"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail" -Emerson

"Family" at the Fair- 3 Days at the Fair (72hr) 2015

Cross timing, up the incline towards the bathrooms, bear right to trash can, make a left to the corner, turn right along the grass line, run to the turnaround cones and return down the slight decline to the gates, bear right up the hill, make a left down the decline to the tree line, curve around the left and run straight to the gate, bear left, zigzag right and left again onto the gravel, run to the end of the fence, turn right to the straightaway, and left onto the cobblestone into timing… and repeat.

Photos by Paul Kentor
For any veteran of 3 Days at the Fair, hosted by NJ Trail Series at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, NJ, those directions are burnt into memory as the one mile loop from which many personal triumphs and records have come. It has, for many, been years of running the same path for not only new bests, but for reaching lifetime milestones of 100 to 1,000 miles on that single circuit. 

But one must ask, what is the lure for punishing the body to so many miles on the same paved circle that ceases to change? At what point does that mile of familiarity become too much to repeat? For some, the answer is a mere marathon or 6 hour race, while for others it’s the draw of the 72 hour event year after year as we fight new PR’s. For many of the vets, it’s the people, the community, and the “family” we have become that brings us back.

Milestone Coins & PR Bell

On my calendar each year lies 3 Days at the Fair, not only a race, but a reunion of sorts. On that one mile loop of the fairgrounds, I have witnessed and experienced some of the most inspiring feats- some my own, some of friends, and some of complete strangers. I have met old friends, and new, all coming together to share in the joy of running. I look forward to the faces of the fair- the RD’s, volunteers and families. It’s an event where we push together to reach new goals and achieve higher milestones (such as the 100, 250, 500 or 1,000 cumulative lifetime mile coins).

Reunion time!

This year was no different. As expected, my “family” showed up, and as years prior, it once again grew. Big accomplishments were watching many vets, and now close friends, reach their 1,000 lifetime miles on the course. I observed new course PR’s, and new personal distance bests. I saw newbie to the 72hr, Serge Arbona, nail a killer day three despite injury day two. I joined in beers and high-fives with Jim, Marco, Ava, and Russell at their pickup remote aid station. There was John Fegyveresi parked in his ‘home away from home’ spot on the grounds, and Steven Tursi and family running laps while taking selfie’s all the while. One of my favorite Canadians, Pablo, was once again present and never without an encouraging word to keep on moving. Many more familiar faces were present, making each tiring loop so much more bearable. Meredith, Cliff, Darren, Jerry, Frank, Paul, Alanna, Kevin… the list goes on and on of faces that return year after year as staples to the Fair.

Ryanne & Paul
[Young and old(er) cranking out the miles]

Young kids and old each partook in the hot days and cold nights, persevering through sore feet and muscles for that one more mile. There were people running for their fathers, for their mothers, for special causes and for national records. There were people running one marathon that weekend, and people running four. No matter the distance, or the event, we somehow became a team.

There is something special about the Fair. There is an air to the event which brings so many of us back time and again to circle a monotonous course that should, after years, steer us elsewhere. I believe it’s a race that turns racers into friends and friends into family. It’s a “family” that comes together each May to run loops, eat food, and tirelessly strive for new goals… together.