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VIDEO: Runners Train for 26th Annual Leatherman's Loop

Runners hit the trails on Sunday to prepare for the annual run in the mud.

Described by many as a "fun, but survivable" race, the Leatherman's Loop is a spring-time tradition at the

The 26th annual trail race challenges runners with steep inclines, calf-deep mud and waist-high water. Almost 1,400 entrants are slated to run in this year's event, to be held April 22.

Runners enter the race for an array of reasons—from experiencing something they never have before, like first time Loop runner, Amy Kreutzer—to being in a "beautiful park with beautiful people," like seven-time Loop winner, Tommy Nohilly.

Last year Nohilly bested his 2010 race time, 39:05, finishing at 38:40, but for most runners, the course takes over an hour to complete, said Rob Cummings, assistant race director and chief of technology. The last runners typically cross the finish line at the two-hour mark. 

For more on the ups and downs of the Leatherman's Loop, check out the video posted with this story of Sunday's training run, on the Rock Trail at the reservation.

Named after after a , a Frenchman known as the Leatherman, the race has a reputation for being more about communing with nature than posting a winning time. About 250 people from the immediate area are registered, plus a few from as far away as California and Mexico.

Last May, the Ossining Historical Society  the Leatherman's remains from the Sparta Cemetery, but . Historical records indicate he died in Briarcliff Manor on March 20, 1889. The materials found at his gravesite were relocated to a safer portion of the cemetery.

What's special about this year's event, according to race founder Tony Godino, is the return of legendary runner Caballo Blanco, featured in the book Born to Run. Godino also has plans for a surprise starting signal—in the past, it's been an airhorn, a major league pitcher and a pistol, to name a few—and this year will be no exception, he said.

To those gathered on Sunday, and anyone not yet training but planning to participate, Godino said it's time to get going.

"If you are not in the habit of running trails—find some. It's better for the body; there are some potential dangers but it's worth it. Trails are the way to go," he said.

As he has for the last several years, Cummings recommends a few unusual preparations for the race that is anything but a typical 10K.

"Vaseline between the toes—you can't help but get your feet wet in first mile and this will prevent chafing," he said. He also recommends securing sneakers well by tying them with a "shoelace surgeon's knot," which helps keep shoes on feet during the muddiest parts of the course.

Liz Cope no longer runs in the race but arrived early Sunday morning to race with old friends. Kope—who helped Godino plan the first Loop events—echoed her co-founder and said trail running was "like a religion."

"Back then, we didn't know any better—we showed up, rain, sleet, snow, it didn't matter, we didn't know anything better and it was just fun," she said. "How it has taken off—it's amazing. Just amazing."

A documentary of the Leatherman’s Loop, filmed during the 2011 race, will be shown on April 1 at the Main Auditorium in Sleepy Hollow. Click here to watch a one-minute trailer. 

Lisa Buchman March 20, 2012 at 07:10 PM
If you're running in this year's Loop, how is the training going? What is your toughest spot in the race?
Rob Cummings March 22, 2012 at 03:43 AM
I am going to hedge here and say the TWO toughest spots in the race for me are: 1.) The first hill before the water crossing. Not steep, but the trail narrows and after the big sprint at the start the quads start to feel it only a mile into the race on the uphill. 2.) The Deer Hollow hill section that seems to go on forever. This is after the mud flats and "The Wall" at around the 4 mile mark. Once that is over, it seems all downhill (or flat) from there! Tie those shoelaces tight!!
Brian Stempel March 22, 2012 at 01:29 PM
My training is mostly the Sunday morning runs Rob Cummings puts together. Last week, the rock trail was pretty tough. Thanks for not taking it easy on us Rob. :). Toughest part of the Leatherman for me is the 'wall', 'sand pit' whatever we're calling it. Every year it kicks my butt. Every year I think "did Tony have the sand trucked in!?"
Lisa Buchman March 22, 2012 at 01:39 PM
You both are not raising my confidence levels! Who has words of encouragement for those first-time Loop runners who are perhaps (ahem) a bit out of shape and over-the-hill for this event?
Don Goodrich April 24, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I still believe the Leatherman may be Jules Borglais, any thoughts?

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