I enjoy many different exercise disciplines: my own class for the outdoors and camaraderie …
By Lee Sandford
I enjoy many different exercise disciplines: my own class for the outdoors and camaraderie; running because it’s convenient and I can check my progress with a race every few months; walking when I want a good long chat with a pal, but can’t suggest “going for coffee” since I don’t drink it; and I even venture indoors for the odd spin class for the booming music and someone else’s instruction to get me through a good 45-minute workout. They all have their attractions.
One of running’s main advantages is its efficiency. Time always being precious when I had young kids, I’d shake my head when people asked me where I ran, because the answer was simply “from my front door step and for however long I have!”
However, for the past few months I have been driving to Larchmont, to run parts of the Leatherstocking/Saxon Woods Trail. It was prompted by a Boot Camp field trip to run the trail as a chatty, fun, and getting-lost-now-and-then group, and once I added it into my weekly routine I was hooked!
I haven’t run many other trails, something I’d like to correct, but according to the Westchester Trails website, the Leatherstocking Trail is “probably the most intense” in our area. Don’t let that intimidate you though. The tricky elements are: it is very varied terrain, with short, steep, rocky hills, tree roots, winding paths, and, at this time of year, sometimes slippery leaves.
Actually, I quite like that the tough parts are an inherent challenge of my run. Just by running those short hills I get a great cardio workout, without having to motivate myself to push my pace. As for a strength workout, the uneven terrain uses every leg muscle, is great for the stabilizing muscles in your ankle and knee joints, and subtly challenges your sense of balance, therefore engaging your core.
The positives of the trail more than outweigh the negatives. The soft ground underfoot is less jarring than pavement, and much kinder on your joints over time. I can’t claim that the scenery is prettier than the outlooks of the Sound right in Rye, but the woods are a change, and I’ve enjoyed watching the trees change color over the months. In the summer, the trail remained shady and cool for some time after the hot weather hit, and even once the humidity rose, it was at least shady and a respite from the blazing sun. There is also some good housewatching — an enclave of cool mid-century modern houses — along the way.
After running the trail for several months, I decided to sign up for the Paine to Pain Half Marathon in September, which starts in New Rochelle and takes a 13.1-mile loop through five local parks, finishing with a lap of honor at the New Rochelle High School track. The first race took place in 2008, with this year’s event attracting 565 finishers. Money raised by the race has been used to help make improvements to the trail, including repairing some of the wooden walkways.
It’s very tempting to write a gushy mile-by-mile account because I enjoyed it so much — it was my 15th half marathon and by far my favorite — but I’ll spare you. I’ll just give you two examples that I think speak to the atmosphere of the race.
First, those of you who’ve taken part in races know the anguish of looking at your watch and looking up for every mile marker, perhaps realizing that you’ve gone out to fast, or feeling that you’re falling behind. On the Paine to Pain Trail Half, there were, I recall, three markers, marked as follows: Mile 4ish, Mile 7ish, and 1 Mile-ish to go! How liberating to be freed from the tortured math of re-estimating your finishing time all the way through the race.
Second is the story of the 2013 Finish Line that is on the website. The first man into the High School Stadium, Matt Collins, waited just before the finish line for the next two men to cross the line before him, before running over to take third place. Collins had been trailing the other two and knew he couldn’t catch them. However, they took a wrong turn and lost time before he called them back to the right path. He didn’t think it was fair to take the winner’s glory, so he graciously let them cross ahead of him. I’m with race director Eric Turkewitz in his admiration of such “uncompromising good sportsmanship” and feel that it speaks to the spirit of this great little race right on our doorstep.
Give this under-used pathway a try for a run or a family walk. As we found out on our first field trip to the trail, it can be tricky to find your way around the first time. I use the parking spot between numbers 9 and 21 Winged Foot Drive. You can follow the trail in either direction from there.
Boot Campers and I have it on our to-do list to get back out there on the trail together, so if you would like to join us, even just to find your way around the first time, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.