• April 23rd, 2017 • Ward Pound Ridge Reservation • Cross River, NY •
31st Leatherman’s Loop
Here’s a tale of one of the stranger things to happen at the Leatherman’s Loop: After the start of the 2017 race, one of our photographers, Michelle, positioned herself on the far side of Splashdown to capture photos of the runners coming in towards the final feature and the home stretch. There are a few muddy holes before runners reach the main river crossing. It is sort of like a “pre-wash” for Splashdown. Some runners truck through them, others leap over, and others work their way around them.
Michelle saw Wolf Koslow — a 3x Loop finisher going for his 4th finish — go down knee deep in one of those prewash mud pits. His left foot came up without his shoe. Oops! He took a couple of seconds to fish around and draw it out of the mud. He planned on crossing Splashdown one-shoed, but as he was scraping the mud off he noticed something wrong…
“This is not my shoe!” …. Hmmm. Many questions pop up at this new piece of information. Plenty of time to sort them out later…
Michelle told him “Don’t worry your shoe will be here after you get back from the finish.” Or words to that effect. She may have just said “GO! FINISH! I’ll watch the mud for you!” Words that only make sense in this strange context.
Wolf finished the Loop then came back and wondered again about the shoe he pulled out of the mud. Michelle had been there the whole race and no one else had lost a shoe before Wolf lost his. It had to be from a prior year — or perhaps it was a shoe seed, planted there to grow a shoe tree? Whoever lost it — and whenever they lost it — they never came back to retrieve it. What a state they must have been in to forget.
Wolf fished around upon his return to the spot and did eventually find his own lost shoe. But what to do with the now superfluous 3rd shoe (which also happened to be a left foot shoe as well)? Re-plant it back in the mud? Bring it to the lost & found (a bit late)? Tony heard the story and was seen heading off with the orphaned footwear. What happens next? Perhaps it will come out again next year… another loop legend born.
The mud was as brown and extensive below as the sky was blue and unbroken above. What had been forecast to be a cold clammy cloudy day transformed into one of the most beautiful days I have ever witnessed at the Loop. The days of rain in the week before the Loop had softened the course up. The big late March snow storms had primed the mud flats well.
Runners came in from over 300 towns and cities from 17 different states plus Canada, Sweden, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Runners came from states as far away as Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Vermont, Maine, Virginia, California, and North Carolina.
The Town of Bedford (including villages of Katonah and Bedford Hills) had the most local representation with over 200 runners registered. They were followed by Lewisboro (including villages of South Salem, Waccabuc, Goldens Bridge, and Cross River) at 116 runners. Pound Ridge plus Manhattan were 3rd and 4th. Stamford and Brooklyn tied at 5th for runner registrations.
Nine years ago David Ceisler of Katonah approached us with his idea to “Help Feed The Leatherman” — partnering with the Loop to have runners bring an optional donation for a food drive to benefit the Community Center of Northern Westchester’s (CCNW) food pantry. It is a natural fit with the Loop philosophy of lending a hand. Thank you to all the runners who pitched in — and thanks to David for starting and continuing this important mission.
Head registrar Judy Godino led the team of volunteers handing out bibs and shirts on the showmobile. Judy makes this look easy — but in reality it is a carefully organized and quickly moving cooperative effort that gets over 1,300 bibs and around 600 shirts handed out in just over 90 minutes. If anything unusual pops up, Judy is right on it with a solution. Keep the line moving and don’t forget your pins!
At the starting line Tony “El Copadre” Godino welcomed the crowd and declared that this year we were celebrating the Women of the Loop. The first year six women ran in the Loop. Thousands of women have run it since then and over 600 women were registered to run in 2017. Quite a healthy growth rate!
Tony recognized three people integral to the success of the race. He introduced Rob Cummings, assistant race director, who is in charge of lots of behind the scenes technical stuff and who was taking a giant group photo of runners at the starting line. Jeff Main, the superintendent of Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Jeff and his crew have been invaluable for setup, race day, parking, and post race. Jeff also wrote a song about the Leatherman’s Loop a few years ago (and performed it after the Loop!). And finally, John Baker, Director of Conservation for Westchester County Parks — and also a 10+ year Leatherman’s Loop runner. Early in the life of the Loop, John saved it from an early exit from Westchester County. He has been a strong supporter of the Loop ever since. He has helped to facilitate getting multiple trail races into Westchester County Parks including many in the Trail Mix Trail Series. John is retiring this year from his job in the Parks Department and he will be greatly missed by everyone.
Danny Martin, the Loop’s spiritual advisor, recognized the beauty and feminine happening all around us as spring births new life. He also spoke of the leading role that women are taking in birthing a new society. He invited runners to honor and support the feminine in our world as we run in the beauty all around us. Danny then led the runners in the Navajo/Irish Blessing.
