Exploring the Lenape Trail: Essex County, New Jersey
|Pre-run prep: you can never be overly prepared! I only used one gel|
and had the homemade granola bar afterwards, in the car.
While Newark, New Jersey is not on my bucket list of the most beautiful places to live in, it holds a special place in my heart. It was where almost 17 years ago I would work for a big corporate consulting firm among MBAs and business types feeling very self-important in my early 20s, and where I would eventually meet my husband at the Penn Station after a freak January-rain storm had kept me hostage in the office for 5 hours after work had ended. I left the following October and married my beautiful West-African husband a few months later. My return to Newark for the Lenape Trail 34 Mile Run, a fatass event sponsored by the New Jersey Trail and Ultra Runners, was equally auspicious, and also included an African.
|More pre-run prep: TNF Winter Warm Tights, TNF Isotherm 1/2 Zip,|
a cheap Energizer Head Lamp, Trail and Ultrarunning Buff, Altra
Compression Socks, and a Nike Thermal Shirt
|Part of Belleveille Park|
|This was the shallow stuff.|
As we searched for the start, we started talking. Oh, you're a teacher. That's nice. What? You're here to run? HOW much? Wait, WHY? You couldn't get me to run…Do you have kids? An 11 year old, he must be big. Oh, your husband is African? I AM TOO! From Senegal. OUI. You speak French? WOW. I am so impressed.
|How I've never run in Yaktrax before this run, I DON'T KNOW.|
|A welcome sight, after the urban decay in parts of Newark|
Running on the Lenape Trail is an adventure. The terminus of the trail is on the west bank of the Passaic River, which tries valiantly to NOT be a cesspool of petroleum additives and other poisonous nastiness. The designer of the trail wished to create a way in which to traverse Essex county in Central NJ via its parks, monuments, and tourist attractions. It is a mixed trail combining road/sidewalk running in its more urban reaches, park paths, and single track in its westernmost sections.
|Finally! A blaze.|
Branch Brook ParkAfter finally finding my way to Branch Brook Park, where the blazes were actually visible and NOT located on the bottom of snowdrift covered streetlamp posts, I headed north into the park. A quarter of a mile in, I spotted a folded up twenty dollar bill on the ground, all lonely and forlorn-looking. Without breaking my stride, I picked it up and said thanks to the universe for paying for my tolls and croissant.
The running was easy on the street, but hellishly difficult (which required slow, slogging steps) in the knee-deep snow as the trail continued north into Belleville. Imagine a stair-climber, elliptical, Cybex Arc Trainer workout all in one with cold, wet feet just getting accustomed to wearing metal spikes on their bottoms. This was when I started to imagine I was on the South Col of Everest, pretending I was a black sherpa--in New Jersey.
After leaving Branch Brook Park, the trail crosses over Second River into Belleville Park, an ex-urban oasis that reminded me of more remote untouched trails further north. After losing the blazes a few more times, I left the park and crossed Belleville Avenue, heading northwest. At this point I was a little less than 10 miles into my run and I was finally hungry and thirsty. I spotted Rosebuds Luncheonette on a corner where the trail would head due north again and ordered a my classic NY-NJ breakfast, a butter(ed) roll and cawfee black.
Well, I'll just run a marathon thenSitting at the counter reconfiguring and defrosting my thoughts, I decided that at the very least I would run a marathon. That would be fair, I thought- 13.1 out and 13.1 back. I felt great after leaving the restaurant and made my way up a residential street lined with neat one-family houses, some hidden by huge snowbanks. Then things began to change. As the trail begins to follow aqueducts, the traversing becomes very difficult and time-consuming. The snow on mostly unused trail, was very deep, and this required so much leg lifting, stopping, resting, balancing, etc. that I eventually had a conversation with myself and agreed that I would go no further, unless I wanted to risk being stuck in the dark, freezing woods somewhere in central Jersey/Everest.
What a day! To appreciate the Lenape Trail is to believe you are on some urban adventure, looking for clues as to where to head for the next snowy surprise. Here's hoping that next year there aren't too many polar vortices and freak snow storms on the Belleville Col and many more people will start and eventually finish this great event. Happy Trails!