Great Loop Article in Bedford-Katonah Patch

There is a great Loop article in the Patch website for Bedford-Katonah.  A must read!

Here it is in case it goes away for some reason:

Leatherman’s Loop Not Your Typical 10K

Runners go for fun, not speed, in this wet and muddy trail race.

Vaseline, duct tape, disposable sneakers, a change of clothes and a can of beans may not sound like requisites for your typical 10K race.

Then again, there’s nothing typical about the Leatherman’s Loop, to be held for the 24th year on Sunday at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River.

Named after after a mysterious and legendary 19th century wanderer, a Frenchman known as the Old Leather Man, the race has a reputation for being more about communing with nature than posting a winning time.

Race founder Tony Godino, who lives in Bedford, speaks in reverent tones about the native people who once inhabited the course trails, and the race even has its own spiritual advisor. And he’s particularly proud that it’s corporate-free.

“The park is really a sacred ground and the only people who support the the race are the participants,” he said. It’s an all-volunteer run event, with help from Race Director Mike Paletta and his wife Kate Paletta, and Assistant Race Director Rob Cummings. After paying the bills, there’s enough left to support a few local charities, too.

From the starting signal—always a surprise; it’s been an airhorn, a major league pitcher and a pistol in the past—to the final water crossing, nicknamed “splashdown,” runners negotiate a range of terrain, from flat and dry meadows to deep, wet mud flats, over rocks and logs and up a 45-degree wall.

The supply list for the race is peculiar, but necessary, runners say.

“Rob [Cummings] told me to apply vaseline between my toes,” said first-time Looper Christine Petrella of Katonah. “The wet conditions can lead to blisters.”

Petrella is not an experienced trail runner but has been training on dirt-road conditions near her home on Mt. Holly Road. She wanted to run because of the unique elements of the course, and because it was closeby—the race is almost like a rite of passage for Katonah residents, she said.

Beyond the surprise cue for the race’s start, Godino is always looking for ways to spice up the race.

“We’ve had a mariachi band in the past, and this year it’s bagpipes,” he said. This year runners will be treated to a race start by Caballo Blanco, who is featured in Chris McDougal’s book, Born to Run, he said.

The Community Center of Northern Westchester will be collecting food donations through their “Feed the Leatherman” food drive (thus, the beans) and author Dan DeLuca will be on hand to sign copies of his new book, “The Old Leatherman.”

Bedford resident Sonja Lovas returns to the Loop for her third year and says her favorite part is the mud flats because it reminds her of getting dirty as a playful young girl.

“When am I going to get the opportunity to play in the mud now?” she said. “It all cleans up so it’s no big deal.”

Lovas said the most challenging part of the course is the gravel hill—nicknamed the Wall—because it feels like a vertical climb. Keeping her shoes on in the mud is no longer a problem because she’s followed the advice of race veterans and taped her shoes to her feet (thus, the duct tape).

Patty McMahon of South Salem is also running for the first time. “I’m just glad I got a spot in the race,” she said, referring to the online vying for registration spots that took place on January 1. Online signups began on January 1 at 12:01 a.m. and in just two hours, all 1200 spots were filled.

The race usually caps around 900 runners but due to a registration snafu, this one-time expanded field gives more runners the opportunity to experience the spirit of the Leatherman tradition.

Aarti Comstock of South Salem, also a novice to the Loop, went on seven Sunday morning training runs in the reservation leading up to the race. Cummings coordinated the runs and helped newcomers train, she said.

“Rob has been incredibly helpful, it’s his passion,” said Comstock. “I can’t think of any other race I’ve run in which I’ll know so many people. It’s special and a real community tradition.”

Looking Good for Sunday…

Leathermans Loop News Volume 24, Issue 7: Looking Good For Sunday

Hello Again!

There are directions, a road map, and ‘points of interest’ map of the parking/starting area on the website here:

Directions and Maps
Loop map with key features

If anyone will be taking photos either as a runner or a member of the crowd please get in touch and don’t forget to send your photos after the Loop!  We are also interested in group photos from the Loop. 

It’s looking good for Sunday!  Current forecast calls for 70% chance of rain.  The course is relatively dry now but we expect the rain to soften things up a bit. 