In the spirit of the day, Danny handed back the microphone to Tony who introduced the two official starters for the 2017 Loop: his wife Judy Godino, head registrar for the Loop and Liz Cope one of the original Race Directors. Judy and Liz thanked the volunteers, the runners, and especially the runners. The countdown 3…2….1 Let ‘er rip! Started the runners!
A record field of 1,355 runners started out on the Meadow towards the turn and the entrance to the Fox Hill trail. From each of their vantage points, photographers Michelle, Carol, Patty, Deb, Ciorsdan, Ella, John, and Tom captured the thundering herd of runners released by the founding women of the Loop. The heavy rains in the days before had were still soaking into the dirt of the trail — mud was definitely a factor in this year’s race. Bram was waiting to capture runners in the first pine forest encountered.
Kimberly Bridge had throngs of fans cheering runners on. Carol and Patty photographed runners as they exited the woods. Michael caught them as they wended their way through the fisherman’s trail along the river after crossing the park road.
Runners then headed up “The Pit” — the first and smaller of the two sand hill climbs. At the bottom of The Pit, a Mariachi Band performed to boost the runners at the 1/3 point of the race and help with the climb. At the top of the pit, Tom was poised with his camera snapping away.
The water stop is just about the halfway point on the course. Just after that refreshing water is the famous Mud Flats. With the fresh rain from the prior week and the heavy layers of late season snow just a few weeks melted off, the mud flats were in epic shape. Lots of thrills and spills this year and Chris was there with his camera and best mud boots to capture it all.
The most successful mud flats strategy is to power straight through the middle of the trail, heedless of the mud. The edges of the trail are the most slick and they tend to have a slope which makes footing tricky and falls common. Add in the thorns of the Japanese barberry on the trail edge and you can see why experienced mud runners take the straight-on straight-through route.
Next the runners pass through Arsenault’s Alley just after the wooden bridge. Then comes The Wall. This part of the trail is a 100 vertical foot 45 degree climb up an old sand quarry. At the top bagpiper John Henken beckons with Scotland the Brave and Amazing Grace and other songs. Accompanying John is his personal Loop day driver Andy Hafter.
After The Wall, the real race begins in earnest on the Deer Hollow trail. The trails along this section are wide enough for runners with gas still in their tanks begin passing and moving up. The trails have moderate climbs and descents until the first left hand intersection when it becomes all uphill for just under a mile. This uphill is not super steep and it does have some flatter sections but it is a long climb. At the crest of this climb, runners may not notice, but they are at the highest point on the Loop course. Heading downhill after the soft summit, runners pass through the beautiful Pine Forest. At the bottom, Keith and Hailey had repositioned themselves and were snapping away.
The river trail leads out past Gary’s corner to the birdhouse meadow. Runners heard the cheering fans well before they could see them. In the meadow, Ella was positioned and capturing runners as they approached the final water crossing. Michelle was stationed in the pre-wash section just before Splashdown. Deb, Bram, Brian, and Ciorsdan were on the other side of Splashdown getting the newly soaked runners in all their glory. Bram’s camera shared some of the soaking as you may see from some of the photos — we hope it has dried out!
Full results are available here and below are some highlights:
Jacqueline Kehoe of New York, NY (originally from Katonah) won her first ever Leatherman’s Loop with a time of 48:52. Kirby Mosenthal of Briarcliff Manor was second at 50:24. Amy Peloquin of Bedford was close behind in 3rd (50:40). Thirteen year old Kelsey Crawford of Waccabuc, NY came in 4th (51:07). Madeleine Marecki of Sleepy Hollow, NY came in 5th at 51:21.
Lucas Meyer of Washington DC (originally from Ridgefield) won the 31st Loop and his second with a time of 37:51. He beat out his winning time last year by 17 seconds in tougher mud conditions. Luis Francisco of Mahopac, NY came in 2nd at 41:15. Third place was Benjamin Nilsestuen of Brooklyn, NY with a time of 42:17. Rounding out the top 5 were Robert Kehoe of Allentown, PA (42:57) and Benjamin Hopkins of Larchmont with a time of 43:02. Nine-time loop winner Tommy Nohilly of Goldens Bridge, NY finished in just over 50 minutes in his 14th consecutive Loop in his first recovery run post-injury.
The oldest finisher of this year’s Loop (and any Loop!) was John Young at 83 — who naturally won his age group. He ran with his granddaughter and daughter-in-law, pacing them through much of the course. The youngest finisher was 7 year old Mia Jacobson wearing the #7 bib! Youngest boys were 8 year olds James MacDonald and Charlie Farrell.
