Dominic Grillo was the male winner of last Sunday’s Morris Mauler 5 km race, while Courtney Stanton was the first female. Winning time of 19:50, he was the only sub-20 minute finisher. Stanton finished in 25:11. With 59 finishers, the field was small but deep, and included many regulars from Maulers past. People who knew what they were in for.
The return of an old favorite, the Morris Mauler was held two or three times a year in the early 2000s. For some reason, around 2009, Dave Hoch, the organizer stopped putting it on.
But on a balmy spring day, the Mauler lured me away from the routine of Sunday over distance bike rides. My left knee doesn’t tolerate long runs any more. A long Sunday in the woods is now running uphill and walking downhill, and I pay for it the next day. But I can get away with around 90 minutes. A warmup, five kilometers and a warm down; that should be just about enough. And I looked at it as a kind of a test: if I finish this without too many ill effects, maybe I can shoot for a 10-mile race somewhere down the road.
In Lewis Morris Park, the Morris Mauler is two laps of a 2.5-kilometer loop that features two nasty hills. Because the terrain is mixed – grass, a bit of pavement, single and double track – I think of it more as a cross-country race than a trail race. If you like your 5 k races flat and fast, don’t come.
“Ready, set, go!” called Coach Hoch, and we were off. For the first few hundred meters, I held my own in sixth place. The first big hill features steps with railroad ties, which have always flummoxed me. It felt like half the field went by, although later I realized it wasn’t that bad. I don’t know if it was the ties or if I still lack fitness following my surgery, but I got schooled.
The next hill back to the top of the course finishes with a short stretch of something like 20% grade, but it was more manageable. The second lap, I picked off a couple of people who had passed me earlier. I made the move stick on the railroad tie hill, and opened the gap over the top. Behind me, some guy was whistling as I pulled away. Clearly he could have gone harder.
Down across the softball field, then through the brambly single track to the last big climb. My knee was still fine, my right hip, not so much. Second time around I ran the whole thing, and then hammered 300 meters to the finish. In the end, I was 12th overall and third in my age group. At this race, with the quality of runners showing up, it was a good result.
It’s great to welcome the Morris Mauler back to the local scene. Let’s hope for many more!