Sunday, February 28, 2016

Running Clubs of Morris County

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, February 28, 2016

Running Clubs of Morris County

The very best thing that a new runner can do to enhance their running experience is to join a running club.  Clubs provide running pals, encouragement, motivation and camaraderie.  Here in Morris County there are several running clubs.

The Do Run Running Club draws members from throughout the area and holds a group run on Saturdays at Freedom Park in Randolph.   When the Randolph Trails are open the runs utilize them.  In the winter they stick to the roads in the area.

 A visit to the clubs Facebook page tells you that “While we hope to be competitive, our main objective is to have fun.”

The club appears to have accomplished both with their teams in the USATF New Jersey grand prix placing well in several divisions.  Not all their members are speedsters, however and those who take more than ten minutes to complete a mile quite welcome.   

The Garmin Runners have to be counted as the swiftest club in the area.  Their open teams placed second in that division in both the men and women’s division of the grand prix.  Their masters teams have been even more successful with wins or second place in the W40 and W50 divisions.

The club is only a few years old but many of the runners were in now discontinued clubs, like the Sneaker Factory club.  Group runs are held throughout the week along with a workout on Tuesday evenings in Morristown.

The Randolph based Geezers usually run a variety of courses on Saturday and Sunday mornings, some on roads and some on the Randolph Trails or the Black River, West Morris Greenway trail, and several others.  Track workouts are scheduled for Wednesday evenings. 

The Geezers began as a masters men club with an M50 and an M60 team.  Recently they have been joined by a small group of women, dubbed the Gazelles.  While the Geezers are often mid to back of the pack in races, they are most certainly competitive and continue to add to their numbers.

The Highlands Hashers is a small but very active running club open to runners of all ages and abilities. In keeping with its name, the group has a monthly Hash run and special club runs and social events.  Some of their members also compete at local races and some are marathoners and ultra marathoners. 

The Morris County Striders is one of the oldest active club in the county.  The club has a group run every Wednesday evening at Picatinny Arsenal or on the Boulevard in Mountain Lakes.  On Sundays they run from Green Pond Road in Rockaway into Denville and on Saturdays an impromptu run on the Columbia Trails might suddenly be posted online

The club hosts the Roxbury Community Benefit 5K in June and a 5K cross country summer series at Johanson Field in Boonton.

The Rose City Runners can challenge the Striders to the title of oldest.  Both clubs were formed at the start of the running boom and Rose City can document 1979 as their birth year.  Rose City has a group run in Loantaka Park every Saturday followed by a tail gate repast fueled by the runners.

Rose City hosts the highly regarded Giralda Farms races in November featuring a 5K and 10K with a simultaneous start at noon.   The club is also involved with the Hounds and Harriers race for dogs and their owners.

Although the Amazing Feet Running Club does not have competitive teams they are far from inactive.  Members are from the south east corner of Morris, into Union and Somerset counties.    Group runs are held throughout the week and are posted on their website.  Many of the “feet” are ultra runners and triathletes.  In 2011 the club assumed the hosting of the Great Swamp Devil races and assist at other races.

It is easy to find information about the clubs by going first to the USATF NJ website to look for the club listing.  Many of the clubs have Facebook pages, and some have their own websites.  Search and join.  Membership is not mandatory to run with a group, and here’s a little secret, some people belong to more than one club. 


Race Results can often be found at or at 
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at or at for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Running shoe stores have your back

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, February 21, 2016


In last Sunday’s column readers were introduced to three running specialty stores and their owners or managers.  Specialty stores are operated by runners for runners.

Heather McDermott who manages the Running Company store in Morristown ran track and cross country in high school and college in her native Canada, and has continued to run and race.  In 2006 she won the Verizon Corporate Classic as Heather Gardiner.

Of all the specialty run stores, the Running Company tops the list for the number of group runs with four every week: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings and on Saturday.

“People appreciate that we have people here to run with,” said McDermott.

Being in the heart of Morristown allows for another feature; packet pickup, especially the Super Hero races, with which she is associated.  Next month Running Company will have packet pickup for the St. Paddy’s 5K in Morris Township. 

Fitting and finding the best shoes for their customers are always going to be a specialty store’s prime focus.   The Running Company has an in-the-store treadmill that customers can hop on to test drive the shoe.

John Williams of Modern Athlete ran track and cross country at Paul VI high school.  He was state champion in cross country in Parochial A and second in all groups.  At St. Joseph University he ran cross country and track where he was Atlantic cross country champion.

