Sunday, October 19, 2014

Natirar Park in Somerset County will host 8 km cross country next Sunday

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, October 19,  2014

Natirar Park in Somerset County will host 8 km cross country next Sunday

Be careful what you wish for.   Finding a location for a cross country course is not always easy.  The USATF New Jersey cross country championships have of late been taking place at Deer Path Park in Hunterdon County.  It was once a farm and features rolling farmland like fields as well as level soccer fields.

The 5 kilometer course has evolved into a double loop of part of the park and offers what some consider a perfect cross country course with well groomed paths around the old farm pastures with two not very onerous hills and some nice gradual downhills.

At one time the 5 kilometer and the 8 kilometer went over to the rougher part of the park but a foot bridge over a small creek was deemed unsafe and the courses were reconfigured to avoid that section of the park.

That meant that the 8 kilometer course took the runners on three trips around the park.  In Europe and elsewhere three laps is considered quite desirable.  In other parts of the world cross country draws a considerable number of fans and being able to see the race take shape makes the spectators very happy.

Happy spectators do not equate to happy runners.  The New Jersey runners had already run two loops of Deer Path Park for the 5 kilometer race and they faced three loops for the 8 kilometer race.

And so the grumbling started.  Heeding their constituents, some members of the LDR and cross country committee took at look at Natirar Park in Somerset County.  Natirar is Raritan spelled backward and the north branch of the Raritan River flows through the five hundred acre estate that once belonged to the King of Morocco.  Runners who remember the Midland Run 15K course remember running past the property.

Well now you can run on the property.  Remember when I said “Be careful what you wish for”? 

Picture a pair of handcuffs.   Runners will start at the bottom of the left bracelet on the handcuff and at about the middle of the bracelet they will hang a hard right around a large tree.  From the tree they will run to the connector of the handcuffs.  Picture now that the handcuffs are sitting on two levels with the left bracelet on the lower shelf and the right bracelet on the upper shelf.  That’s right; the connector road has to be climbed to reach the right side bracelet.   In this case a quarter mile connector road that is all uphill.

Yes.  Uphill to the right side bracelet.  A large field will open up and the runners will take the right turn onto the groomed path that encircles the field.  The groomed path will sweep down in a gradual long downhill.  But remember that what goes down must also go up and go up it does.  Only now on the backside of the field the uphill is steep and short.  Only the mighty will run that hill; better to hike it than try to stay at a run gait.

It is about a mile to circle the field and then the runners will reach the connector road.  Now they can speed down the hill and hang a right onto the cinder path of the left side bracelet.  This will be the recovery part of the run.   They will need that flat cinder mile-plus path because when they get back to the connector road they take a right and go back up to circle the upper field again.  That short steep hill will feel twice as steep and twice as long.  Then, like horses smelling the barn, they will know that the end is near.  When they hit the connector they will have only the quarter mile run downhill and across the field to the finish.

When they have recovered they may just ponder why they thought the Deer Path Park course was such a problem. 

The 8km is next Sunday, October 26.  Registration will open at 8:30 a.m. with an early start for the more senior runners possibly at 9:15 a.m. with the main start at 10:00 a.m.


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