By Gary Scarano
Note: An avid runner, Gary Scarano conceived of this challenging, organized group 23-and-a-half mile run through Harriman State Park. We’ll bring you his intro to technical running next week.
Starting Out on the “Race of the Living Damned”
It rained lightly in the night before the First Annual Irishman’s Suffern to Bear Mountain Trail Run in Harriman State Park, New York. Most people would not think much of it, but with all leaves down during the annual fall tree release, footing would be treacherous. Nevertheless, on a crisp, cloudless Saturday morning in November, six runners set out to run the south-to-north length of Harriman State Park, following the length of the Suffern-Bear Mountain trail, ending with an ascent of Bear Mountain and back down to Bear Mountain Inn — a total of 23.5 miles.
The run had its roots in a modest 5K-trail race with the Rockland Road Runners, where I met Alan Young, an Irishman who ran on trails. He came in first for our team and he was really fast. It was there that he told me that almost every year he ran from Suffern to Bear Mountain. I asked for his contact info and forgot about it for months.
At the end of the summer I was running on the trail between Haverstraw and Rockland Lake when I met another fast Irishman trail runner with a brogue, Tom. I remembered Alan and decided I should try to bring these fast trial runners together for the subtley-named First Annual Irishman’s Suffern to Bear Mountain Trail Run.
I contacted Alan and asked if I could get a group of people together to run with him during his annual crossing of Harriman State Park. He agreed, as long as I clearly described the dangers associated with this run. Here’s what I wrote:
“For experienced trail runners only: Twenty-four miles of very difficult, single-track trail will challenge you … Expect trail times between 6 to 8 hours for the inaugural Irishman’s Suffern to Bear Mountain Run. Not for the casual runner!”
Early Treacherousness on The Irishman’s Run
I was very happy with the 6 people that made it for the 24 mile run (see course, below). We met in Suffern at 7:30 AM, after leaving one car at the end in Bear Mountain and another car at the 13.5 mile mark just in case.
We were underway a little before eight am.
Right from the start I was having difficulty keeping up, and Alan, the consummate gentleman, stayed with Bill and me. At about Mile 4, we were going down a bare rock with a tree branch over it. I was behind Bill when the tree branch took Bill’s white hat off. I was just about to grab it for him when Bill made the mistake of turning around while still running down the solid rock to get his hat. He lost his footing and fell right between a tree and a fallen branch. He dislocated two of his fingers. He stood there and put his fingers back into their joints. Ouch. He said he was OK and we continued on.
Bruce would tell me later that it was the most difficult run he had ever attempted. With the rain and the leaves, he felt as if he was “skating” the entire time, keeping his feet close to the ground under the leaves, feeling for rock and steady ground. Nevertheless, he and the lead group were very fast.
I never saw Bruce, Chris, or Dylan until the end at Bear Mountain. They were so much faster than me. At mile four Alan took out the map and looked at this watch. He was very nice in his tone, but the message was simple. At the present rate we would not reach the end of the run in daylight. Only 4 miles into the run I had to make the decision I could not to finish. The lead group was already more that ½ hour ahead of us.
Dropping Out, Finishing Up — and a Deer Who Just Wishes We Could All Get Along
I asked Alan to please continue on. I did not want to ruin his run. Bill, who was also faster than me, was kind enough to agree to stay with me. Alan was off like a rocket and I found out later that he caught up to the lead group. Amazing.
About 7 miles into the run I was loosening up and started to run faster, and it felt great. But trail running always has a trick in store for you.
I didn’t see any trail markings and neither had Bill. We were lost. I took out my phone and got a GPS signal and we decided to bushwhack down the next mountain to a valley between two mountains to find the path. On the way down, my left foot slipped on some leaves and my foot went into a hole. Although I did not fall, I heard a crack in my left ribs, and knew that my spine was out of place. There was a sharp pain in my left rib and my organs on that side that one week later still hurts. If I had any ideas of finishing the race, they were now gone. Thank God we left a car at the 13.5 mile point for just this reason.
During the run, Dylan (The Deer Whisperer) had an amazing close encounter with a young buck. To see the video of this click here.
After Bill and I took the emergency car, we drove to the lodge at the base of Bear Mountain. It was a warm day and the parking lot was jammed with a waiting line. Originally I wanted to drive to the top to meet the guys, but I needed to protect my parking place when we got back since we were going to have a beer at the bar and take the car back to Suffern. Bill decided to run to the top by himself and was not planning on seeing the rest of us again.
I cleaned up a bit and waited for the “victorious” Alan, Chris, Dylan, and Bruce. See the photo below and cue the Rocky Music!
It was a great day. We all had a beer at the inn and went our separate ways.
Until Next Year!!!
Gary Scarano is a member of Rockland Road Runners (www.RocklandRoadRunners.org) and is an ultra runner. In 1984, ran with the Torch for the Los Angeles Olympics. He is the founder of ReachOut Communication’s Corp. (ROCC) online marketing, social media, and video marketing company.
Read Gary’s introduction to technical running next week on this site.