Look for one more email Saturday with final notes and inspiration.

-Mike, Tony, Kate, Rob, Bill, and the Loop Volunteers


Group Run #7: Report

It was a perfect day for a run!  We had around 30 folks come out for the group run this past Sunday morning at the Reservation to run the Loop course.  Many of the runners had joined the group runs the past six sundays but there were a few new faces.  Most were local to the area but we did have a few from farther afield. Chris even made it up from New Jersey. 

The group split into two and headed out on the Loop course from the mostly empty Meadow parking lot.  The lot will look very different next Sunday…  The course was soft but not too wet.  The first turn into the woods had puddles but not much else.  There is always mud on the horizon though!  The water level was on the low side at the first crossing after being torrential just a few weeks before.  The first boardwalks on the brown trail were bouncy—tread carefully or avoid them in a crowd.  After a water stop we headed into the Mud Flats where all pretense of staying clean was quickly wiped away.  It would take a severe drought to dry up this part of the trail and it hasn’t happened yet.  The sand on “The Wall” helped to remove the caked on mud.  The Deer Hollow hill trail seems to stretch out every year!  The pine forest made our footsteps quiet as the bed of needles absorbs the sound.  Coming down the switchback back along the river the final mile was flat and fast with plenty of room to pass for those who have the energy saved.  The exit onto the meadow before Splashdown was a little squishy but nothing compared to what’s ahead.  The Splashdown crossing is in fine shape with the current quickening as you near the opposite bank.  Those last 200 yards to the finish were tough but we pressed all the way through. 

imageI think the first group finished in about an hour and ten minutes but there were definitely some who could have gone faster than that!  It was a great team effort with a lot of conversation and camaraderie on the trails.  The second group came out at about the 2 hour mark.  The kids did a great job and most insisted on crossing at splashdown!  Tony Godino arrived just as the first group was finishing.  He was starting to mark the course to get a jump on a busy week of preparations.

I forgot to take photos at the start but I did manage to take two “after” photos of the different groups (below).  A few folks from the first group are missing as they had to leave but they know who they are. 

imageIt was an honor and an inspiration running with everyone these last 7 weeks.  In all I think we had around 50 different people running the Loop trails!  Lee gets the prize for making all 7 group runs, even once when it was only the two of us (that it was a very wet day and also the morning of the daylight savings time!).  If anyone is still up for running the trails on Sundays after the Loop we can keep it up.  Let us know in the comments.

See you all this Sunday…

One Week To Go!

Leatherman’s Loop News, Volume 24, Issue 6: One Week to Go!

All Registered Loop Runners:

Seven days and counting…

Here’s a handy bunch of maps and directions that should help you get on your way to the Loop.

Bib pickup will begin at 7AM on the day of the Loop.  Bibs are kept in alphabetical order by last name.  If you ordered a t-shirt it will be noted on your bib label and you can get the shirt at the same time you pick up your bib. 

Dogs are welcome at the Park but you must obey the Park’s leash law at all times (not just during the Loop).  There will be many other dogs around—not to mention the wildlife at the park and other guests.  Even the best behaved and trained dogs can be unpredictable in crowds and near wildlife.  If you plan to run with your dog please stay back at the start to minimize potential problems with the large crowd.  Please keep your dog leashed!

imageTo help those runners interested in


to the Loop, we have set up a discussion board forum that will help you find other runners in your area that may be offering or needing a ride.  Thanks to runner Noah Pearce for the great suggestion!

If you are planning to “Help Feed The Leatherman” please bring your food pantry donation to the Loop on April 25th.  Your generous donation will go to the Community Center of Northern Westchester and will directly benefit families in need.

A reminder from the Pound Ridge Reservation park management: On Sunday PLEASE respect the park speed limit of 15 MPH while driving on the park roads.  Take special care driving the roadway into the park and to the parking meadow.  It is going to be tight parking and we’d like to pack ‘em in! 

Plan to arrive early…  The Loop starts at 9am.  Plan to be at the park before 8:30am to get your bibs (and t-shirts if ordered).  Remember – there is no same day registration.

There will be volunteers directing the parking and guiding cars to park efficiently.  Please follow their directions. 

