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Mar 25, 2019 12:03 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Trail Running

Mar 25, 2019 2:49 PM

Many local athletes incorporate trail runs into their training routines. A trail surface’s naturally soft cushioning provides relief from the constant pounding and stress road miles can put on joints. I know of several runners and triathletes who, while recovering from various ankle and knee injuries, kick-started their training by staying off the roads and sticking to the trails.Fall through spring, with its cool weather and absence of pesky deer flies and mosquitoes, is the ideal time of year for running in the woods. The colorful leaves in autumn, dormant ticks in sub-40-degree weather, and the subtle signs of spring in April and May, are all added bonuses. The woods also cut down on the wind chill factor on a cold, breezy day.

I met up with some local runners last Sunday morning for an easy-paced, 8-mile loop through the quiet, winter landscape of Hither Woods. Our route took us mostly through forest, but also passed through open grasslands, alongside a large freshwater pond, and included a beautiful stretch overlooking Block Island Sound.

Before heading out onto the trails, here are a few pointers from long-time trail runners. John Conner warns first-timers that it’s important to keep an eye on the footing. Exposed roots, rocks and small stumps (the latter as small as your thumb) often pockmark the generally uneven trail bed, a situation quite unlike the paved surfaces frequented by road runners. Despite the potential for an accidental fall, Conner believes the uneven terrain has an overall positive impact: strengthening myriad small and obscure but important muscles surrounding the joints and building some agility and flexibility in one’s stride.

Barbara Gubbins points out that your mile per minute pace will be much slower on a typical trail run. Her advice: forget about speed and pacing on the trails and enjoy the woodland scenery. I would add to suit up in layers of lightweight, wicking synthetics and either know the route or stay within sight of a training partner who does.

Now that you’re ready to go, all that remains is choosing a trail. East Enders are very fortunate in having quite a variety of trail routes to choose from. State, county and town land acquisition programs and “open space” subdivisions, along with land preservation efforts by Peconic Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy, have protected hundreds of miles of public trails.

One of my favorite trail runs is the 10-mile loop that begins at the Route 114 trailhead and follows the white blazes of the Paumanok Path through the Northwest area of East Hampton. Where the Paumanok Path exits the Grace Estate Preserve and crosses Northwest Road, it merges with the Foster Path (orange-red blazes) for approximately 2 miles before splitting off to the right and leaving the white blazes. Continue to follow the orange-red blazes to Chatfield’s Hole, where it reemerges with the Paumanok Path, and backtrack on that to the start at Route 114. This route offers some outstanding scenery including Chatfield’s Pond, a deep kettlehole known as Samp Mortar Hollow, the magnificent Wilson’s Grove white pine forest, and the tranquil woodlands of the Grace Estate Preserve.

In addition to a great workout and healthy dose of fresh air, trail runs offer a chance to experience close encounters with nature, whether they be as simple as coming upon a box turtle or as dramatic as seeing a great-horned owl take flight with a mallard duck in its talons!

Trail Maps

Trail maps covering East Hampton and Southampton Towns can be purchased through the respective town halls. Go to southamptontownny.gov/FormCenter/Southampton-Trail-Maps-28/Southampton-Trail-Maps-111, or, ehamptonny.gov/532/Trail-Maps. Southold trail maps can be downloaded at southoldtownny.gov/118/Trails-and-Stewardship.

Upcoming Trail Races

These three challenging East End trail races can be completed solo or as a relay team. Follow the links for more info and to register.

Paumanok Pursuit 70K. April 7, 2019.


Covers the western section of the Paumanok Path west of the canal.

Shore2Shore 50K. April 20, 2019.


A point-to-point course following the Long Island Greenbelt Trail south from the start at Sunken Meadow State Park to the finish at Heckscher State Park.

Hither Hills Trail Half Marathon. May 4, 2019.


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