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.”