Goin’ off the rails on a crazy train

This Saturday, the first Saturday of June, is National Trails Day. National Trails Day brings out over a million runners, hikers, walkers, bikers, ticks, snakes, poison ivy plants, etc who all want to appreciate America’s beautiful trails. The Raritan Valley Road Runners commemorate NTD with the Towpath “Train”ing Run, one of the most spectacularly organized and impressive running events I have ever been a part of.

The “Train”ing Run is a non-competitive run to benefit the Cancer Institute of NJ, and it is held on the DNR Canal Towpath. The Towpath is a beautiful, mostly-shaded, dirt and gravel trail, that stretches 34.1 miles from Trenton to New Brunswick, with multiple entrances in between (there are also additional miles from Trenton to Frenchtown). All of this, plus the fact that it’s almost completely flat, makes the Towpath especially conducive for long runs and bike rides… and the “Train”ing Run.

A pace train on the Towpath during the 2011 “Train”ing Run. Photo courtesy of RVRR.

The explanation of the “Train”ing Run is like one of those horribly traumatic math problems from your childhood:

Four trains leave Trenton, NJ at separate times, all traveling at different speeds. Each train will stop at various stations for two minutes to pick up passengers and/or fuel along the way. What time would each train need to leave, and what speed would each train have to go to make it to New Brunswick, NJ by 11am?

Are you rocking on the ground in the fetal position? Me too.

Thankfully the work has already been done, and you can admire it here. Runners choose their pace group and their distance. They catch the bus out to their desired ‘station’ and wait until their pace ‘train’ arrives and fuels, then they jump in and run toward New Brunswick with the pace group. As long as the pace trains hit their targets at each station, everyone makes it to Johnson Park at 11am, where an all-day barbecue awaits. Incredible.

This has worked successfully for thirteen years, especially after the 2011 addition of a designated pacer for each train. I had the honor of pacing the 9.30 group, while three other ladies paced the other groups. I think it helped that we were all a.) wearing neon pink, b.) wearing our pace on the front and back, and c.) female.


The 2011 Pace Team

We pace group leaders are adding an EVEN BRIGHTER piece to our 2012 outfits which will make us more noticeable, more adorable, and provide us some personal space when the trail gets crowded. Just you wait!

This year I have chosen to run the full length of the Towpath because I’m certifiably nuts a masochist being extra bold. It’s not as crazy as it may sound, considering there are 17 other people running the 34.1, and five people who are starting at 11pm on Friday to run from New Brunswick to Trenton, then back to New Brunswick to make it for the 11am arrival in Johnson Park on Saturday. Seriously.

34.1 doesn’t sound so ridiculous now, does it? Makes me feel better.

Looking forward to reaching a new distance at the 2012 Towpath “Train”ing Run and a few Yuenglings at the barbecue.

Happy National Trails Day, and all aboard the crazy train!

Check out more from Jim here!


10 thoughts on “Goin’ off the rails on a crazy train

    • When Irene hit, the park re-did some of the mile markers and apparently the Towpath is 34.2 miles… but it’s not officially published, so I’m going to see what my Garmin says!
      Gene, you met Jim, right? Or maybe you guys just emailed. He’s my former coworker, also barefoot runner!

  1. Oh, man, that had better be one good barbeque!! But it’s events like this that make RVRR so special—it can be imitated, but never topped!

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