The course looks good after some bushwhacking by a crack team of Leatherman Harriers volunteers yesterday.  Never fear—there are still some nice obstacles and ‘special trail surprises’ to keep you all on your toes.  The 7 day forecast calls for rain on Sunday.  The Loop goes off rain or shine.

Have a safe trip—CAR POOL if you can!  Park & Ride from Katonah train station lot on Woodbridge Road or John Jay High School on Route 121. 

If you missed the earlier detailed instructions and logistics email, click here to read it on the website.  If you want to make sure you are registered check here: Searchable list of registered runners.  Any questions about this list please contact us.

Look for two more brief updates before the Loop…  See you on the 25th!

-Mike, Tony, Kate, Rob, and the rest of the Volunteers

Founder’s Newsletter: Humble Beginnings

In his Canticle to the Cosmos series, quantum physicist Brian Swimme stresses the need for each of us to know our “story.” He takes us back twenty billion years to the “original fireball” in an effort to help us “regain our reverence for the earth and all life.” To help us “activate our human sensitivities to the world around us.” To “regenerate our spirit” and “tremble with awe at the mysteries before us.”

Sounds like a plan.

This writing will attempt to give you parts of the story of the Leatherman’s Loop event while being mindful of it’s mysteries and it’s spirit. It is not required reading. Might be a good time to lace up the shoes and hit the trails.

imageBack Country Bushwhack

In the mid 1980’s, Mickey Yardis directed a five mile trail race called The Back Country Bushwhack. It took place on a private estate in Greenwich CT owned by Fuzzy Perry and was a huge success. Dave Cope and I were anxious to promote the new Leatherman’s Loop event and saw an opportunity to solicit the Bushwhackers. The big problem was that Mickey was (and still is) a friend. It just didn’t seem right to plaster all of the cars at his event with Leatherman’s entry forms. Tim Parshall (long time tee shirt artist) came up with a solution in the form of a paper-mache moose head. I was able to finish the race and position myself at the end of Fuzzy’s driveway with five hundred entry forms. As the cars exited the estate after the race, they saw a curious sign that said “Stop for Moose” and took the race flyers from the Moose.  The Loop was off and running.

imageSome key players

Dave Cope—Founder. Course designer. long time co-director. Second place finisher behind Joe Stanley in 1987.
Ken Littlefield—Course designer, Earned belt buckles by completing five 100 mile trail races.  Known for legendary toughness.
Mickey Yardis—Bushwack race director. Long time director for numerous running events in Greenwich Ct..
Liz Cope—Long time co-director of the Loop.
Jim Gerweck—Editor at large for Running Times Magazine.  Long time coach, trail running advocate, and race timer. Friend of the Loop.
Judy Godino—Long Time co-director of the Loop
Tony Godino—Founder. Course designer. Long time co-director.

imageIn 2007, the old and tired team of directors turned the event management over to Mike and Kate Paletta with tremendous help from Rob Cummings. The Loop is in good hands.

imageThe Meadow Oak

Loop participants often talk about the amazing spirit that is always present at the event. I believe that some of that spirit comes right through the root system of the Meadow Oak. Yes it was brought down in a sudden windstorm nearly three years ago but that doesn’t seem to matter.  It chose to be the finishing point for the race.  There was never any discussion.

Shortly after it was brought down, two separate groups of Native American people came to do ceremony next to its trunk.  Altars, drumming, sage burning, chanting, song. The works.  What was that all about?  Where did they come from?  How did they know?  Hundreds of remembrances and condolences were hand written into a spiral notebook by non native folks.  It is good to be open to the magic that comes to us through nature.

imageThe Teepee

Teepees were never used by the Native People in the Northeast.  They are Plains Indian dwellings. We pitch one every year at the Loop and allow it to serve as a symbol of alternative ways of relating to our environment.  My spirit soars every race day morning at sun up when I catch my first glimpse of the teepee in the field.  My hope is that some of you are similarly moved.

imageThe people who roamed the land which is now the Pound Ridge Reservation called themselves Wiechquaeskecks. They were a small sub group of the great Algonquin nation and shared the territory with other groups such as the Tankitekes, the Wapping, and the Manhattan. After nearly a ten thousand year presence, most of them were killed by diseases brought in by the early Dutch and English settlers. By 1644 their numbers had been reduced to about 700 and they took refuge for the winter in three long houses in a place called Nanichiestack. Loosely translated it means “a place of safety.”  Under a full moon on the night of February 22nd, 1644 they were massacred by English mercenaries hired by the Dutch. The men were shot as they came out to defend those inside. The women and children and elders all died after the order was given to set fire to the structures. All, including the children, died in total silence.

