NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Sarah Bishop, the hermitess of West Mountain in North Salem around the turn of the 18th century, probably would not approve of 500 runners descending on her space for a trail race.
Her spirit, however, will be remembered and celebrated on the mountain Sept. 29, when the first Sarah Bishop Bushwhack 10K trail race starts at Mountain Lakes Park at 9:15 a.m. Proceeds will benefit the Northern Westchester Hospital's School Health and Wellness Programs. The race is similar to Leatherman’s Loop, a popular spring trail 10K that started in 1987 in nearby Pound Ridge.
The Sarah Bishop Bushwhack, however, is different as it evokes memories of Bishop, who lived among the woodland creatures for nearly three decades. During the Revolutionary War, her father’s Long Island home was burned and British soldiers captured Sarah. She escaped her captors – or was released – and found her way to her the West Mountain cave. She stayed reclusive, preferring the contact of wildlife to humans.
“One of the founders of the Leatherman’s Loop is Tony Godino, and he’s a history buff,’’ said Mark Vincent, one of the three race directors for The Bushwhack. “We run every Sunday mornings together and one day he asked, ‘Did you ever hear of Sarah Bishop?’ We did some research and learned. She lived in West Mountain and that’s where we wanted to have the race. It was interesting how it all came together.”
The race won’t have a river crossing, but otherwise is similar to the terrain of the Leatherman’s Loop course.
"There are a number of climbs,’’ Vincent said. “We want to make it fun and interesting. Through hard work and a lot of trail runs, we’ve created one of the most fun, most challenging trail runs that most people will do.”
The variety of terrain makes the race a challenge. Vincent said there’s a cobblestone road, single-file passages, fields and steep mountain terrain that will test runners. The visuals are sometimes breathtaking. “The beautiful part of the park is it’s elevation, you can see for miles across Westchester County,’’ Vincent said. “It’s absolutely amazing.”
Vincent and his co-directors, Lee Willett and Barry Fagan, have capped the race at 500 runners, including 100 for the children’s race. Vincent said his group enjoys road races but wanted something different.
“Running the trail is different,’’ he said. “It helps you clear your mind. When you’re running trails, you have to focus on every step and it pulls you out of the worries in your life. It helps you connect with nature and it’s a relaxing, engaging time.”
Vincent promises runners will be impressed by the layout over the park’s 1,082 acres, five lakes and spectacular views.
“We’re confident that people will come and leave with great memories of the event,’’ Vincent said. “There will be runners going out there to win, but overall, we want people to experience how much fun trail running can be while supporting a great cause."