Eddie “the Plumber” Donlon ran his 18th Loop and it was unlike any other. He and Lisa McKeon (8th Loop) were the crew for Jim “Coach” McKeon (9th Loop) who had suffered a stroke only 3 weeks before the Loop. Undeterred, Jim stated his intentions to run the course again this year. Even though he was still feeling the effects of his stroke, he finished the course in slow and steady style.
Ultimate Loop veteran Joe Stanley completed his 31st consecutive Loop — an unbroken streak from 1987 through 4/23/17. It is a stunning achievement that keeps getting more amazing every year. Shirley Iselin ran her 22nd Loop, the most for any woman and an unbroken streak since 1996! Other notable milestones: James Reilly ran his 28th Loop. Nick Ohnell ran his 27th Loop. John Partilla ran his 25th Loop. Tim Debany and John Krazneiwicz each ran their 24th Loop. Geoff Steadman and Dan Wiley each hit #21 to break into the exclusive “blackjack” club.
For a complete list of the “Muddiest Runners” check this page. Page will be updated with new inductees from 2017 within a week or so.
We have lots of photos shared by our “Official Loop Photographers” and others on and around the course. Thank you to everyone who shared their photo memories of the day! You can become an official Loop photographer by taking lots of photos of the Loop and sending them in to us. If you have more than 100 photos from the Loop, we’ll make you your own album at the link below and send you a coveted “Official Loop Photographer” long-sleeved t-shirt!
A very detailed description of photos — by photographer and location — can be found here. Or you can click directly on our 2017 album site: http://leathermansloop.smugmug.com/2016.
Photographers Ciorsdan Conran, Carol Gordon, Patty McMahon, Deborah Burman, Michelle Blum, Ella Blum, Erica Leighton, Michael Graham, Bram Wegener, Tom Casper, Brian Vanderheiden, Chris Reinke, Chris Jaworski, Rob Cummings, and John Cummings were out snapping away. YOUR NAME CAN GO HERE AS WELL (if you send us your photos!). We have many different vantage points — the start, the mud flats, the pit, the first crossing, splashdown, the bottom of the pine forest, and others. Photo album link here.
If you have photos you would like to send us, the easiest way to get them directly to us is via this website link (http://smu.gs/1TxwrD9) where you can simply drag and drop the pictures. We have unlimited storage space at our photo site. Or you can send us links via Facebook or if you have your own albums on Flickr, Picassa, or another photo site send us the link. We appreciate all of the photos and love looking through them!
If you have any feedback, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. The only way we know to fix things is when we hear about things that went wrong. Don’t feel shy about feedback — that is how we make the event better. Your feedback is a gift you give to the runners next time around.
Thanks to Westchester County Parks and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation for hosting us for the 31st year. Once again we are indebted to the leadership and members of the Lewisboro Volunteer Ambulance Corps for standing by when medical help is needed during the event. We truly appreciate the dedication of the volunteers who give their time to come tend to runners each year.
Thank you all for coming out to run and to those who came to support your friends and family! We look forward to seeing many of you again at an upcoming race!
Tony, Judy, Mike, Rob and the Leatherman Harriers
The Loop is the first in the 2017 series of trail races called The Trail Mix.
Every runner in the 2017 Leatherman’s Loop is entered into the 2017 Trail Mix Series automatically.
Check these upcoming Trail Mix races (and some other favorite races of ours):
- A Mild Sprain 4.25M Trail Race (5/21) – Trail Mix Race #2
- Where the Pavement Ends 4.25M Trail Race (9/17) – Trail Mix Race #3
- Sarah Bishop Bushwhack 10k Trail Race (9/24) – Trail Mix Race #4
- Run The Farm 5M Trail Race (10/22) – Trail Mix Race #5
- Raven Rocks Run 10k Trail Race (11/12) – Trail Mix Race #6
- Rock The Ridge (5/6) 50k race and relay Mohonk Preserve, NY
- Rockwood Ramble 10k Trail Race (6/3) Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Sleepy Hollow, NY
- Church Tavern Biathlon 7mi bike/4mi road race (9/4 Labor Day Monday) South Salem, NY
- Mt Kisco 5k road race (9/17) Mt. Kisco, NY
- Paine to Pain Half Marathon Trail Race (10/8) New Rochelle, NY
- Where the Wild Things Run 5k Trail Race (10/15) Woodcock Nature Center, Ridgefield CT
- For a broad curated list of trail races from Virginia through New England, check this list from Essex Running Club member Chris Jaworski here: http://sundayruns.org/races
Last but not least – join us on our SundayRuns.org club website — we do group trail runs throughout the year Sunday mornings at 8am, Locations are available on the site calendar.
Links to some 2017 Loop Writeups we found or were tagged in:
- The Leatherman’s Loop by Danny Martin
- What I Learned About Grit from Writing a Book on Grit by Caren Baruch-Feldman