Road races taking new path

BY Christopher Lang, Northern Valley Suburbanite, Published Aug. 8, 2013

Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera won baseball’s triple crown in 2012.

Affirmed was the last horse to win the coveted Thoroughbred Racing Triple Crown in 1978.


By the end of November, the Northern Valley will have its own triple crown winner to add to the much heralded sports title.

Three Northern Valley running organizations are teaming up to form a mini-circuit of 5ks that will recognize the people who have the fastest cumulative times when completed in November.

The Northern Valley Triple Crown comprises the Haworth 5k Run/Walk on Sept. 28, the Norwood Fast & Flat 5k on Oct. 26 and the Harrington Park 5k Fall Spectacular on Saturday, Nov. 16.

The triple crown awards the Top 5 male and female runners who posted the best cumulative time in the three races. Each of those individuals will receive a trophy during the Harrington Park 5k honoring their achievement.

This mini-circuit of 5ks will also give each participant in the triple crown a running jacket.

“With the thought that we have these races in a tight geographical area, we thought it would be a great way to promote some town spirit,” said Scott Litchfield, who is the race director for the 5k Fall Spectacular in Harrington Park, about the triple crown.

“It’s coming together very quickly,” Litchfield said, adding that there are still some details that need ironing out.

Planning for the Northern Valley Triple Crown has been a work in progress.

The idea has floated between the organizations for a few years, Litchfield said. “It first came to the forefront when Alan [Gettis] reached out to me and Haworth to start some discussions.”

But, since each organization was planning its own races, the timing never clicked to put something more formal together — until this year.

“Jeff Pavell [a trustee for the Haworth Road Runners Association] sent an email out to me and Alan, and Alan’s son David, to work on putting something together,” said Litchfield. “We flushed out some ideas. But we didn’t want to make it too labor intensive.”

The whole idea is to promote overall interest and for people to get excited about all three races as opposed to just doing on race,” Litchfield said.

Attracting runners

The Haworth 5k is entering its fourth year of competition. In 2012, the race attracted approximately 700 participants. But, the triple crown, is something organizers believe will expand participation in the three 5ks this fall.

“We’re really into our race, and we feel like we have grown substantially in the past three years we’ve had it,” said Laura Sutnick, a trustee with the Haworth Road Runners Association. “But we want to try to take it to the next level and we would really like it to become a bigger race.”

Taking the races to the “next level” is what organizers are hoping will happen through the triple crown.

“We’re trying to reach out to more people to come run our race, and likewise for the other two towns,” said Sutnick. “All three of these races we feel have very good organizations and good courses.”

On the surface, the organizations do have prospects to attract more runners. When reviewing who was participating in the three races last year, they discovered that approximately 40 people ran in each of the 5ks.

“Surprisingly, there are only a few people who run all three races,” Sutnick said.

The organizers are hopeful that the triple crown will entice more of the nearly 1,500 participants who competes in the individual races last year to run in all three this time.

“It is such a small number of people who did all three,” Litchfield said, who noted that Harrington Park’s 2012 race attracted 435 participants, down from 470 in 2011.

Expanding the triple crown

With this the first go around for the Northern Valley Triple Crown, the organizers are looking to the future to include other 5ks.

The Northern Valley has many 5ks during the year that may potentially offer new triple crown prospect. But, timing is key — literally.

Sutnick said the main reason Haworth, Harrington Park and Norwood formed the triple crown was because they use BEST Racing Systems to time the runners.

“Timing is essential to determine the winners,” Sutnick said.

The organizers would consider other towns that use different timing systems, like CompuScore, but for now the focus is on the three races.

“We’d love to expand it to other towns as well,” Sutnick said. “We want to encourage people to participate in the local community events, especially when it is for health and well-being.”

Mark Aronson, co-executive director of the annual Tenafly Educational Foundation 5k Run and Dog Walk held in June, called the triple crown “a great idea.”

He said they have considered something similar involving the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades Rubin Run and the Demarest PTO 5k.

“We have talked about this idea for a few years now and we will aim to do it. The scoring can get a little complicated but I am sure it can be figured out.”

Will they run?

While, Sutnick will not be eligible to compete in the triple crown “because I’m running the Haworth 5k,” she does plan to run in the races in Norwood and Harrington Park.

“I’ve been running for over 20 years,” said Sutnick. “But I like running the local races.”

For Litchfield, long-distance running is not his thing.

“I was a track and field guy,” he said. “But, I’m going to try to do it if I can.”