On most weekends, a large group of early morning runners gather at the Mohonk Reservation in Ulster County for long distances of varying lengths along the seemingly endless carriage paths of Shawangunk Ridge.
Many of these runners are marathon runners, usually in training for the big city spring or fall of 26.2 miles. Others are there simply for the world-class scenery, elevation, and general good vibes. This often describes Karen Miura, who, along with her husband Steve and loyal dog Lucy, can be found in Mohonk almost every weekend.
“This group claims this is the best place to train for the Boston or New York Marathon,” Miura said in an email. “For me, I call it my church, because it is the place where I feel the most connected to the spirit.”
For years, Miura has been on the trail, while her friends and training partners have been preparing for a marathon. This year, Mohonk’s rounds were weekly fitness tests that would eventually lead to her final exam: Rock the Ridge 50-miler.
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Miura was one of several local runners who tackled the ultramarathon, which was held last month on the Mohonk trails. Because of her close knowledge of the trails — “the Mohonk Reserve is no stranger to me,” she said — she immediately added this to her “bucket list,” though she admitted she didn’t know how to handle training.
It turns out she’s been able to figure out her way to stellar success – thanks in large part to her loyal four-legged friend Lucy. During the pandemic, Miura and Lucy drove many miles on the Appalachian Trail, and their runs became longer and more exciting.
“Running in the driveway was very different from running on the road,” she said. ‘We were going to ramp up the climb and run the apartments while sightseeing and stop for snacks. At every opportunity I had, I was in the woods with Lucy.’
This led to a solo fundraiser in November 2021, where Miura covered 24 miles of AT from Hopewell Junction to Bear Mountain Bridge. Along the way, she raised over $2,000 for an organization that rescues street dogs in Puerto Rico, where she rescued Lucy. It has covered nearly a marathon with a total elevation of nearly 5,000 feet. I felt like I could go on!
This led her to text her friend Tiffany Sivko, a super-experienced runner, to see if Rock the Ridge is a possibility. “With her encouragement, positive words, and insight into Ultras, I got the boost I needed, so I signed up,” Miura said.
Miura admitted that she hated running in the cold, but after the Rock the Ridge goal she forced herself (and Lucy) out to run. With her husband Steve, who is also a passionate runner on Mohonk’s training range, he encourages—”You have to go out and do the work,” he tells her—she’s done the miles despite tough training conditions this winter.
Once the icy conditions of winter subsided, Karen Miura teamed up with Sivco, Amber Klemann (with whom she’ll run the full 50 miles) and David Vernix to train a Mohonk up to about 20 miles. Next, the whole group ran the incredibly hilly Millbrook Marathon in early April. Miura added four miles after that in her first 30-mile road training.
Like all the other super runners at Rock the Ridge, heat and humidity were an important factor. Miura stayed with Klemann all the way and drove the miles. Wanting to enjoy the experience and stay in the moment, Miura didn’t even start her hour at the start of the race. At one point I asked Klemann if they had finished 10 miles; They were actually at 21 miles by that point.
“You really get to know someone when you run a really big group,” she said. We worked as a team.
When they finally reached the finish line, at 11 hours, 35 minutes, 6 seconds, Miura received the surprising news that she had finished third in the 50-59 age group, and then had an emotional reunion with Lucy. Kleiman, who finished the race at the same time, was 10th in the 40-49 age group.
“To be able to train and complete an Ultra race, you need support,” Miura said. “I had family support, but finding others to help you train and who had so much fun being with them was adding icing to the cake.”
Sivco agreed with this evaluation. At first, she had high hopes for some time in the nine-hour range for Rock the Ridge. But a fall injury, followed by a winter bout with COVID, spoiled her intended training plan. Sivco’s preparation did not begin in earnest until the beginning of March.
“With this, once I was able to start training, I trained hard and was very proud of my progress,” she said in an email. “I am very fortunate that my husband supports my ultra-fast endeavors. His support really helped me train, but his rational thinking also kept me from pushing myself to the point of injury or exhaustion.
Sivco scaled back its initially aggressive time target and simply aimed to finish under 12 hours, which it did (11:20:51, ninth in the 40-49 division). That time enabled her to reach her ultimate goal of securing a spot on the Vermont 100-mile ultra, which is later this summer.
Despite her personal setbacks in the early stages of her training, Sivco said she drew her inspiration from the support of Miura, Klemann, and her other running friends. “They say running is better with friends, and I can’t agree more,” Sivko said.
Sivco added: “Seeing Amber and Karen on the course, along with so many other friends, was the enthusiasm I needed to keep moving. Their words of encouragement and encouragement helped me, even when I was feeling too hot and too tired to keep going. Move in. Knowing that they were on the training course prompted me and inspired me.”
- On Saturday, the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club will host the Bill Croce/Joseph MacDonald 10K Race at the village of Wappingers Falls, for the first time since 2019. The race honors the memory of two Wappingers men who died in the Vietnam War.
- On Saturday, June 11, the Millbrook Early Childhood Education Center will be holding a 5K Print Run at 9 a.m., at the Thorne Building in Millbrook. There will also be a children’s one-mile race. The event is a fundraising campaign for MECEC, which provides high quality preschool education. Here is a link to register: https://www.givesignup.org/Race/NY/Millbrook/MECEC
Pete Colaizzo, Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club member and track coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, writes about running each week. He can be reached at [email protected] For more club information, go to www.mhrrc.org