OLD BRIDGE, NJ - Presented by the Rumson Hash House Harriers in concordance with the Jersey Shore Running Club (JSRC), 326 stalwart racers competed in the 32nd annual running of the Hashathon, a rugged, tough, challenging, six-mile trail race through the woods of Middlesex County’s Cheesequake State Park, in Old Bridge Township, on a cloudy, a bit breezy, 60 degrees, good–racing–weather Sunday morning of November 13.

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Start of the 2011 Hashathon.  Photos by Bob Both, www.jsrc.org 

Tim Riley, 24, of North Brunswick was the winner and broke the finish-line tape, held by JSRC’s Penny Hinck and Charlotte Griggs, wife of race director Mark, from the course that starts and finishes in the vicinity of the main pavilion of the Park, and is described in the event’s circular as a “run through winding wooded trails, steep gullies, foot bridges, small streams, fallen trees, varmints, dramatic cedar forest & beautiful wetlands,” at a racing time of 42:37 (42 minutes and 37 seconds). The digital racing clock that displayed that time was attended to and provided by John Kuhi, veteran runner and coach in the Shore area and long-time member of the Shore Athletic Club, with help from John Cheer, active member of JSRC.

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Tim Riley crosses the finish line.

Rounding out the top-three finishers were Gary Wersinger, 54, of West Long Branch at 42:51 (becoming active after a six-year hiatus) and Joe Pawlish, 39, Haverford, PA at 43:51 (last year’s runner-up).

“ I took the lead soon after we came off the lake and I stayed out in front the rest of the way,” said Riley in describing his performance. “Easily more challenging than a road race can ever give you,” said the Trail’s champion when asked to compare a trail race with a road race. “Here, right here at this event – I’ve been coming here often and I wouldn’t miss it,” he further offered when asked what he liked best.

“Definitely not a walk in the park!” exclaimed  runner-up Wersinger when asked his thoughts on the course and likes a trail run because “I like being out in nature.”

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Lauren Rhatigan crosses the finish line.

Lauren Rhatigan, 48, of Ship Bottom, runner-up for the past two years, was today’s women’s champion at 49:12 (9th place overall) followed by Howell’s Kellee Hand, 23, at 50:47 (15th overall) and third-place woman was Heather Fraebel, 15, of Whitehouse Station at 51:22 (21st overall).

“Like I’ve told you before, Jim, it’s like apples and oranges,” said the women’s leader in comparing a trail and road race at the finish area as she was tending to her bleeding leg caused by a fall near the end. “Trail race, no doubt about it,” said Rhatigan when asked which she preferred.

“It’s a lot different and I actually like it because of the uphills and downhills you feel more empowered,” offered 3rd woman finisher Fraebel in her comment.

“I twisted my ankle about mile two but decided to tough it out and continue,” said Highlands Dawn Ciccone whose time of 1:05:45 earned her an age-group award.  “You have to be ever alert and there’s no place in the whole 6 miles that you can just relax,” she further offered.  

Ocean Township’s Susan Ardito, active member of the JSRC, finished at 1:10:45. “I was happy to finish the race and not fall down,” she said when asked her thoughts on this annual event. She further said, “being in the woods and on the dirt is a lot of fun.”

Also a member of JSRC, as well as the Sandy Hookers, Pam Allen of Red Bank finished at 1:14:43. In commenting she said, “Everybody around you is terrific and very supportive of each other and that makes for a friendly atmosphere,” she said and of the weather: “Beautiful, couldn’t be better.”

“This is the best race I have ever run,” said 34-year-old Melissa Mott of Piscataway who finished at 1:17:28. Mott has raced many road races including the New Jersey Marathon in the spring but likes this event best because, “it was the most fun – it was challenging – everybody kinda worked together, telling each other ‘watch here, watch there’ so you don’t fall and get hurt – and the tireless volunteers, and there were many of them, telling you ‘to be very careful’ – it was a clearly marked course, you knew where you were going so you wouldn’t get lost.”

Seventy-year-old David Gross of Marlboro, one of the three septuagenarians who all received awards, David for his 1:06:29 racing time, loves this race and explains why: “It’s a real challenge – it’s not your ordinary, everyday, on-the-road type of race – there are more things out there than there are fingers on your hands and toes on your feet: roots, rocks, vermin, boardwalks, collapsing boards, mud, briar bushes, many, many, many leaves, slow runners who won’t give way but in comparison to a road race, it’s the greatest thing. Thanks to Mark Griggs (race director) for putting this on.”  

The water spots where racers get a drink were strategically placed at the 1 1/4-mile area going out and also at the 4 ½-mile area coming back. It was serviced by some of the twenty or so on-course members of the host clubs who also served as course marshals, including Manasquan’s Charles J. Rand who was assigned to be the “sweep” who gathers markers and things but whose main task is to see that all racers are accounted for.

The event includes a 1 Mile (almost) Fun Run, on the once-around-the-lake course with 14, mainly youngsters, competing. Crystal Pappas, in the 5th grade at Ridgewood Elementary School, Manchester was today’s champion at 6:49.

