Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How are you approaching the races in light of COVID-19?

A: We will be holding our in-person races as usual this year (2021)! For those of you who want to know how we handled things in 2020, here's what we did:

As of July 12, 2020, we made the difficult decision to cancel our in-person Black Diamond Express Races for 2020.

Those of who were already registered for the in-person races were switched to the virtual equivalent. If you do not wish to run the virtual version of our race, please contact me at https://runsignup.com/Race/NY/Mendon/BlackDiamondExpress and I will defer you to the August 29, 2021 edition of our in-person races.

As supporters of the Mendon Foundation, you all deserve to hear what led to this decision.

In 2003, at 35 years old, I was a burnt-out technology executive who weighed 330 pounds, most of which I had gained in the prior ten years. My knees creaked and hurt. I had never been interested in athletic activities of any sort my whole life. After several years of trying to lose weight, I decided that I would eat less. That worked unexpectedly well, and helped me to become more active. I started long walks, once per week, which turned into five mile walks. After several months, I wanted those five mile walks to take less time, and I started running little bits at a time to speed the walks up.

As runners, you know that the rest is history.

I ran competitively in Half Marathons for several years, and grew to love being in the middle of a pack of other shuffling feet over the course of 13.1 miles. It drove me to run harder. It gave me something different to look forward to, and a new high to experience.

After about ten years, however, the damage that I had caused my knees when I was heavy began to catch up to me in the form of ever-growing meniscus tears. I had two very successful meniscectomies in 2012 and 2013, with the intention of going back to competitive running.

While my knees felt (and sounded!) great, I began to realize that if I continued to train the way I had previously, I was likely to damage them again. At this point, I came to the conclusion that, for me, the ability to run for my health for the rest of my life was more important than my need to compete in races. I made the difficult decision to run only for myself, and not for races.

It was about this time that I had begun my stint as the Black Diamond Race Director. Directing our races became my way of staying involved in the thrill of racing, which I dearly loved. I wanted the races to be something I would enjoy participating in as a runner, and has driven every decision I have ever made, and continue to make, in regard to the Black Diamond Express.

Did you ever have to change the way you do something that you love doing? It hurts. But it typically leads to other good things.

When I came up with our race slogan "Unleash Your Inner Locomotive" in late 2014, I happened to be on one (of my many hundreds, by now) of solo runs on the Lehigh Valley Trail. I thought about what it means to run. We all have something inside that keeps us going, whether in groups, or by ourselves.

What does "Unleash Your Inner Locomotive" mean to you?

To me, it means allowing your inner fire to propel you forward, as hard as you can. But you cannot go forward if you break. You do not want to "blow a rod," whether locomotive or athlete. If you want to go forward, you do have to maintain the ability to go forward. ("The only way to run faster is to run faster!" is one of the most brilliant things I have ever heard.) There is a balance between pushing yourself, and being safe. If we break, we are disheartened by our inability to move forward.

I do understand that countless articles have been written about the opposite. The best in us comes from when we take big risks, put ourselves in harm's way, fearlessly facing the unknown, only to discover how strong we really are. There is truth to that. But this year, healthy or not, we have all been pushed to new limits, and we are all just a little closer to breaking.

I have a responsibility to you, and a responsibility to our volunteers. I never, ever, ever want to put people in a position where they break.

I very nearly broke myself in trying to figure out how to operate our in-person races safely this year. It has been difficult to get answers about insurance . . . about executive orders . . . about the latest safety practices, which are ever-changing. And how will our volunteers feel? From our recent survey, I also know that your feelings run the gamut. Several folks feel that COVID-19 is an overreaction. Others are petrified. When those extremes meet, bad things can happen.

Please remember that we are an out-and-back race, which brings panting runners in close proximity to one another, in places where it is difficult to get six, or ten, feet of separation. I have witnessed many people's anxiety first-hand as I have run past them on the Trail over the past four months. I have had people suggest that we change the course of the race, but that poses a challenge for USATF certification (for the half) as well as for our volunteers. It would mean taking the race off of the Trail and putting it onto roads, which presents a whole other series of challenges that our small volunteer team is not prepared to handle along with all of the other changes we would need to make.

I have had people suggest that we do away with water stops, and ask people to bring their own water. But our race is run on a trail that is remote in places, on a late hot summer day. We need to have volunteers there to help anyone who gets hurt, to provide hydration to every runner, to keep every runner safe.

Of course, we would have to do away with all post-race festivities, giving people their concluding hydration and meals and asking them to promptly leave.

