Countless road races dot the American landscape each weekend, with runners following painted arrows from school parking lots through city streets or flagged meadows in local parks. Most offer a distinct challenge: make the individual push harder than before while offering enjoyment and lifelong fitness. Regardless of the distance, whether a spirited 5k or a marathon, the race gives the runner a blank canvas upon which to become something greater.
However, not all races are created equal, nor provide the same challenges. Yes, the goal remains the same in regards to a person proving something to himself, but the experience varies, and no one place gives a more creative, unpredictable run than the Leatherman’s Loop.
The race, a 10k trail run held annually in April at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, New York, is a massively popular event, with the 900 spots filling up in a mere 16 hours. Combining all that Mother Nature can dish out, the terrain houses mud bogs, deep streams with moss-slicked rocks, steep sand hills, and paths barely wide enough for both feet side by side. Although the budding tree canopy can provide some protection, the pounding sun, which recently reached a record high of 90 degrees on race day, can sap your energy, and the punishing wind can make the race double in its perceived distance. Needless to say, the race is physically abusive. It is one of those workouts that will have you hating it while you’re doing it, but loving it when it is all over.
The atmosphere, one that is as supportive as it is fun, more than washes out the agony the race can bring. Runners can be found all across the course pulling others along, un-sticking them from the mud or pushing them up the hills. The sense of camaraderie bubbles over the second you arrive, as runners share advice, trade stories of duct-taped shoes and pricker-torn legs, and promise to meet for a drink at the finish line. No one feels alone on this day, with each person’s success seemingly everyone’s concern.
Regardless of your ability, take the chance and go. Train hard and enjoy the race that has the potential to keep you coming back for more. Not only will you have accomplished something physically impressive, but also you will have proved to yourself that almost anything is possible.