Dave DeMonico, Ocean, on the trumpet and Chick Albers, Hazlet, on the drum provided music out on the course for their running friends. DeMonico also played our National Anthem at the into-the-woods starting area and prior to that director Mark Griggs thanked all racers for coming and cautioned them to be ever alert of their footing during the race.     

The aforementioned winners and age-group leaders, along with special category recipients, were given awards of laser-etched metal plaques created by Tom Morrison, past president of JSRC, at the Pavilion by race director Mark Griggs and other members of the race committee.

Information in the encyclopedia informs of the history of the Harriers: “Hashing originated in Kuala Lumpur, Maylasia, in December 1938, when a group of British colonial officers began meeting on Monday evenings to run, in a fashion patterned after the traditional British Paper Chase or ‘Hare and Hounds,’ to rid themselves of the excesses of the previous weekend. Its Constitution proposes: To promote physical fitness among the members; To get rid of weekend hangovers; To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer; To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel.”

“With near-perfect running conditions the 32nd running of the Hashathon six-mile trail race proved to be outstanding in many ways. With a huge turnout of 326 finishers in the main event and 14 in the one-mile fun run, the trails of Cheesequake State Park provided a challenge for all. The mild weather and fall foliage proved a beautiful setting for the brutal race. I want to thank the enthusiastic volunteers from the Jersey Shore Running Club, especially Phil and Penny Hinck and their mother-in-law/mother, Marilyn Ryder; the Rumson Hash House Harriers and a few individuals from communities near the Park. Once again the staff at the Park proved to be helpful and gracious hosts. Local rock band Goldenseal gave a spirited performance at the post-race party held at M.E. Haley Hose Fire Department #1 of Matawan. This is the third year that the Hashathon’s post-race party was held at this location. Thanks also go to the Shore Athletic Club and John Kuhi for the timing clock; to Tommy Morrison for crafting the unique awards; to Rick Valentine of Athlete’s Image for the fantastic embroidered long sleeve T-Shirts; to Atillo’s Pizza for prompt delivery of tasty pizzas; to the entire Hashathon Race committee for enduring the months of planning that lead up to this big day and who gave up most of their weekend to ensure that this race goes off without a hitch, and to Johnny on the Spot for its necessary amenities," said Mark Griggs in an E-mail summary. "We hope to see all of you back at Cheesequake State Park again next year for another spectacular race."

Other leading racers of the “brutal” six-mile Hashathon challenge:

   Old Bridge:  Danny Salardino 51:07 (age-group Award),  Joe Mahoney 52:14,  Jayne Condon 54:24 (Award),  Cathy Mahoney 1:05:14 (Award),  Franco Gamba 1:05:21,  Jim Buckler 1:06:58,  Bridget Nunez 1:07:20.  

   Herald area: Bob Haithcock 49:55, Middletown (Award);  Mark Molyneaux 51:33, Fair Haven;  John Kutner 53:24 and Shane Remolina 54:35, Middletown;  Ty Yolac 56:22, Fair Haven;  Elliot Olschwang 57:29, Middletown;  Hal Soden 57:36, Little Silver;  Gregory Scarlata 58:04, Middletown;  George Roberts 58:24, Highlands;  Cammi Plage 58:25, Middletown (Award);  Robert Morris 58:32, Rumson;  Ani Plage 58:45 and Marty Plage 58:46, Middletown;  Bob Summers 1:00:29, Rumson;  Dennis Fallon 1:01:52, Keansburg;  Shawn Kingsley 1:02:24, Oceanport;  Mark Danzeisen 1:02:37, Highlands;  Nicholas Pizzonia 1:03:04, Red Bank;  Gil Eckert 1:03:26 and Javier Damien 1:04:23, Middletown;  Dan Oldroyd 1:08:22, Red Bank;  Nikki Froehuch 1:09:39, Middletown;  Christina Fautz 1:10:49, Highlands;  John Fullon 1:10:57, Keansburg.

   Monmouth County:  Rich Riopel 45:06, Morganville (Award);  Justin Cabinian 45:34, Matawan (Award);  Jim Redeker 50:26, Lake Como (Award);  Steve Apostolacus 50:45, Wanamassa (Award);  Tom Brieva 50:50, Manalapan;  Stephen Luz 51:18, Holmdel;  Cole Porter 51:35, Shrewsbury;  Tom Fraebel 52:36, Morganville;  Russsell Carhart 53:42, Keyport;  Patrick Applegate 64:22, Matawan;  Laura DeMeo 54:27, Brielle (Award);  Kevin Lynch 54:59, Morganville (Award);  John Belfiore 55:12, Matawan;  Chris Dunford 56:45, Tinton Falls;  Susan Lewicki 56:52, Matawan (Award);  Dave Matthew 57:22, Tinton Falls;  Christie Patla 57:38, Aberdeen (Award);  Gregory Balint 57:41 and Tara Vitale 57:45, Howell (Award);  Franc Cannarezzo 58:07, Holmdel;  Manda Pierce 1:01:47.  

Road racing continues on Friday, November 25, with the Born to Run Five Mile Race in Freehold at 11 a.m. Registration begins 9 a.m. at the Freehold Firehouse, 49 West Main Street. Info at website FARCNJ.com.