Running Forward and Giving Back

September 22, 2021
Don Weise, Director of Donor Advising
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Running Forward and Giving Back


Over the past quarter-century of leading hikers and trail runners through the woods, I’ve come to realize that both user groups share much more in common than I had ever realized. This became apparent when l noticed large numbers of my Saturday trail runners showing up on Sunday hikes, on their active recovery days. And while it’s true that not all hikers choose to run trails, I have yet to meet a trail runner who doesn’t hike. As “trail pedestrians,” hikers and trail runners share a common love for the healing power of nature, solitude, and exercise out among the trees. Pace doesn’t matter, but trails do. And once we’re enlightened to the close connection between the Trail Conference’s work and the future of trails, most of us want to give back—as members, volunteers, or both.

This realization led to the formation of Trail Conference Trail Runs, a group that meets regularly in all weather and seasons, to visit the trails we maintain. With two leaders, our monthly “flex runs” are designed to accommodate different pace and distance requirements. Runs take place throughout our service area, highlighting the before, during, and after phases of trail construction and repair.

It’s exciting to see the light go on when a young trail runner sees how much time and effort goes into trail building and wants to help. Or when a seasoned ultra-runner makes a transformative gift that allows a major trail project to move forward. I’m inspired by people like Trail Conference runner and member Jessica Simao, who maintains remote trails in Norvin Green State Forest plus the heavily used Mount Tammany Trail in Worthington State Forest. Equally inspiring are race directors like Kim Levinsky, Charlie Gadol, Ken Posner, and the Mahwah Regional Chamber of Commerce, who have generously donated race proceeds back to the Trail Conference.

Do you run trails? Join us! With more than 600 members, our Trail Conference Trail Runs group on Facebook is a great way to connect with fellow trail runners of all ability levels and stay up-to-date on upcoming runs and races. You can also find us by searching the Upcoming Events page.