You’d be forgiven for thinking that Westchester’s youths are wasting away, what with all the teen-driven, late-model SUVs one sees. And while they weren’t SUVs, this wasn’t so different from my days long ago.

But you’d probably be wrong. I posted a couple of days ago about a 5K X-C race at Irvington HS. Its purpose was two-fold. First to show-off the course. Second to raise money to try to keep an assistant coach on board.

Well I’ve run the race and seen the course (and made my small donation). I was impressed. Not just with the course but with the effort that went into it.

The Kids: The course itself is one part nature, one part nurture. Much work has gone into “smoothing” it out, by which I don’t mean it was smoothed (as shown below) but that it has been made a course with rocks and trees and hills and such. And it is a credit to the members of the Irvington HS Cross-Country team, which has put in many hours in pulling this off.

When I was in high school and it snowed, we’d shovel the track and then run on it. Only a lane or two, but all 440 yards. These kids have done more. They’ve created a quality facility right out their back door. I can’t say enough about the effort these guys put into it.

The Course: The closest I can come for comparison are parts of the Leatherstocking Trail in New Rochelle and Mamaroneck and the Northwest Trail in Sag Harbor/East Hampton. After crossing a field, one is launched into the woods and proceeds along a fairly narrow, though never single-track, winding, up-and-down adventure. Unlike Van Cortlandt, in which you have a wide trail that goes up and then goes down, with flats before and after, here one is constantly changing direction and changing altitude. Sometimes at the same time.

Frank Colella and me, after race

Frank Colella and me, after race

I ended up nearly walking down one big hill because of concerns about slipping although I wore spikes — it was wet, but not only had the rain let up, you are also under a tree canopy — which served as a strange mid-race break followed by a determined chase to finish strongly.

This trail suffers from its location, near both the Rockies and the Old Croton Aqueduct. Yet for a particular type of workout, it’s well worth a visit. This is not a course on which you stop and smell the roses. It’s a trail through the woods. It’s got roots, it’s got rocks. This and the hills require concentration every step of the way. I don’t have the measurements, but I’d say the course in the woods is maybe a little shy of 2.5 miles. One could easily make a nice 1.5 or 2 mile loop that could provide a primo tempo run. (Fortunately Sleepy Hollow is up the road a couple of miles so one need not be worried about the headless horseman.)

The Race: The race itself was much fun. Up, down, sideways (almost literally). I ended up running a bit stuttering as I had to address the downhills and turns. At one point I told myself that I had gotten plenty of rest during the race so it was time to haul ass, and I tried to do that for the duration.

The bulk of the entrants — there were about 60 — were Irvington high schoolers but there were some quick guys who disappeared into the woods well before I got there. I came in at just under 20 (my watch has me at 19:59) including a final 300 on the track. The paucity of Westchester Track Club entrants — I think there were two, one of whom I warmed down with — was disappointing, especially since Irvington HS is where its “elite” members train. Their absence — or relative lack of presence — strikes me as peculiar in the Westchester races that I’ve attended.

Afterwards I warmed down with Kate O’Hern-Lyons of WTC, who recalled nights in the 80s at this track in which they’d use their headlights to for illumination. She was the first woman, not far behind me. I also chatted with Frank Colella of RunDangerously, who planned on doing ten later in the day plus the NYRR four-miler at Van Cortlandt tomorrow, and with Bob Glover, who is steaming over developments at the Rockies — described by Tony Portera at his IRunUltras — which will likely be a subject of a later post. I also chatted with Frank beforehand, who expressed dismay about concerns Andy of Westchester Road Runner expressed about being tossed from Scarsdale’s track for being a non-resident, Frank, a Scarsdale resident, never having seen anyone hassled there except when there is a game on-going on the field.

[Edited to Add: I notice from the PDF of the course that the course itself is part of a broader trail system, albeit one fairly hemmed in by surrounding roads. Because of the limited area, however, it would seem tough to get lost there, so exploration beyond the X-C course might be in order]

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