By David Karp
On Sunday morning the beautiful trails of Lewis Morris Park in Morris Township will host a pretty beautiful event:
Girls Guts Glory returns for its fourth year, promoting fitness for women of all ages, while supporting the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris Counties.
The Sept. 16, 2018, competition includes hiking, biking and running.
“The event started as a duathlon, which was a run-bike-run,” explains Girls Guts Glory founder Rod Murray, owner of Morristown’s body4life studio.
“We listened to what the participants had to say with various surveys over the last four years. Some wanted to do the bike, some wanted to do the run, and some had asked if there was a possibility to just walk the course as a hike.
“So, we evolved the whole mindset from just being a duathlon to becoming more inclusive and allowing hikers and runners and bikers. You can do a combination of events.”
These include a 1.5 mile hike, a 5K cross country run and a pair of mountain bike options.
Murray is a USA Cycling-licensed mountain biker himself, and Lewis Morris Park seemed like an ideal venue.
“We are so fortunate to have the park system we have, especially the people that maintain Lewis Morris and my contacts internally with them. It’s really what helps unify this whole process,” he said.
“Oftentimes, especially in the fall, it’s my lunchtime route. I’ll leave my shop in Morristown and I can do one loop of Lewis Morris and be back here in under two hours with a short stop at SmartWorld Coffee in Morristown for a little caffeine pick-me-up.”
That familiarity helps, yet organizing the annual event still requires immense planning.
“As someone who mountain bikes frequently, I thought I had a firm understanding of what the process was, and I’ve been involved in event promoting before. But when you take this on yourself, it’s more challenging than I thought.”
Murray must apply for a permit a year in advance, recruit volunteers, and map the course, among a slew of other details.
He thinks his efforts will pay off for participants, who may find some pleasant surprises this weekend.
“I’m anticipating beautiful weather. Getting ahead of Hurricane Florence… hopefully she’ll stay out at sea,” said Murray, a former Corpsman for the Navy and the Marines.
“The course looks great! We’ve had the most requests for information that we’ve ever had, our social media platform is bigger than ever. Our volunteers are very amped up and very excited about participating.”
There will be t-shirts from EmbroidMe and prizes for the winners. And for the first time, finishers will get medals, emblazoned with Rosie the Riveter.
“So my anticipation is we get through it all, everybody’s happy, everybody feels like they’ve supported a great effort, and everybody gets home safe.”
Murray also hopes to chip away at the stigma of mental illness.
“If you break your arm, you don’t hesitate to see an orthopedist…if you have a muscle strain, you don’t hesitate to see a massage therapist or a physical therapist. If you have an emotional challenge, or maybe you’re dealing with something at home or at work…it’s okay to seek out help. In fact, it’s purposeful and its benefits are far reaching,” he said.
The Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris offers vast resources –from healthcare and housing to education and job assistance — to help people with mental illnesses live a happier life, Murray said.
“If we could affect one person in a positive way by doing this, we’ve helped humankind.”
Women can register here for Girls Guts Glory through Friday, Sept. 15, 2018. Fees range from $20-$60. The event runs from 7 am to 1:30 pm at Lewis Morris Park, 270 Mendham Road in Morris Township.