The 10th annual Run for the Woods was held on May 14. The weather was beautiful, the runners were fast, and the volunteers and organizers did a great job. This 5k trail race was organized by the graduate students of the Ecology and Evolution Graduate Student Association (EcoGSA) to raise funds for restoration and care of local woods at the Rutgers University Ecological Preserve (EcoPreserve) and for their association. Professor Richard Lathrop, faculty director of the EcoPreserve, has also used donations to fund undergraduate projects such as an ecology course focused on natural resource management. The Run was originally held in Helyar Woods, part of Rutgers Gardens. The location was changed in 2014 and now takes place at the EcoPreserve.
This year 44 runners and walkers crossed the finish line. The competitors were mostly local runners, and many come out every year. The fastest male finisher, William Hulbert, crossed the finish line in 18:49 minutes. The fastest female finisher, Amanda Cirillo, finished the run in 25:44 minutes.
Joni Baumgarten, who has headed the organization for four years, described the course as a single loop through the EcoPerserve, featuring many spring flowers including spring beauty (claytonia virginica) and Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema Triphyllum). Obstacles included narrow sections, roots, rocks, and—because of the recent rains—mud! Despite this last messy challenge, Natalie Howe, one of the runners who also helped organize the race said, “Joni picked the most gorgeous day to host this race. What a fabulous time to be out in the forest!” Dave, another repeat runner, said, “My dog Zoe and I loved the Run for the Woods race! The trail included plenty of natural beauty, and was ideal for this man and his beast, offering enough challenges while still being fun. Zoe enjoyed the trail so much that she wasn’t even distracted by squirrels!” Running through the woods can be a challenge, but Lathrop’s trail maintenance team does an excellent job of clearing the trails. Lathrop ran the trail himself the morning of the race to trim branches and bushes that encroached the path because of the rain the previous night.
The race is supported by RoadRunner Sports in North Brunswick, Bagel Boys in North Brunswick, Pinelands Nursery, and RoadID. This year, the top male and female finisher won a pair of sneakers from RoadRunner Sports. Other top finishers won sweetbay magnolia trees (Magnolia virginiana) or sweet pepperbush shrubs (Clethra alnifolia), donated by Pinelands Nursery. The unclaimed plant prizes are going to be planted in the EcoPreserve.
Keep your calendar open in early May 2017 if you want to enjoy some spring flowers, a romp through the woods, and support forest restoration! Thank you again to all the participants and to the businesses that support this race!