In the world of endurance sports, the term “runner’s high” refers to the endorphin-fueled exhilaration distance runners often experience when logging mile after mile of training. This month, close to 2,500 fleet-footed athletes will get this feeling when they compete in the inaugural Walkway Marathon.
Taking place on June 13, this brand-new event consists of three races — a full marathon, half marathon, and 5K run — all of which traverse the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, the railroad-bridge-turned-linear-park that soars 212 feet above the Hudson River and offers unparalleled views of the Valley from the Hudson Highlands all the way to the Catskills. The full- and half-marathon courses also utilize the tree-lined Dutchess Rail Trail on the eastern side of the river, as well as the equally scenic Hudson Valley Rail Trail in Highland, Ulster County; the two trails are conveniently linked by the Walkway bridge.
“These races combine fantastic views with a shady and nearly flat running surface,” says Walkway Executive Director Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart. “From first-time racers to veterans hoping for a Boston Marathon qualifying time, all types of runners will enjoy this one-of-a-kind event.”
Indeed, the races have generated a great deal of buzz, both in the Valley region and beyond. At press time, more than 2,200 athletes from 25 states and four foreign countries had registered for one of the three events. A total of five wheelchair athletes will also participate in the marathon and half marathon — one of just three New York State races that allows wheelchair participants. Race organizers also hope to host the state’s first “certified green” marathon by meeting criteria outlined by Athletes for a Fit Planet. Their eco-friendly initiatives include a 100-percent paperless registration system, providing locally produced foods at the finish line, and awarding medals and trophies made from recycled materials.
Beginning and ending at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, the daylong competition is organized by the Walkway Over the Hudson, the nonprofit group that works to support the Park, in partnership with the Dutchess County government, which is providing help with everything from transportation and emergency response to promotional opportunities. Among the 1,300 or so half-marathon runners will be Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. “I started jogging just over two years ago, mostly because I wanted to keep pace with my kids,” says the 39-year-old Molinaro. “I’ve been running mostly 5Ks, but I was encouraged to try the half-marathon. So I’m currently — in quotes — training.”
The working relationship between the county and the Walkway is “a marriage made in heaven,” Molinaro says. “It was the intent of this county to host a marathon when we constructed the Dutchess Rail Trail. It became a mission of sorts to find a partner; at the same time, the Walkway made it clear that they wanted to host a marathon. So what better place for a race than on Dutchess’s Rail Trail and on the Walkway Over the Hudson, a world-class attraction?”
Molinaro feels the local community benefits from the event in two ways. “We think it’s a great opportunity to highlight Dutchess County, our recreational and tourist assets,” he says, “and to promote good health and healthy living.”
For more information, visit www.walkwaymarathon.org.