Story by Rob McGuinness
WINDHAM, N.Y. – This day was anything but a walk in the woods.
Cross country alumna Lea Cure '16 (Altamont, N.Y.) made her debut in the Escarpment Trail Run on July 29, joining about 250 others who traversed the demanding 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) course in the northern Catskill Mountains of New York.
The course description is not for the faint of heart. Organizers warn of remote, single-track trail covered with rocks, roots and tree limbs, and difficult climbs and cliffs that give way to dramatic descents. There is also the potential for an encounter with wildlife that lives along the course.
The race, established in 1977, requires runners to post a qualifying mark from an endurance event completed in the last calendar year. Cure qualified by virtue of her finish in the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon last fall.
Cure, whose best performance in a marathon is 3 hours, 32 minutes and 34 seconds, hoped to emerge from the woods in less than six hours. She did better than that, finishing at 5 hours, 3 minutes and 11 seconds. It was the longest she'd ever been on her feet for a run or a hike.
The race is run in waves, with groups of 15 runners released into the woods at five-minute intervals. Cure, in Wave 16, was careful in the early miles, trying to keep her footing.
"It was super technical, so the entire time you have to focus on where your feet are going," she said. "You go up six peaks, and a lot of it is really steep and really rocky. It was beautiful terrain, but it was so tough."
The results only hint at the difficulty of the demanding event, with split times noted at the base and at the top of the various climbs. The point-to-point course includes nearly 10,000 feet of vertical elevation change on the trek from Windham to North Lake.
The finish line brought an extra-special sense of accomplishment for Cure, who represented Salve Regina in 29 cross country races between 2012 and 2015. Her father, Pete, is a six-time finisher of the Escarpment Trail Run. Lea Cure had been eyeing the race for some time. Now, she stands among the ranks of its finishers.
"It was maybe one of the hardest things I've ever done," she said. "But I'm really happy with how it went."