Celebrating its 10th year, the 2023 Rock The Ridge took place in the scenic Hudson Valley of New York State about 90 miles north of New York City. Specifically, all of this goes down on the land of Mohonk Preserve, a nature preserve that spreads across 8,000 acres and is situated between the Hudson River and the Shawangunk Ridge. Mohonk Preserve includes forested areas, creeks, ponds and a ridge with stunning views. The Preserve is a non-profit and visitor-supported slice of heaven, and the Rock The Ridge 50-miler is one of their biggest fundraisers of the year.
For the runner, it’s all about the trails and Mohonk has 30 miles of well-maintained, lightly graveled carriage roads and 40 miles of single-track trails. The race course is restricted to the groomed carriage trails, however, participants are treated to 4,720 feet of elevation gain and descent throughout the course.
As we started at 6 a.m., I eased into it by running through the Pin Oak Allee, a half-mile stretch of massive pin oak trees that line the course. The low-hanging fog was surreal and it was not long before I passed Duck Pond and spied the Sky Top Tower up on the Shawangunk Ridge. Sky Top is the high point on the course, but to get there I had some work to do. The course climbs, levels out and climbs again to the heights of Eagle Cliff, which features views of the Wallkill Valley to the east and the Catskill Mountains to the west. After the climb to Eagle Cliff, it was time to descend to the first major aid station at Pine Road. I was reminded by my running buddy not to trash my quads on the first major downhill.
In running, what goes down must go up and Rock The Ridge is no exception. From Pine Road we climbed until we reached the shores of Mohonk Lake and the Mohonk Mountain House gardens. Reaching Sky Top Tower was a welcome milestone, and I knew the course would continue with downhill and flat sections to the next major aid station at Spring Farm, the 26.3-mile mark. There’s a lot of running to be had after Spring Farm and one of my goals was to be ready for the big climb up Stage Road and the steep descent to the Rhododendron Bridge aid station at mile 34.1.
For the uninitiated, the Shawangunk Ridge or “the Gunks” is one of the most popular rock-climbing destinations on the planet. As I headed out to the last major aid station at Lyons Road, I ran along the base of those famous cliffs. Seeing and hearing climbers in action reminded me of my first visits to the Gunks in the late 70s, not as a runner but as a rock climber. It was a relief to get to the Lyons Road aid station at mile 39. Usually, I’m the volunteer aid station captain, so it was interesting to visit from a different perspective. I knew I was on my way home and would lose over 1,000 feet to that beautiful Pin Oak Allee and the finish.
This year’s Rock The Ridge was cool and foggy at the start with clear blue skies throughout the entire day. Congratulations to the male and female champs David Stawski who finished in 7:22, and Lisa Schwartz who finished in 7:46 and third overall, and thanks to the spectators and volunteers.