(Republished from old website)
By Don Heppner, The Lewisboro Ledger
April, 2001 • Cross River, New York
Last Sunday’s weather only helped to make the Leatherman’s Loop race a booming success for the 15th year in a row. In what has been touted as the largest cross-country race in the northeast, more than 725 runners followed a grueling 10-kilometer course over paths, fields, up and down hills and through streams.
Race winners were Gerry Sullivan with a time of 39:01 to lead the men, and Leslie Krichko with a time of 47:31 to lead the women. According to race organizer Tony Godino, Bill Bradsell was the first Bedfordite to cross the finish line.
Stanley Motley, commissioner of parks and recreation for Westchester County, was ecstatic with the turnout for the race at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, a county facility.
“This is just a great event,” he said. “It shows what can happen when government teams up with private individuals. They certainly know how to run a race and we have the facilities to allow this kind of thing to happen. This is a beautiful race in a beautiful park. “
“The race was a little tougher this year because of the heat and humidity,” Mr. Godino said. “We went through 250 gallons of water and had to get a great deal more. That is unusual.”
The rugged course can take its toll on race participants. Some runners became overheated and another sprained an ankle. George “Cannonball” Buchanan, an experienced runner from Stamford, Conn., slipped and fell, suffering a gash that required stitches. “The injury, just above one of his eyes, took 20 stitches,” Mr. Godino said.
Along the way, runners literally fell into a stream – eight to 10 yards wide and overflowing with cold water – that had to be forded before the final uphill tur. It had no apparent chilling effect on those who stumbled into the current. “I couldn’t feel anything,” one athlete said. “My body has been numb for the last mile.”
Other runners talked about the difficulties posed by running through the muck and mire. “It is harder to run through that stuff than it is to run through sand,” a participant said. “You actually have to work to get your feet up and out of the mud.”
John Bria, Pound Ridge town board member, and a longtime Leatherman’s Loop participant, said he was ready for the soggy soil. “I anticipated that mud and I made sure my shoes were tightly enough tied so they weren’t going to get sucked off in the mud. That would have been awkward, because no one is going to stop for you while you are bent over tying your shoes.”
The area around the race’s finish line is marked by a lone oak tree. Blankets dotted the ground at the base of the tree, where runners’ spouses and children sat eating bagels and drinking coffee or water provided by race organizers, waiting for their husbands, wives, or parents to make the last grade and approach the large oak.
The oak at the finish line was the goal, but for some, the hill leading up to it was particularly grueling. “The tree gets farther and farther away with every stride, Mr. Bria quipped.
Despite the agony involved, all those runners interviewed said they would return next year. “I wouldn’t miss it,” was the often-heard reply.
When asked if he would return to next year’s Leatherman’s Loop, Mr. Bria said, “When I finish running through the mud I say to myself, ‘What sort of idiot would do this?’” Nevertheless, he said he intends to participate in 2002. But Mr. Bria did remark that he couldn’t help but notice how young everyone around him was.