Part of me regrets feeling the need to share that sad piece of history with all of you.  You need to know that the trails that you will be running, they once ran. The streams that you will be crossing, they once fished. The fields where you will gather, they once farmed.

imageEnter Caballo Blanco

This will be very brief. My suggestion here is that each of you get your hands on a copy of the book BORN TO RUN by Chris MacDougall and give it a read. You will get to know Caballo but more importantly you will get to know the Raramuri people and their amazing history as legendary runners. At the very least take a look at the YouTube video called Super Athletes of the Sierra Madre.

Danny Martin

Some of us are blessed by having Danny as a friend. All of you should get to know this amazing man who serves as the Spiritual Advisor for the Loop. He is a scholar who is deeply involved with family, community and environmental concerns. Each year he gifts us his pre-race blessing which sets the tone for the challenge ahead.

imageBefore Will Harlan won the 2009 Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon he was offered some words of wisdom from a Raramuri (Tarahumara) elder. Short and to the point.

“Observe the ceremonies”
“Protect the forest”

Danny manages to incorporate each of those pieces into his life. Like the old Lorax, he speaks for the trees and the air and the water.  He has asked me on as a “Spirit Ambassador” to assist with some events that are still in the planning stages. Great things to come and I will update all of you who are interested as they develop.

Final Thoughts

I apologize to any of you who thought that the Leatherman’s Loop was just another muddy trail race and didn’t see the relevance in most of what you just read. I have searched for the exact location of Nanichiestawack for many years and will continue to search. The quest has become part of who I am.  Much in the same way, the Loop has worked it’s way into my psyche. I have lived long enough to feel comfortable in expressing myself in an emotional unguarded manner.  I hold each of you in high regard and consider you friends.

Bless you all,


[Click here for second edition of The Founder’s Newsletter (from 2011)…]

Group Run #6: Report

imageOn the penultimate Sunday before the Loop, we had eight intrepid runners (Ciorsdan, Lee, Aarti, Virginia, Brian, Chrissy, Patty, and Rob) on this perfect day for a run in the woods.  Loop founder Tony Godino came to send us off which was an unexpected treat!  The trails were the driest seen all season.  There was still plenty of mud on the trails, but it was a bit easier to avoid than in prior weeks. 

We headed out along the Deer Hollow trail that goes alongside the Waccabuc River and then joined up with the Loop course at about the 4 mile mark.  Since we had done just under a mile to get there, it felt very different than it will in less than 2 weeks.  The long gradual Deer Hollow Hill goes on for just under a mile into the Pine Forest section of the course and then downhill to the switchback at the river.  The Brown trail becomes the course at this point, following the river on the north side. It leads out towards the Splashdown (second water crossing) and the Meadow finish.  The water level has lowered considerably back to normal seasonal levels but we opted for the bridge near the park offices.  As it turned out, Sunday morning was the only time the Loop organizers could get together with the Park management to go over last minute details and logistics.  Rob peeled off to attend that meeting while the rest of the group headed into the woods via the Fox Hollow trail, Brown Trail (riverside) and then up the Brown Trail Hill (steep!) back towards the Town Park. 

Next week is the last group run Sunday before the Loop and we’d like to try our hand at the entire 6.2 mile Loop course in a ‘wet run’ (i.e. we will be doing the water crossings, rain or shine).  Meet at the Meadow Parking Lot at Pound Ridge Reservation at 8am Sunday April 18th and we will run the whole Loop course if folks are up for it (there are alternate routes if anyone wants a shorter run).  It won’t be a race, just a group run to check the terrain and conditions.  Hope some folks can join us!  The past six weekends have been fantastic and very motivating.  I hope those folks who joined in enjoyed the experience.

