Sunday, October 16, 2016

Shades of Death course records shattered

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, October 16, 2016


The Shades of Death half marathon in Allamuchy on Sunday was won by Rob Albano of Mahwah in a record shattering 1:09:31.  Atilla Sabahoglu of Somerset who held the course record of 1:13:19, set in 2012, was a game second on the windswept course in 1:16:46.

On the women’s side the course record of 1:27:24 that had been held by Cheyenne Ogletree of Port Reading was also wiped out and by two of Sunday’s competitors.  Verinka Ensminger, visiting family from Lexington KY finished just 15 seconds of Karen Auteri of Belvidere.  Ensminger’s time was 1:26:10 and Auteri’s 1:26:25.


USATF runners will be racing next Sunday, October 23rd at Natirar Park in Somerset on the 8km cross country championship.  The 8km was first held at Natirar in 2014 and was loved by the open runners and not so well favored by the older masters runners.

It features a mix of flat racing and murderous hills.  Some of it is on cinder paths and some on grassy paths.  Is it a true cross country course?  I’ve run on worse that were more trail racing, and the Natirar course is not that – but it is nothing like the Deer Path Park in Readington that is perfect cross country terrain. 

The winners of the first 8km on the course were Youssef Rochdi of Rockaway who finished in 25:22 and Cheyenne Ogletree of Port Reading, whose time was 29:54.  All of the times set in 2014 are up for grabs as course records.

Roberta Groner of Randolph won the Hudson Mohawk Marathon last Sunday in a personal best time of 2:37:54 and placed ninth overall.


Ashenfelter is a familiar name to New Jersey runners.   There’s an 8 kilometer race by that name that is run on Thanksgiving morning in Glen Ridge.  In fact it is the USATF 8K championship for all divisions.

The story behind the name begins – well not exactly in 1952, but 1952 is significant because Horace Ashenfelter won the Steeplechase at the Olympics in Helsinki Finland.   Born in 1923 Ashenfelter did not even begin to run until age 23 when he had returned from serving as a fighter pilot in WWII. 

He was married man who helped his wife put the children to bed and then trotted down to train in Carteret Park or at Essex County’s Watsessing Parks.  Ashenfelter was employed at the time of the Olympics as an FBI agent and had to work overtime to accumulate enough vacation hours to go to the Olympics.   His time going into the Olympics was 9:06:04, well off the times of two experienced Russian steeplers. 

Reading about the race in will give a person a chuckle.  His own Olympic teammates were trash talking to him about how badly he would do.  Such talk may have helped Ashenfelter who lowered his own time and the world record for 3,000 meter steeples to 8:45.4.

Ashenfelter continued to compete - at the Millrose Games he was five times the winner of the two mile race.  That distance was perhaps the key to his success at the Steeples as it was his specialty on the indoor track, a distance similar to 3,000 meters for the Steeples.

He was named Amateur Athlete of the Year, was given the Sullivan Award for his Olympic victory, was inducted to the national Track and Field and the NJ Sports Halls of Fame.  Penn State named its indoor track for him.   What else could be left?

One more.   This past Friday Ashenfelter was honored by the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders with a moving tribute and the naming of the track at Watsessing Park where he trained to prepare for the Olympics those many years ago, and where he does his daily workouts to this day. 

Those present who spoke at the ceremony included two time winner of the New York City Marathon Tom Fleming, and Dan Murphy, the creator and race director of the Ashenfelter 8K.

Son James Ashenfelter shared memories of his father and then the man himself gave a short speech to thank all those in attendance. 

When the cloth was dropped that had covered the sign proclaiming the track to be “Horace Ashenfelter Track, not just a few had tears in their eyes.  What a great way to honor a great man of track and field.

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Contact Madeline Bost at

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