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Walkway To Hold Marathons In June

Ashley Arias, Walkway Over the Hudson

It was a bitter cold day at Walkway Over the Hudson, but the focus today was on a major event involving the signature pedestrian bridge in the Hudson Valley next summer.

A Walkway Marathon event will take place in June, when nearly 1,500 runners are expected to tread upon the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. It will be the first annual Walkway Marathon race series for Walkway Over the Hudson, the pedestrian span that runs from Poughkeepsie, in Dutchess County, to Highland, in Ulster County. The marathons will build upon the established Treetops to Rooftops 5k event. Keith Axelrod is president of Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club, one of the event’s partners that will help coordinate the races.

“The runners are going to be thrilled. It’s the talk of the town, and not only the town, the county, but we’re going to see them coming from New York, from Albany, from Syracuse, from all over,” says Axelrod. “This is going to be a big regional event.”

Dutchess County is another of several Walkway Marathon partners. Here’s Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

“We’ll be working on the logistics together so our planning staff has already helped with mapping,” says Molinaro. “Emergency response will assist with emergency management at the event, making sure that we have Department of Public Work staff for traffic control and parking assistance, sheriff’s office for security assistance and traffic control, and our Dutchess County transit system where we’ll have several shuttles available to move runners and visitors.”

The event, which will serve as one of the Walkway organization’s primary fundraisers for 2015, will feature marathon and half-marathon routes that begin at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, include a significant stretch of the William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail, and cross over the Walkway Over the Hudson, with a turnaround on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail in Ulster County. Molinaro made a pledge.

“What better way to highlight the Dutchess Rail Trail and Walkway Over the Hudson and what, I don’t know of a stronger partnership than ours. So Dutchess County is committed to making this not only a reality, but a success,” says Molinaro. “And I’m going to make this deal with you. I’m going to run the 5k because I’m a 5k runner, my legs don’t support me for more than that. But here’s the commitment. If we partner on this again, I’ll run a half marathon and then I’ll run the full marathon, so we’ve got to do this for at least three more years.  We’re in it together. Let’s make this a success. You got it.” 

Paul Hansut is Town of Lloyd supervisor.

“First of all, I will not commit to running anywhere, even the next 5, 10 years, elections or not.” 

He pointed to Ulster County Executive Mike Hein’s work on the rail trail network in his county.

“But I know his vision, we’re looking to go from the Walkway up to the Ashokan up to the Catskill,” says Hansut. “He has been working diligently on doing that.”

Credit Ashley Arias, Walkway Over the Hudson
Walkway Executive Director Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart; Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, left.

Organizers also plan to pursue “green certification” for the race from Athletes for a Fit Planet, making it one of the first green marathons in New York. Walkway Executive Director Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart says shuttling runners using Dutchess County government’s public transit system’s hybrid buses, doing away with water cups, composting, and awarding medals made from local, repurposed wood are just some of the planned sustainable practices.

“We’ve been looking for another niche for the race. I mean the race itself in this wonderful venue’s it, but the Walkway as an organization and as an effort believes in repurposing and revitalizing and rebuilding,” says Waldstein-Hart. “And so having the race be a green race is a really wonderful concept.”

A competitive runner for 60 years, Roger Robinson has raced at the elite level, including masters, for almost 30, with record-breaking wins at Boston, New York, Vancouver and other marathons. Robinson, a longtime columnist with Running Times magazine, calls New Paltz home a good part of the year and Wellington, New Zealand the other part.

“There’s two things about this location. One is the rail trails, the whole sense of trails. Runners love the sense of direction and for years and years have been discovering old railroads and old canal banks and things and now these are being developed recreationally. Runners are the main users of them,” says Robinson. “And the other thing, of course, is this incredible bridge, this spectacular bridge. Runners love going over bridges because it gives them a sense of getting somewhere. And they love going over Verrazano–Narrows Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge in the New York marathon, over Tower Bridge in London or over the Sydney Harbour Bridge in that marathon. All of those marathons that have major bridges are successful and very attractive to runners, and so this will be one of them, I think.”

Marathon organizers and partners expect a large economic impact on the region. Registration for the June 13th marathon opens December 2.

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