Two Weeks To Go…

[note: this email was accidentally sent to some folks who are NOT registered.  Our apologies—there are no additional spots available this year. See bottom of this post for link to a list of registered runners.]

Leatherman’s Loop News, Volume 24, Issue 5: Two Weeks Until Loop

To: All Who are Registered for the 2010 Leatherman’s Loop:
Spring is here… The trails are soggy… the peepers are out… leaves are budding… the woods beckon… It must be time for the Leatherman’s Loop!

Welcome to the 24th running of the Leatherman’s Loop Trail Race on April 25th, 2010! 

imageRace director Mike Paletta and the reliable Leatherman’s Loop volunteers have been working since last year to set up this year’s event.  Tony Godino says we are nearly ready to go for this year’s Loop.  All we need is YOU!

Below are some important instructions regarding this year’s race.  Registration is at the highest level ever so we will need to work together to ensure that loop day goes smoothly.  The park staff and our volunteers will all be working to kick this event off and leave great memories for each of you.

Here are some tips that you can incorporate into your plan for the morning and the day:

1) ARRIVE EARLY!  Please plan to arrive at the park before 8:30.  Car pool if you can.  Check our new CAR POOL forum to offer or request a ride.  Traffic can back up considerably at the park entrance as race time approaches.  Please be patient.  The regular $8 parking fee is now

part of the loop entry fee

so entry should go more quickly. We changed this in 2008 and all reports were that it made for a much more efficient entry for everyone.  It is always wise to arrive earlier than you think you need to in order to make sure you are all set by race start time (9am).  This is especially true if it is your first time running the Loop.

2) DRIVE SLOWLY and CAREFULLY in the Park! Watch the volunteers who are directing the parking. PARK TIGHT! Did we say car pool? Remember, April is Earth Month!  John Jay High School and Middle School are just 3 minutes from the entrance to the Rez (up 121 north) and should have plenty of spots open Sunday morning.  There is also the Katonah Train Station lot (which is free on weekends) just off 684 Exit 6 (Route 35) on Woodsbridge Road.  Plan ahead—consolidate 2 cars into one if you can.

image3) BRING A FULL CHANGE OF CLOTHING! After 23 years we have never seen a runner emerge dry and clean from the woods.  You will get wet and you will get muddy. Where and how you change is up to you.  Towels are a must. 

image4) LISTEN ATTENTIVELY TO PRE-LOOP ANNOUNCEMENTS! We only get to see you guys once a year and need a few minutes before the start. Race Director Mike Paletta will have important information about the course and safety.  Danny Martin will give a brief poem/blessing to set the tone. We will have a special guest in addition to Caballo Blanco who is our official Loop starter this year.  Also, you will be instructed about the hazards related to the stream crossings and current water conditions. Hidden boulders and slippery ledges lurk under the surface of the water. Slow down and DON’T DIVE into the water under any circumstances.  As a courtesy to those further away from the speakers we ask that you remain quiet for the sake of your fellow racers who may have never heard the instructions.

5) LISTEN FOR THE START!  In the past we’ve used a starter’s pistol, a major league pitcher, and an air horn…  You never know what sound will launch the runners—so keep those ears bent and listening. 

6) IF YOU SEE MUD, RUN THROUGH IT! Especially at the entrance to the woods immediately after the start.  If you stop—or simply hesitate—the people behind you may crash into you… trust us.  There’s no avoiding the mud so simply embrace it, get dirty, and get going.

7) WATCH FOR THE LEATHERMAN! Remember that this event celebrates the life of the Leatherman. Learn his story and by all means make some noise if he is out and about on Sunday.

8) STAY ON COURSE IF YOU CAN’T CONTINUE! There will be four “sweeps” running the course following the slower runners. If for any reason you can’t continue, wait for them to get to you to assess your needs. The park is nearly 5,000 acres so don’t leave the course unless you know exactly where you are going.

image9) THERE IS NO SAME DAY REGISTRATION!  We simply do not have room for any more registrations.  Please understand the position we are put in when we have to refuse someone entry.  If someone is interested in next year’s loop, there is a form at the website to submit name and email address.  If you are signed up for this year’s Loop you are already on this email list.