A post collegiate job at the Bryn Mawr running store while working on his graduate degree set him up for a job as a Brooks running shoe representative.  After 12 years with Brooks, Williams opened the Modern Athlete store in Florham Park.   Modern Athlete lives up to its name.  State of the art video analysis software is used to play slow motion videos of each customer running on one of two treadmills in the store.

“Running is very much at the center of what we do,” said Williams.  “There is this active lifestyle and I wanted to be flexible and move with the times.”

Training programs are big at Modern Athlete.  Starting next Saturday, the 20th, a training program will start that will get runners to the New Jersey Half Marathon on May 1st.  Their 5K beginner runner program is run twice a year.  Group runs from the store are on Wednesday evenings and on Saturday a group runs in Loantaka Park.

After the London Olympics Matt Walsh left Runners Edge on Long Island to relocate to Flagstaff to pursue his dream to rise to the elite level in racing. 

“I gave it my best shot,” he said, “but injuries and other circumstances led to that never coming to fruition.”

A call from Joe Jacobs who was working at the time in the Basking Ridge Sneaker Factory store, and who was relocating to the Florham Park store opened a new door for Walsh.  He has been the manager in Basking Ridge now for three years.  While injuries blocked his dream Walsh continues to run on a more limited basis and brings his perspective to managing a running store.

Walsh echoed what Williams of Modern athlete observed.  People will come into the store and prefaced their shoe quest with a statement that they are not a runner.  He asks them what they are doing and they respond that they are training for a half marathon.  Walsh said that some of those people may be running in pain with poorly fitted shoes from the chain stores.

“When you feel that, you cannot understand why people love to run, because your paradigm is a negative experience,” he said.

“If there is any one thing that I try to promote within the store it is that no one needs to feel like they are not fast enough or fit enough to qualify,” said Walsh.  “The shoes are not graded for any kind of ability.  My job is to make sure that your feet and your ankles and your body move as you were built and to find the shoes that will compliment your motion the best.”

In interviewing the owners/managers for this series, what comes through from all is that they really care about their customers;  that their customers leave their store with the right equipment for their runs.   Their dedication to the runner is evident.  They’ve got your back.


Race Results can often be found at or at 
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at or at for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Go to a specialist for your running needs

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, February 14, 2016


A recent post on a runner’s Facebook page summed it up pretty well.  “I always go to a specialty running store.  Those guys are runners and they know their shoes and they know how to fit you right.”

In Morris County the running community is blessed with several running specialty stores and everyone is owned and operated by, you guessed it, a runner.  Each store has its own niche within the industry.

Two time Group 1 Champion (Butler high school) Joe Jacobs is the proprietor of the Sneaker Factory of Florham Park.  A lot of his focus is with the high school track and cross country market.

“Having come up and run in the Morris County championships and raced at Drew, and having been a Morris County champion I really feel like working for that crowd,” said Jacobs.

That Jacobs’ wife Laura is a coach at Kinnelon High School is an added connection.

“There are a lot of great coaches in Morris County that I’ve been able to develop friendships with and  I am able to work very closely with their teams in that respect,” he said.

One Saturday a month the store holds a run sponsored by a shoe company.  Often a lucky runner will win a pair of shoes in a raffle.  On February 20th Jacobs and the Brooks rep will support a long training run from Loantaka Park in Morris Township, meeting at the parking lot off South Street at 8:30 a.m.  Water and energy gels and drinks will be set out on the course for the runners.

Once a month on a Wednesday in June, July and August Jacobs hosts a prediction run.  No watches are allowed.  The one who comes the closest to finishing in the time he or she predicted wins a pair of shoes or an apparel package from a supplier.

“After the run everybody came back to the store and we had refreshments and food,” said Jacobs of last year’s run.  “It was fun.  We had about fifty or sixty runners.”

An avid triathlete and often an age division winner Bob Koppenol is owner and manager of Starting Line Sports in Madison.  Not surprisingly, his store focuses on run, swim and triathlon.

“These days it’s gotten harder and harder, especially for triathletes to find their triathlon suits or wetsuits, or the better swim equipment,” said Koppenol.  “Ordering online is hazardous.  The ordering guidelines don’t always work and items need to be returned and re-ordered in a different size, which may take several returns before the item fits the athlete.”

“By coming here, they can get fitted correctly the first time and they can actually see the wetsuit, try it on, and know what they are getting into.”

