Continental Army.
"It's important to remember the sacrifices that were made for freedom," she says. "These black Patriots had committed not only to their nation's freedom but also to their personal freedom. Many were promised liberation from slavery for participating in the war. Some of them went in place of their masters. And sadly, some of those promises were reneged on.
"So it was a really important time that speaks of the price that people will pay for freedom, even today. It brings up a lot of emotion."
According to Jones, great care was taken with the placement of the monument at Valley Forge. "It brings up a lot of emotion when you think of all that happened in that location," she reflects. "It was one of the most brutal winters that had gone on. It was one of the most brutal winters of all time. And a lot of people didn't even survive it."
Within the park, the commemorative rests on the site where the Rhode Island regiments were housed. Rhode Island, under the command of General James Mitchel Varnum, was one of the first to integrate its fighting forces. The regiment comprised many soldiers that, in exchange for £250 per man, were freed for service in the Continental Army. The Rev Run route also takes runners by Varnum's quarters.
The tribute to the Patriots of African Descent depicts three soldiers of African descent, oriented to the left, the right, and center. Each is dressed in Continental Army style and is bearing arms. Above their heads, a flock of doves are peacefully arranged in a laurel wreath of honor.
They represent the last time U.S. Army forces were integrated until just before the Korean War.
Jones hopes that Rev Run participants - as well as anyone else who encounters the monument - come away with a heightened sense of awareness.
"People run by, and they might not even know what they're passing," she notes.
The key, she says, is education, one of the cornerstones of Valley Forge National Historical Park and its ongoing programming.
All of which are supported by Rev Run proceeds.
Registered runners for the April 17 race can take note of the Patriots of African Descent monument as they pass it, perhaps using it as inspiration to propel them to a big finish. Runners who have not yet registered for the 2016 Rev Run can sign up here.
Those who are participating in the Young Patriots Youth Fun Run or the three-mile walk can make it a point to enjoy the memorial once the official race has concluded. Once roads within Valley Forge have been reopened, families can safely drive to the location, park at the Chapel and walk the short distance.
The stirring inscription is as follows:
In honor of patriots of African descent who served, suffered and sacrificed during the Valley Forge encampment, 1776-1778
"Throughout these historic and hallowed campsites were courageous Black patriots who participated in the nation's bitter fight for independence."
Charles L. Blockson, Historian
Dedicated by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter, June 19, 1993