Healthy bodies, healthy minds: ‘Girls, Guts, Glory’ returns to Morris Township, Sept. 16

Finishers in this year's Girls Guts Glory competition will receive these medals.
Finishers in this year's Girls Guts Glory competition will receive these medals.


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.

Rod Murray, founder of Girls Guts Glory. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Rod Murray, founder of Girls Guts Glory. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“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.

Girls Guts Glory 2018 logo He’s very familiar with the trails.

“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.”

Relay awards at Girls Guts Glory race.
Relay awards at Girls Guts Glory race in 2016. Photo by Brian LaMuraglia.

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.”

Rod Murray, fourth from left, with volunteers at 2017 Girls Guts Glory. Photo courtesy of Rod Murray.
Rod Murray, fourth from left, with volunteers at 2017 Girls Guts Glory. Photo courtesy of Rod Murray.

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.

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  1. Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: . It’s dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don’t have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else — ON FOOT! Why isn’t that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking….

    A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it’s not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

    Mountain bikers also love to build new trails – legally or illegally. Of course, trail-building destroys wildlife habitat – not just in the trail bed, but in a wide swath to both sides of the trail! E.g. grizzlies can hear a human from one mile away, and smell us from 5 miles away. Thus, a 10-mile trail represents 100 square miles of destroyed or degraded habitat, that animals are inhibited from using. Mountain biking, trail building, and trail maintenance all increase the number of people in the park, thereby preventing the animals’ full use of their habitat. See for details.

    Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it’s NOT!). What’s good about THAT?

    To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video:

    In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: .

    For more information: .

    The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users — hikers and equestrians — who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

    The parks aren’t gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

    Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won’t understand what I am talking about — an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.