Escarpment Trail Run founder Dick Vincent is a running legend

In 1977, Dick Vincent created one of the first such endurance races – the beautiful and treacherous 18.6 mile race Escarpment Trail in the Catskills. He was forced to organize a track race along this rough trail because people said it couldn’t be done.

Today, after serving as Race Director of the Escarpment Run for his 45th year, Vincent, a beloved running coach and stalwart of the Hudson Valley and Albany running community, said he still does it “either out of stupidity or because it changed my life.”

“I’ve had people who got married and met races on this course and there’s probably people who got divorced because of that too,” he said.

Vincent himself started running in 1972. One of his first running partners was Barry Hopkins, the founder of the Onteora Runners Club, who drew Vincent into trail running. Soon after, he heard about the Escarpment Trail, which crosses the top of the Manitou Wall in the Northern Catskills near his home. He became intrigued by the idea of ​​organizing a race along the trail, although he never participated.

“Every time I talked about it people thought it was wacky at best, crazy at worst and couldn’t be done, which made me want to do it more,” he said. declared.

Related: Learn more about the Escarpment Trail

The Escarpment Trail Race is one of the oldest trail races on the East Coast today. It crosses remote areas with huge vertical ascents and dangerous descents encrusted with rocks and roots; potential candidates are rigorously screened to ensure they are up to the task. The race has stood the test of time not because it’s easy or accessible, but because of the community that’s built around it for nearly half a century.

“We have the same volunteers who have been working in the aid stations for years. Some of these places require people to travel eight miles round trip to get water and supplies,” Vincent said. “It attracts road marathoners and elite trail runners, as well as locals who love these mountains.”

where the race begins

That first year, Vincent made requests on a mimeographed machine and sent them to various running club mailing lists. He was pleasantly surprised and a little terrified when, on that last Sunday in July 1977, 22 runners showed up and piled into the back of his brother’s cog truck on their way to East Windham for the start of the race .

Vincent had brought water in an old wineskin; this was long before the advent of hydration vests and water belts. “But I saw the really quick guys throw their water before the shot went off, so I dropped mine too,” he said – a decision he would later regret. because there is no source of fresh water along the escarpment.

Dick Vincent with the first wave of 15 runners at this year’s Escarpment Trial Run.

Provided by Michelle Merlis

While there have been a number of advancements for trail runners since 1977, not to mention the friendliness of the aid stations, in the ’70s trail running was like the Wild West. Vincent said that when he crossed the finish line in third place that first year, he found the top two, Bob Enwright and Billy Lawder, covered in salt, lying under a tree near the picnic area. North Lake picnic, with muddy legs and pale faces. , trying to pull herself together. Anxious to get their feedback on the day, Vincent asked them what they thought of the race. After a long break, Enwright said: “Someone is going to be hurt very badly today. You may need reinforcements,” then he went back to lie down in the shade.

Fortunately, as the other runners started to arrive, some were bruised and bleeding, but none needed serious medical attention. They swapped stories from the track over a barbecue and a race was born.

At the time, trail running had yet to become a staple in the running world, especially one as highly technical and challenging as this one. “There was the Dipsea Trail in California,” recalls Vincent, “the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado and the JFK 50. Maybe one or two other trail races, but up to the very technical mountain races? There were none. Still, I felt obligated to organize the event.

The following year there were 55 runners, with Vincent claiming victory, and gradually he took on almost a cult following, growing every year until he reached his maximum limit, set by the Department of state environmental conservation, 175 runners plus 80 to 90 other volunteers who work all day on the race.

Bonds Forged on the Trail

Although racing technology and pit station culture have evolved over the past 45 years, one thing that hasn’t changed is the 18.6-mile course.

“There’s everything from the tough climbs of Blackhead to views of the Hudson River, pastures, countryside and forests,” Vincent said. “It also has 5,000 feet of vertical gain. It’s a nice meeting ground for trail runners who have that foot speed and marathon runners who have the leg speed.

Vincent himself was a 2:39 marathoner and has run over 250 marathons and ultramarathons. “I started to slow down a bit, but I keep running, even if it’s a debatable term,” he said with a laugh.

What is not up for debate is the success he has had with the Escarpment Run and as a running coach in and around Albany and the River Valley area. Hudson. He is a Certified Level 3 USA Track and Field Coach (the highest level offered) as well as a Level 5 International Track and Field Coach (also the most elite level.) He coaches with the Albany Exchange Running Group, worked as a track and field coach in high school and now individually coaches 25 different athletes. Among them are runners preparing for the New York City Marathon, the Eastern US 100 Mile race in Pennsylvania and a woman attempting her first ascent of Denali, North America’s highest peak. North.

Vincent also celebrated the wedding of this year’s Escarpment Run winner, Michelle Merlis, who also won the Breakneck Ridge Trail Marathonwho helped her qualify to be part of the U.S. Trail Running World Championship Team this year – and her husband Josh Merlis, an Escarpment Run veteran and timing system assistant.

“That’s what I mean when I say the Escarpment Run brought people into my life that changed it and made it richer,” Vincent said.

About Ethel Partin

Check Also

Iowa Football Rewind: Breaking down Iowa’s 2022 running back situation in four games

Iowa Hawkeyes running back Gavin Williams (25) carries the ball during a game between the …