“Every year I say I’m running in that thing. One of these years, I’m going to do it.”
Jake Chalfin heard my excuse for not taking part in the annual Chasin for Chalfin trail run, looked me in the eye and said something to the effect of “Well, if you don’t wimp out this year we’d love to have you.” Only he didn’t put it that nicely.
So I signed up.
Saturday, I run the 10K trail run in Pennsylvania to help raise money for Chalfin’s charity which has blossomed from a way to help the amateur jump jockey paralyzed from the chest down in a fall at Blue Ridge Point-to-Point almost seven years ago to something else entirely. Last year, Chasin for Chalfin bought a handbike for another young man who was paralyzed. This year, the run will host hundreds and also benefit injured jump jockey Paddy Young and injured event rider Lee Lee Jones.
A five-time champion, Young went down at the Radnor Hunt Races in May and suffered a traumatic brain injury. The father of three is at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, and makes progress every day toward a full a recovery. Jones, step-daughter of Olympic event rider Phillip Dutton, also suffered a brain injury when she came off a horse while training on the farm.
Chalfin is proud of the run’s impact.
“It has become a wonderful and much-beloved community event,” he said. “After the first year we decided that we would dedicate a portion of the funds raised to support other disabled athletes or organizations that provide adaptive sporting opportunities. Last year, we raised money for Kurt Lane, a local young man who was paralyzed in car accident in 2016. With proceeds from last year’s race, we purchased him a handcycle.”
The race is part athletic event, part social occasion, all good fun. I’ve been told it’s also all downhill, but do not believe it.
The race takes place in the Runnymede Sanctuary, the former home of Diana Wister. If you’re a racing fan, you know her brother George Strawbridge Jr. better but Wister had a small racing stable too back in the day (Fire Control was a champion). Her old farm is an oasis with rolling hills, deep woods, meandering creeks, some stone bridges, lots of birds, plenty of other critters. Thoroughbred owner Greg Bentley bought some of the property (his Hardest Core trained at Runnymede before winning the Arlington Million), the rest is preserved for animals and people who like animals.
I grew up near the course, rode plenty of horses across those fields, went swimming in those creeks and got married at St. Malachi’s Church which the course apparently goes right past. The church is at the top of a hill we hopefully don’t run straight up. I’ll say a prayer to good old Father Schneider to help me finish.
The race is the fifth and final stop on the Trail Creek Series of runs in the area. The series starts in March, when it’s occasionally snowy and also includes a run to benefit the Beau Biden Foundation. That run drew more than 600 runners and Chalfin would like to get a bit closer to that total to make a bigger impact.
Hence our conversation at the Fair Hill Races last month.
I run, slowly, usually with Katie the Labrador Retriever and have tried plenty of area events. Most of my runs are on trails in Fair Hill and a 10K sounds like fun (hah). I told Jake I was in, and now I’m in. I wish I was fitter. I wish my back hurt a little less. I wish my quads were stretchier and my hips were looser. But I’m in. So’s my oldest son Ryan. So are plenty of others connected to the Pennsylvania/Maryland/Delaware horse industry. A quick look at the 2016 results includes Travis Kinnamon, Max McKenna, Sam Maroney, Gus and Linda Brown, Ricky Hendriks, Trevor McKenna (fourth overall in the 10K), Todd McKenna and a host of others.
This year, they’ll be out in force with the creation of the Battle of the Barns, a new way to compete and another wrinkle in the race. The race committee proposed that riders form teams representing their barns, hunts or riding disciplines, and battle it out for the best overall average placing in the 5K. Teams must have at least three members, and the top three teams will receive “grand recognition” for their efforts, a swag bag of prizes and cross-country schooling passes from Boyd and Silva Martin.
Most importantly, the more runners the more money raised. I hope to see you out there. If you don’t wimp out.
You can help support the cause in a variety of ways – run, walk, pledge, tackle a “virtual” run wherever you are. Find out more here.