10) BRING FOOD DONATIONS! Don’t forget donations for the second Feed the Leatherman Food Drive.  Bring your non-perishable donations to the Loop and we will have a drop off point near the registration trailer.  Your generosity will benefit the Community Center of Northern Westchester.  Thanks to David Ceisler for spearheading the drive for a second year.

11) LEARN ABOUT THE LEATHERMAN! Author Dan DeLuca will be on hand during the Loop.  He will have copies of his new book on The Old Leather Man available for purchase and signing.  A portion of the proceeds of the book sales will go to fund a project that aims to reinter the Old Leatherman in a proper gravesite and a corrected headstone. 

image12) LEARN ABOUT THE TRAILS IN WESTCHESTER and beyond: Jane and Walt Daniels, authors of Walkable Westchester, will have information and copies of their local trail masterpiece available for purchase.  They also have information about the New York New Jersey Trail Conference and becoming a member of that organization.  The trail conference website is chock full of trail information in the NY and NJ area.

13) RESULTS: Printed lists of finishers with time and place will be available soon after the finish at the bib pickup area and shortly after that on the Loop website.  Check it out at

14) THANK A VOLUNTEER!  A tremendous amount of volunteer effort goes into making the Loop a special event each year.  T-shirt designers, registration volunteers, pie buyers, course setters, bib stickers, box lifters, water servers, food preparers, coffee brewers, parking coordinators, and the clean-up crew—not to mention the Pound Ridge and Lewisboro Police and the fantastic and dedicated members of the Lewisboro Volunteer Ambulance Corps

Due to the largest ever running field expected for the 24th Loop, we must ask some runners to voluntarily hold back a few minutes at the start of the Loop.  There is a potential for a larger than normal bottleneck at the entrance to the woods approximately 300 yards from the starting line and in the early trails.  If you conserve energy at the start you will have more left in the tank for the second half of the Loop when the trails are wider, the crowd is thinner, and passing is sweet!  This is a one time expansion of the running field and we will drop back to the normal runner cap for next year.

This event is truly a group effort and tribute to the spirit of the community. Your notes of support and encouragement feed the goodwill and energize the volunteers who organize and pull off this one of a kind event.  We are grateful that we have such a wonderful group of Loop enthusiasts and are thankful that we have the thousands of acres of parkland at the Rez to enjoy

Remember, leave only (muddy) footprints, take only pictures…

Expect more news as the event nears…. See you in 2 weeks! 

Good luck and have fun,
Mike, Kate, Tony, and Rob

PS: Map and Directions to the Reservation
A runners overview of the Leatherman’s Loop trail
Searchable list of registered runners


Group Run This Sunday April 11th

Two more Sundays until the Loop…

The weather should be cool and mild this Sunday… Hope you can join us! 

See prior group run notes (March 7, March 14, March 21, March 28, April 4) on website for more information.  Check this post for information about where we are meeting:

Help Feed The Leatherman - Food Donations

Last year Loop runners donated over 700 pounds of food in our first ever “Help Feed the Leatherman” food drive.  We are bringing the drive back for a second year!

imageThe Old Leatherman came to the same places on such a regular schedule that people “could set their clocks by his arrival.” In each community he passed, the Leatherman had identified a home or two where he knew friendly people would provide food whenever he appeared. Some residents would set plates of food out for him when he was expected, and the Leatherman would come by and clean the plate. This year for the loop we are asking our runners to “put the plate of food out” for the Leatherman.

We will be collecting food for the Community Center Of Northern Westchester. The food pantry at The Center needs our help as more and more people everyday show up at their door in need of help. The Center’s mission is to improve the well-being of our neighbors. That is what many people years ago did for the Leatherman.

The Center is in need of Dried black and pinto beans, Cold cereal, Tuna, Canned beef stew, Spaghetti sauce, Fruit juice, Baby food, Diapers and other non-perishables. We will have a designated location set up near bib pick-up to collect food donations on the day of the Loop. This is not a requirement. Help if you can.

The Leatherman depended on the charity and kindness of strangers. Let us extend the wonderful goodness and spirit of our loop, as we gather food for our neighbors.