Triathletes can rent a wetsuit as well or buy one.  The store carries swim suits, kick boards, hand paddles, snorkels, fins, caps, all the assorted equipment that swimmers and triathletes need.  He said that people can try on the goggles and the fins on to make sure they are getting the right feel.  Racing goggles range from pool goggles to open water swim goggles that feature a wider field of vision, and polarized goggles to shield the eyes from sun glare.  Another feature of the store is lesser known running shoes like Pearl Izumi and Hoka.

“We get people coming from quite a distance because of the brands,” said Koppenol.

You could call Runner’s Haven in Randolph a Mom and Pop running store, with Kevin and Maryellen Higgins in charge.  Being located on Route 10 the store can’t offer group runs, but Kevin runs on Saturday mornings with a small group of local elite runners.  Maryellen runs but does not compete while Kevin is an age division standout from 5K to the marathon.

“Our clientele is more the average runner, not the elite runner,” said Maryellen.  “We really do well with the high school and recreation track programs.”

In addition they have developed a relationship with local podiatrists who send their patients to the store to get shoes.

“We probably put 95% of podiatry clientele into a running shoe even though they are not runners,” said Maryellen.  “You can address more of the foot issues with a running shoe than you can with a walking shoe or a cross trainer.”

Next week we look at more of the running specialty stores of Morris.


Race Results can often be found at or at 
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at or at for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at

Sunday, February 7, 2016

CoCoLuxe 50K draws runners to a challenge

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, February 7, 2016

CoCoLuxe 50K draws runners to a challenge

Fifty runners – 50K.  That seems about right.  If you are a member of the MAPSO (Maplewood South Orange) Triathlon club, or the South Mountain Runners, it seemed about right on Sunday, January 31st.

That’s when the members of those two clubs, along with outsiders who thought it was a good idea also, ran from South Orange to the Great Swamp and from there to the CoCoLuxe Bakery on Main Street in Peapack.   Fifty kilometers for some and half of that for others.  It wasn’t some crazy wild spur of the moment thing either.  No, it was the fifth annual CoCoLuxe Run.

Oh yes, there is a story behind that.  During the cycling season, according to John Bye of South Orange the tri club goes out on a 60 mile ride with a stop at the CoCoLuxe Bakery. 

Five years ago one of the dual member of both clubs suggested that they do a winter run from South Orange to the bakery – about 50 kilometers.

“We do have a logistic problem in that not everyone wants to run 31 miles,” Bye remembers pointing out.

The solution was to let the runners choose – run the full 31 miles or make a break at the midpoint.  Some could run out 25K and stop, and some would start from that midpoint.

“We’d have a sag wagon to take the first half group back to South Orange,” he said, and then it would come back to sag the next half.”

That first year only a handful of runners participated but the event has grown.

“This year we had I think a little over fifty people,” said Bye.

It’s not a race, it’s a run,” he said echoing Joe Jacobs, who is the Sneaker Factory store manager in Florham Park and a competitive runner and cyclist.

“It’s not a race, per se,” said Jacobs.  “There’s a majority that run in groups with their friends.  There’s a group that I fall into every year as I am far too competitive.”

“It’s like a hard training run where you try to break the other guy,” said Jacobs.  “It’s kind of fun because John (keeps) a record; like the first half record, and the second half record, then the overall 50K record.  So it’s fun to chase that.”

“It’s not a race, but you’re trying to beat your rival’s time from last year, and your buddy who dropped you last year,” said Jacobs.  “It’s nothing but pride and bragging rights on the line.”

“ At the end we are at CoCoLuxe.  It’s a big cycling club stop regardless of where you are from,” said Bye.  “The joke is that all roads lead to the CoCoLuxe because of where it is located.”

This year because the group had gotten so large there were three sag vehicles.  They carry everyone’s gear so that when they are done they have dry clothes to change into.  Along the route drinks and sports gels are put out to fuel the runners.

While they enjoyed the balmy high 30’s on Sunday, it wasn’t always so.  The winters of 2015 and 2014 as everyone can recall were not so warm. 

Bye said that in 2014 it was 14 degrees and last year it was around 20 degrees.  In 2015 they lucked out by getting missed by two storms – one on Friday and one on Monday. 

The two clubs are happy to have athletes from the broader community join them.  Bye doesn’t expect the event to attract a lot more runners.  In addition to being a long run, it is also a hilly course.

“It’s a hard run course,” he said.  “It is not easy.  Each of the halves are about 1,200 feet of elevation.”

He may be right, but for fifty runners last Sunday, it was their way to have a fun day.


Race Results can often be found at or at 
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at or at for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at