The day before the 7.5-mile Fall Harvest Race in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, I trimmed down my Spotify running playlist and packed leggings, a t-shirt, a long-sleeve insulated shirt, a head warmer, and two pairs of socks. Todd, my parents, and I drove about an hour upstate to Beacon and walked around the town: art galleries, a hipster coffee shop that wasn’t as good as we remembered, a chocolate shop, and a record store, but also a Key Food, a squat library, and a smoke shop or two. Mountains rose in the distance, but I could never get a picture unmarred by houses or cars or telephone poles. We ate dinner—a patty melt for me, a pork chop for Todd, a chicken-and-avocado sandwich for Dad, and a walnut-crusted chicken salad for Mom that had more meat than lettuce—at a diner a few towns over, then retired to an airport hotel room infested with ladybugs.
At half-past seven the next morning, we picked up our free t-shirts and race bibs at the Storm King Engine Co., a firehouse on what appeared to be Cornwall-on-Hudson’s main street, alongside a cafe, a diner, a flower shop, a post office, and a gazebo. In the same room as packet pickup, colorful gift bags held raffle prizes and organizers offered coffee and bagels to runners. Around 8:20 we made our way to the start line, where we found only a dozen or so others waiting. By 8:30 a small crowd had formed, and we were off! It turned out that only 80 of us participated, a majority of the crowd potentially having signed up for a nearby trail race instead (according to what I overheard one local saying to another, anyway).
The first two miles took us through the town: houses and lawns, cars with Trump bumper stickers. I kept clenching and unclenching my fingers into a fist to try and get some feeling in them. Around Mile 3 we passed back along the main street and headed toward Storm King State Park, a 1,972-acre tract of protected land. During Miles 3 and 4, we got some great views of the Hudson River. Mile 5 took us steadily uphill. We had passed my parents earlier, and at this point Todd slowed to a walk. It was just me for a while, following the white painted arrows on the roads, which were open to traffic, to figure out which way to go in order to stay on course. I passed up a group of women who’d been in my sight at the start of the run but whom I’d since lost track of. My legs burned, especially the backs of my thighs. My breath came heavy, since I’d been running the race at a faster pace than usual. But I didn’t focus on those things; instead, I felt only gratitude—for the pure, crisp air and crunch of leaves and nostril-tingling scent of nature and woodsmoke. At the top of the biggest hill, there was a spectacular view of the Hudson Valley, a swath of red and gold trees. Another few more small climbs, then downhill the last mile to the finish line, where I came in at 1 hour and 13 minutes, with an average pace of approximately 9:50/mile. Though I placed 56th overall (those runners were fast!), I was second in my gender/age group and got a cool embossed cup as a prize.
On the drive home, we stopped to snap a photo at a scenic view: