By Steve Borton

What does it mean when we say, “Can you handle the Hook?”  Is it a challenge? – A dare?

Let’s take a look at what this 25 year old half marathon has to offer…and it’s right here in Rockland County.

To start out it is a stone-cold beautiful, challenging course and one of the premier ½ marathons in the country.  It begins with a bucolic run around Rockland Lake with ducks and swans frolicking next to the trail, then a rise up to the Firehouse and down the hill to the Hudson River – what a way to begin the adventure!  Remember (if you’re not too exhausted) that Rockland Lake used to supply New York City and beyond with ice for people’s ‘ice boxes’.   2,000 people lived around the lake and would cut the ice in the winter – Rockland Lake is a natural lake – store it in sheds, then would move it down to the river on trolleys to the waiting boats.  So that hill, that crazy, steep hill that you’re running down (and up!), was once the carrying point for a thriving ice business.  Maybe when you have to climb/run back up the hill, this history will take away some of the pain.

When you get down to the river at mile 6 you just might notice that there are old pylons jutting out of the water where the ships would dock to load up the ice.  I’m sure none of you remember life prior to refrigerators, but…just saying.

So now we’re down on the Hudson River on a trail that runs from Nyack Beach to Haverstraw with beautiful views of Ossining and of course Sing Sing Prison across the river.  Remember when the lawmen would say, “I’m gonna send him up the river.”   Well, that’s what they meant – a ride up the river to Sing Sing.

But we’re only at mile 6 and heading down river towards Nyack.  There in the distance you can see the Tappan Zee Bridge and all the work that is going on.  The trail at this point runs right alongside of the mighty Hudson River. The Parks Commission has done a wonderful job of renewing the trail after having it totally washed out by Sandy.  Now it’s like running on a High School track.

When you get to Nyack Beach you’ll see the old Lodge that used to be a destination, dance and evening meeting place for New Yorkers heading north from the City.  And to get us ready to return to the Hook Hill, there is a warm-up climb to the turnaround point – approximately mile 7.5.  And let’s be honest, it is a hill.

So we run back along the trail and guess what?  Hook Hill is looming in the distance.  But remember the ice making?  Remember the Swans?  This ¼ mile hill has been the bane of many a seasoned runner so just let the hill win and you’ll be fine.

At the top of the hill (mile 10) you now retrace your steps and circle back around the lake again – finishing at the North Parking lot.  Was that fun or what?

Each year we have a group of athletes ride up to Rockland Lake from Manhattan (approximately 30 miles) run the Hook Half Marathon (usually in the winning times) and then jump on their bikes for a thirty mile ride back to Manhattan.

We will have cash prizes for the winners, age bracket awards for both the half marathon and the 5K, medals for all finishers of the Hook Half, and a barrel of fun.  This is our 25th running of this race so come join us in the celebration.

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