Book Review and Recommendation: Running the Long Path: A 350-mile Journey of Discovery in New York's Hudson Valley by Kenneth Posner

by Tom O'Grady

Kenneth Posner's "Running the Long Path: A 350-mile Journey of Discovery in New York's Hudson Valley" is an account of his journey to set a fastest known time “FKT” on the Long Path. The writing is an invigorating blend of adventure memoir, philosophy exploration, and trail guide/regional history. The book begins with Posner discussing his life as a father, husband, and stressed-out financial analyst living in New York City. Posner is relatively active and stays fit by sporadically running with his beloved dog and friends on trails. As his fortieth birthday approaches, Posner has a desire to stay on top of his fitness a little better, push his limits a little more, and accomplish something big. This at first leads to Posner running a series of ultramarathons. Eventually Posner’s interest in running evolves and he becomes interested in running the entire Long Path in record time. From here, the book takes readers along the entire length of the Long Path. For the uninitiated, the Long Path is a scenic and challenging trail stretching from the George Washington Bridge in New York City to John Boyd Thacher State Park outside of Albany. Many club members have likely run or hiked on parts of the Long Path without ever knowing it. Posner's account of the Long Path is a combination of personal journey and a celebration of the natural beauty and historical richness of New York’s Hudson Valley.

Posner embarks on the Long Path not just as a physical challenge (though running an FKT is obviously a massive physical undertaking) but also as a quest for self-discovery and a deeper connection with nature. For this, Posner is rewarded throughout his journey, as he encounters a diverse array of landscapes, from urban settings and suburban parks to the rugged wilderness of the Catskills. The Long Path is a unique ecosystem that Posner notes almost seems like it is part of a separate universe. At times Posner is on trails that are likely rarely visited by other people, yet they run tantalizing close to very populated areas. Posner can see the New York City Skyline from the lean-to that he sleeps in on his first night. As such, the narrative is interspersed frequently with reflections on local history, environmental issues, and other pertinent issues related to the region in addition to the personal significance that Posner has found in endurance running. For instance, Posner quotes Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” and includes inspirational messages from Theodore Roosevelt and John Burroughs.

Posner notes that the going is slow on the Long Path, even for someone who is attempting a speed record. Posner is often only able to maintain a pace of 3-miles per hour. This is difficult to come to grips with at first as the progress is often slower than some of the paces that Posner has run in the ultramarathons he has completed. This is likely not surprising for those of us who have completed the rugged sections of the Shawangunks and Catskills that the Long Path traverse. Posner is not out of the woods after this section as the Long Path has unique challenges throughout the entire distance. Posner recounts each of these challenges as they test his resilience. It's clear from his trail descriptions as he progresses through the 350-mile journey that Posner has deep respect for nature and his advocacy for the value of preserving trails like the Long Path for future generations are evident throughout the book.

"Running the Long Path" is an easy and enjoyable read that I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys the trails and a nice adventure. I have not personally run the entire Long Path but have run on several sections and Posner’s writing of his experience is appealing to both runners and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Posner's detailed descriptions of the trail and his experiences brought back several great memories of some of my adventures in the Catskills and lower Hudson Valley region. This connection with our local geographic area makes the book even more appealing for our club members to read. The book provides some additional inspiration for us locals to get out and visit some of the sections we have not seen or revisit some of the ones we’ve enjoyed the most. For those interested, Posner does get the FKT record and completes his journey in 9 days, 3 hours, and 6 minutes. That time has since been beaten and the FKT now stands at 7 days, 12 hours, and 18 minutes. The record plays only a secondary role to the book’s larger story and lesson which is what makes this book continue to be appealing even after the record was broken after the book was published.

Tom O'Grady is a runner, coach, and public health professional. In addition to being the new Editor of  The Pace Setter, Tom also writes book reviews and covers a variety of topic areas for The Pace Setter.

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