Dear Ms. Biase and members of the Morris County Parks Commission,
I am writing to you in response to your recent decisions to not allow NJ Trail Series to host three of their races in Morris County Parks (NJ Ultrafest, Mahlon Mayhem, and the Muddy Marathon) and to significantly increase the registration and permit fees for their other races, especially the 5k cross country series held at Central Ave Park.
NJ Trail Series has been the only company in New Jersey that is making trail races open to everyone. Their offerings of distances from 5K up to 100 miles increases participation to a wider range of people. Their attention to course markings, the safety of participants, and their focus on the fun of running in the woods has attracted people from many counties in NJ, many states in the USA (22 at the 2010 NJ Ultrafest!), and countries around the world! The race directors, Jennifer and Rick McNulty, care about every runner on the course and will wait for every participant to finish, no matter how long it may take them. This is not true of many road races. Marathons close their course after a certain time period. If you are still on the course of these other races, you are left to your own devices to get to the finish and without aid. NJ Trail Series supplies aid the entire time runners are on the course and does not leave anyone or anything on the course. Volunteers for the NJ Trail Series races run the course at the end of the race to pick up every flag and ribbon used on the course.
Many people have the mistaken assumption that running longer distances (ie. the arbitrary 25 km limit set by Morris County Parks Commission) are detrimental to health and is considered risky behavior. This is far from true. Yes there are instances of someone dying while running marathons or participating in triathalons. This can occur whether on the race course, while training, on the road or in the woods. All of us who are running the longer distances of some of the NJ Trail Series races, including the three races that were denied permits by the Morris County Parks Commission, have trained for these distances. We have undertaken months of running longer distances on the roads and on the trails, many on the trails in Morris County, to prepare for these races. As adults, we understand the risks of running long distances and running on trails.
The 5k cross country race at Central Ave Park exposes runners of all ages to the race environment. Runners as young as 7 yrs and as old as 74 yrs participate. This is a low key (and low entry fee) race that anyone can run. To charge a small, family-owned, company $150/race to utilize the course is outrageous. The park is rarely used on a Wednesday evening by Morris County residents who aren’t racing; the dodgeball participants have use of the upper parking lot since most runners park on the street; and those who are there aren’t restricted from using the site or the facilities. The county provides very little ammenities to justify this fee. There are portable toilets provided, along with the permanent bathroom facilities; however, the toilets were removed and not replaced for 3 weeks this year, and these are open for anyone that frequents the park Monday-Sunday, not just race participants.
What has running NJ Trail Series done for me? It has gotten me back into running more often and longer distances, encouraged me to see what my limits might be and allowed me to run my first ultramarathon (two 50 km races this year!). I have observed the strength and vitality of other runners who are running very long distances and setting records (US records have been set at NJ Trail Series races!), assisted other runners in achieving their goals through volunteer work and support and assistance of other runners on the course, and have met people and made new friends