By Ken Posner, SRT Run/Hike Co-founder and Trail Conference Board Member/Volunteer
The third edition of the SRT Run/Hike took place Sept. 16-17, drawing 102 participants to the spectacular Shawangunk Ridge Trail. This unique connector trail, created by the Trail Conference, links the Appalachian Trail in High Point State Park, N.J, with the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in Rosendale, N.Y., and in so doing crosses the entire breath of the Shawangunk Mountains, which the Nature Conservancy has identified as “one of Earth’s last great places.”
According to race director Ken Posner, participation was up 40 percent from the year before, and overall 92 percent of starters finished their respective divisions, a very strong statistic for a minimalist format event which provides little or no aid or course markings.
The race consists of four divisions, ranging from half marathon distance to the full 70-mile length of the Shawangunk Ridge Trail. In the 70-mile division, 16 runners toed the starting line Friday evening in High Point State Park, and were soon running through the night under the light of a giant Harvest Moon and to the tune of howling coyotes. Daylight found the runners climbing the steep South Gully trail into Sam’s Point Preserve and then taking in spectacular views of the distant Catskills as they crossed Minnewaska State Park Preserve and the Mohonk Preserve. Zack Price, 27, of Lake Hopatcong, N.J., won the male division in a time of 21:05. The female division was won by Melanie Mueller, 29, of New York City in 23:15.
A special challenge for race organizers this year was the wildfire that scorched 2,000 acres in Sam’s Point Preserve earlier this year and closed many sections of the park to public access. As a result, the race was re-routed away from sensitive fire-damaged areas, and as an extra precaution, runners were required to scrub their shoes to ensure they weren’t tracking in seeds of non-native invasive species.
The race is organized by Ken Posner and Todd Jennings, who are co-founders of the Long Path Race Series. Posner and Jennings are also Trail Conference volunteers.