Mark your calendars, strap on your walking/running shoes, set a goal, make a plan — because Rock the Ridge, a 24-hour-long, 50-mile walk/run endurance challenge, is coming to the Mohonk Preserve on May 4. According to avid runner and Preserve enthusiast Ken Posner, who is one of the event managers, the concept of a 24-hour endurance event came to him and his friends while they were running along the vast carriage and foot trails of the 7,500-acre nature reserve. “Fifty years ago, people had the vision and foresight to set this land aside so that people like me could run, walk and enjoy its splendor,” he mused. “That made me and some others think, ‘What can we do to help ensure that it’s around for the next generation to enjoy?’”
To that end, they came up with the Rock the Ridge challenge, which has a fundraising component to help the Mohonk Preserve continue its land management and protection program, as well as being a way of celebrating the beauty of the Shawangunks and inspiring people to come together for an outdoor fitness extravaganza. First, Posner and his colleagues had to get the Mohonk Preserve to agree to the race, which it did. Then they had to collaborate on the best racecourse, put together a website, gather volunteers and get the word out.
The registration fee is $150, with an extra $100 pledge (raised privately or through sponsorships) to provide to the Mohonk Preserve — a not-for-profit agency that was dubbed by the Nature Conservancy as “One of Earth’s Last Great Places.” If you’re on a relay team (with four individuals splitting up the 50-mile course), then the registration is $100 per person.
“The Mohonk Preserve has done such an amazing job managing the land, helping to protect its sensitive ecosystems, its wildlife, while at the same time making much of it accessible for the public to enjoy, whether they’re birdwatching, hiking, biking, rock climbing, running, horseback riding, snowshoeing or simply just breathing in the wide range of beauty that the Preserve is home to.”
Posner said that the 24-hour endurance challenge came to mind because he had competed in one in Scotland several years ago and greatly enjoyed it. “It’s a very popular thing throughout Europe, but to my knowledge, there’s not one yet in the US,” he said. “While marathoners and ultramarathoners are on the rise, they compose only .0001 percent of the population. When you have 24 hours to cover 50 miles, you can open it up to your ultramarathoners, as well as those that love to jog/run/walk, because you would have to average 2.1 miles per hour, which for relatively fit people is very doable,” he said.
If that appears to be too much — just the 24 hours and lack of sleep — there is the four-person relay-team option, where each member does approximately 10-to-15-mile legs of the challenge; or the four-person team category where four people do the challenge together to build camaraderie and help support one another if or when the going gets a bit tough.
The race will begin at 6 a.m. at the Testimonial Gatehouse, wind its way up Lenape Lane through carriage roads and foot trails and up to the Mohonk Tower, then descend and traverse the Gunks to around Lake Minnewaska, then loop back towards the starting/finishing point at the Gatehouse by 6 a.m. the following morning.
Posner’s partner in endurance-event-planning crime is Todd Jennings. They are also being aided by Norm Goluskin, an accomplished runner himself, as well as many others from the Preserve staff, volunteers and sponsors.
“It’s our first year, we’re still months away, and I’m so pleased that we already have more than 100 people registered,” said Posner. “Steve Jordan has lent us several of his original prints that are iconic images of the Preserve, several of which will be awarded to those that hit a certain level of fundraising.”
Rich Gottlieb of Rock and Snow, always one to support the Mohonk Preserve and outdoor adventures, is also donating $25 gift certificates to race registrants. “Rich is great,” said Posner. “We want this to be a win/win for everyone. We want to bring people to the Preserve who have never been here, and then hope that they stay and enjoy the inns, restaurants, shops like Rock and Snow. We want to be a part of the Mohonk Preserve’s 50th anniversary capital fundraising campaign, as well as celebrate its natural wonders. Is there any place on Earth like the Mohonk Preserve?”
More than that, it’s also, in Posner’s mind, a “celebration of the human spirit. How amazing will it be to have individuals of all ages and abilities walking and running these majestic trails over the course of 24 hours?”
Dan Winfield, an avid local runner/biker/swimmer, has already signed up to be part of a relay team and believes, like Posner, that “This could become a signature event. There’s nothing else like it. A 50-mile, 24-hour challenge? And in this beautiful location? I can’t wait to support it, to participate in it and to encourage everyone to do so. It’s a fantastic idea.”
To register, volunteer or learn more, go to the website at www.rocktheridge50.org, which is filled with detailed information on the event.