5 Years of Sunday Runs

Leatherman Harriers: Trail Running Group of Northern WestchesterRoughly five years ago (time, date, and distance is always approximate in the trail running world) the Leatherman Harriers Sunday Run Group was born — even though we didn’t know it at the time.

Backing up a bit further… 29 years give or take… Tony Godino and some friends founded the Leatherman Harriers to have an organization to host the Leatherman’s Loop. The group of organizers was composed of runners of course — but there was no set training run schedule and it stayed that way for years.

By 2010, the Loop was getting ready for its 24th year and Rob Cummings had been helping Tony, Mike, and the crew organize the Loop for a few years. The day of the Loop is full of excitement. There are so many people — new friends and old — to catch up with that Rob thought it always went too fast. He wanted to capture that essence and feeling through more than one day.

First photo of the Sunday Run group after the 3rd week of training together in March 2010.
First ever photo of the Sunday Run group after training together in March 2010. The friendly hiker we asked to take our sweaty portrait was not so familiar with the iPhone camera operation. We have improved our camera training since then!

Five intrepid souls met at Lewisboro Town Park at the beginning of March 2010 with the modest goal of training for the upcoming 24th annual Leatherman’s Loop each Sunday morning for the next seven weeks. Those five runners met two more runners already on the trail and completed a 4 mile course in the sometimes snow covered trails. Over the next seven weeks the group met, grew by word of mouth and email, and ran progressively farther. The final run for the group was a course check of the Loop that attracted somewhere around 30 runners.

After the 24th Loop, Mark Vincent asked Rob “are the Sunday runs going to continue?” Many of the runners were interested in keeping things going. As long as there was interest, we kept meeting. And we kept going and going and going. The email list size grew from a few dozen runners to nearly 75 runners – supplemented by Leatherman’s Loop facebook followers – though 2012. Runners met, ran together, got lost, became friends, carpooled to races together, compared stories and gear, and generally had a good time both on the trails and off of them. The group is always welcoming to new runners and always welcomes back friends who have been away.

Fast forward to Father’s Day 2012. On a challenging 7 mile run through some of the single-track in the southern end of The Rez, the group’s ringleader, Rob Cummings, was injured. The injury turned out to be at least a 6 month treatment and recovery, so Rob asked Lee Willett to take over the organizing of the group runs. Lee was there on day one of the Sunday Run group back in 2010 and took up the challenge.

Just before the start of Looper Bowl III in 2014.
Just before the start of Looper Bowl III in 2014. It was bitter cold for several weeks before the run and we were able to scamper across the completely iced over river crossings faster than Tom Nohilly or Gerry Sullivan ever do during the spring!

After a few months, Lee suggested adding a website to the group communications to make it easier for runners to find and follow. The SundayRuns.org website was born in October 2012. Lee added a run calendar you can subscribe to on your smartphone, he created custom SundayRuns shirts, he made it easy to sign up for (and unsubscribe from) the email list, and he also created and posted downloadable maps to the site — and brought printed COLOR maps to the sunday morning runs! (Though some runners continued to get lost…)

Over the next two and a half years the Sunday Runs list nearly quintupled in size to over 300 runners. We routinely have 15-20 runners at the group runs in all different pace groups — and that’s in the winter! As the weather warms we get larger groups. Our largest meetups have been 65-70 runners. One of our most popular runs is the Looper Bowl – a group run of the Loop course on Super Bowl Sunday, with stream crossings optional. Recently we have even done some friday night moonlight headlamp trail runs that have proven popular, and not just because of the roaring fire at the end of the run.

Post run campfire at the second Moonlight Headlamp Run Jan 2, 2015.
Post run campfire at the second Moonlight Headlamp Run Jan 2, 2015. Watch for a notice about the next moonlight run around the next full moon.

In addition to having a great group of runners in the group, many of the Sunday Runners have used their considerable talents to create races in the area. David Vogel came to Run the Farm and the Sunday Runs and was bit by the trail running bug. Six months later he and Brant Brooks founded A Mild Sprain in Sprain Ridge Park. Lee Willett joined forces with Sunday Run stalwarts Mark Vincent and Barry Fagan to found the Sarah Bishop Bushwhack (North Salem, NY) in September 2013. Brian Stempel founded the Church Tavern Biathlon in 2011 (South Salem, NY).

Sunday runners Annie Bai, Bettina Sementilli, and Frank Greene founded The Running Goddess 5k at Lasdon Park in Somers, NY two years ago and brought back the Katonah 5k after it was cancelled. Sunday runner Kathy Lynch along with Lisa Abzun and Eileen Polese started the Kisco 5k (Mt Kisco, NY) in September 2014. All of these races are still going strong. The newest creation is on the horizon — Rob Cummings is directing the Raven Rocks 10k Run @ The Rez) with the help of many Sunday runners.

Many of these races are also part of the Trail Mix Trail Series for 2015.

Harrier Chief Navigation Officer Lee Willett shows the new Leatherman Harriers Club Shirt artwork to the runners Sunday, March 15th, 2015.

This past Sunday morning the group met at the Lewisboro Town Park and ran the snowy trails of the Rez in a 5th anniversary run. Tony presented Lee with a line art print of the newest Leatherman Harriers Club artwork in thanks for all of the work he has put in to keep the group going and welcoming.

There is no way to list all of the Sunday Runners without skipping someone inadvertently. But — if you are interested you can click on this link to many of the group photos taken before a lot the runs over the last 5 years.

Thank you all for being a part of this great running tradition. All of the group members are looking forward to the next five years and beyond.

Hope you can join us one sunday or many! Just show up and Run Free!