Sunday, June 14, 2015


Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, June 14, 2015


Everybody’s favorite race is tomorrow night, Monday, June 15th.   How could it not be a favorite?  A fast course for one reason.  It’s a course that double’s back so that you can check on the progress of those who are ahead of you and those who are chasing you.

Yes, it has those two hills – well one hill you climb twice, but that is made up when you race down the same hill, one street over.  Still with that hill it should not be such a fast course.  My guess has always been that it is the combined adrenaline of all those eager racers.  Most point their training for this one race.

Chris Johnson of New Providence won the race in 2014 and joined the ranks of the sub-15 minuters with his time of 14:50.  The fastest time since I began tracking is Gene Mitchell’s 14:34 that he ran in 2003.

The Adidas Garden State Track Club has dominated the open men’s team division.  Last year the club captured the first four places with Team Pearl Izumi in fifth and Garmin Racers in sixth.

All the men should be in top shape after having competed at the College Avenue Mile in New Brunswick last Saturday.  The race was won by Joshua Neyhart of Port Reading in 4:21.76.  In 2014 Neyhart placed second in 4:21.75 – now that’s consistent.

The top local man was Youssef Rochdi of Rockaway who finished in a virtual tie for third place with Kyle Price of New Brunswick.  Both men are credited with 4:28, but Price‘s fraction was quicker - 4:28.32, while Rochdi was 4:28.54.

In the women’s race Randolph runner Roberta Groner, 37, placed second to 27 year-old Ester Erb of Lawrenceville.  Erb finished in 5:02.74 while Groner’s time was 5:06.79. 

The host club, Adidas Garden State Track Club took the top seven spots in the open men’s team competition.  The first non-Adidas Garden State Track Club team was Morris area’s Do Run Runners.  That club placed third in the M40, while the Garmin Racing team was first.  The Randolph area Geezers placed fifth in the M50 and sixth in the M40 division.

On the women’s side the host club took the top four spots.  The Do Run team placed eighth.  Top local masters runners included Reno Stirrat of Rockaway who won the M60 in 5:28.16 and Beau Atwater of Bernardsville, who finished in 5:17.84 to win the M55 division.

I often run on the West Morris Greenway – a stretch of road that serves the Alamatong Watershed managed by the Morris County Municipal Authority.  It has seen a huge increase of trail users since the ribbon cutting ceremony on National Trail Days in June of 2012; mothers with strollers, folks with dogs, runners, cyclists and everything in between.

That is why my encounter with a bear Friday morning concerns me.  I am not afraid of bears, and I have encountered them several times.  Two years ago a sow with two small cubs were on the trail and I chased them off into the woods.  That may sound strange but bears are generally timid and will move away from people once they see them and hear them, or in my case, are scolded by them. 

“Get off the trail,” I called loudly to her.  “You know you are not supposed to be on the trail!”

A couple of sharp claps of my hands and she and the cubs went into the woods.

Friday was different.  In nearly the same spot, a young bear was standing on his hind legs scratching his back on a utility pole.  He dropped to all fours and then back up for another scratching session.  By that time I was closer and I shouted to him to leave and clapped my hands.  But he took no notice of me and started to walk toward me – not in a menacing way, but in an “I don’t care about you” way.

Hmmm,  were we going to just pass each other on the trail, maybe smile and give a little wave of the hand like we runners do? 

Well, that wouldn’t do.  I thought of all the other trail users – mothers with babies in strollers, folks who would be frightened by this casual young bear.  He needed to learn to stay off the trail.

I clapped again – loud and sharp – crack, crack, crack.  At first my ruckus had no effect, but finally he crossed in front of me, and I swear, gave me a dirty look like a rebellious teenager, and went into the woods. 

My hope is that his encounter with big, bad me will keep him in the woods. 


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