After thinking about all of the options, I envisioned what was essentially a group of runners running individual solo events, with a good number of them experiencing anxiety about the whole situation.

That didn't seem right to me. Runners shouldn't be anxious about anything other than their times - if that, even.

I have heard, countless times, that people are tired of virtual races. What they want, this year, is a real, in-person race to propel them forward. I do, too! But more importantly, I want you to be able to continue to run, to keep yourselves healthy, year after year, as I do. This decision is all about that one single thing.

If you have gotten this far, I thank you for taking the time to listen.

If you do choose to run our virtual events, I want you to know that you will still get a t-shirt; you will get a bib that you can display; and, if you are a Half Marathoner, you will still get a finisher's medal. The design for the shirt and the medal are in-progress, but we hope to make them something that will convey the special challenges of this year.

As with all virtual events, you can run them anywhere you would like, but please remember that you always have the option of running them on the Lehigh Valley Trail itself. It is actually quite easy to run the USATF certified half marathon course at any time, since both the start and the turnaround point are clearly marked on permanent wooden posts on the south side of the Trail. (See https://www.certifiedroadraces.com/certificate/?type=l&id=NY17052JG for more information.)

I want to conclude by reminding you how much your participation in these events - even in virtual form - means to our organization. The Mendon Foundation cannot operate without the money that our races bring in each year. By running, you help us maintain not just the Lehigh Valley Trail but also the approximately 170 acres of open spaces that we maintain throughout the Mendon community.

Thank you so much for supporting us over the years, and we hope you remain safe and healthy. Please take care of your Inner Locomotive. We cherish you all.

You haven't heard the end of me yet - stay tuned for more information.

Q: Can you please tell me more about the Mendon Foundation and the Lehigh Valley Trail?

A: Of course! We have a two-sided brochure explaining what we do, and you can visit our web site. We also have worked with Monroe County to publish a two-sided brochure about the Lehigh Valley Trail. And, yes, all net proceeds from the race go toward our volunteer work (fuel, equipment operations & maintenance, insurance, land maintenance, special projects, etc.).

Q: What is the race surface like?

A: Despite the "Trail" name, it's essentially a very slightly soft (and very flat!) road surface, comprised of a fairly deep underlayment of coal cinders (slag) topped with stone dust. The stone dust occasionally mixes with some soil to create a muddy appearance that isn't really as muddy as you might imagine because of all of the underlayment. Much of the trail has a strip of grass down the middle due to wear patterns over the years. There is grass to the left and right of the stone dust surface, but it is anticipated that you will run on the stone dust portion to get the best times. The vast majority of the trail surface looks like this:

[Typical surface]

The course really is nearly flat, which is part of its appeal. You can see a trial run as reported on Garmin Connect to see for yourself.

Q: Can I bring my child in a stroller, or a service dog?

A: You may bring a stroller, but we've never seen a runner or walker do this even after giving permission. Please read about the surface, above. Service dogs are allowed, but you must keep them on a leash (this is Monroe County Parks policy).

Q: How does packet pickup work?

A: Packets & T-Shirts/mugs can be picked up at Rochester Running Company (1387 Mt Hope Ave, Rochester, NY 14620) during normal business hours on the day prior to the race (For 2021, this means Saturday, 8/28 from 10:00 AM - 5 PM). This is strongly encouraged to relieve any race day lines. You can also get your packet race morning at 7:00 AM at the registration pavilion south of Route 251, but it is discouraged.

Q: What happens once I am on-site on race morning?

A: The Start/Finish line and Registration Pavilion are at the opening to the Lehigh Valley Trail near the Schnacky-Brokaw youth baseball fields in the Hamlet of Mendon (https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/199101837). There will be volunteers to guide you to available parking.

If you want an address to plug into Google, your best bet is to use "HFL-Mendon Youth Baseball" or go to https://goo.gl/maps/8ZoNAryJ95q.

If you are unable to pick up your packet at Rochester Running Company on Saturday per the above, then please plan on arriving between 7:00 AM and 7:30 AM on Sunday morning. Otherwise, please plan on arriving no later than 7:30 AM to allow ample time to find parking and to get familiar with the area.

The opening festivities will start at 7:45 AM, so please be on time so you don't miss anything. (Early Start Half Marathoners will start at 7:30 and will miss the opening festivities.)

There will be porta-potties available near the ballfields south of Route 251.

Here's a neat video of what the whole scene looks like:

Q: Where do I park?

A: Parking is in the areas marked in gray in the map below. The best parking will be at the ballfields south of Route 251 near the start/finish line, but please come early to park here, as it will fill quickly, and we will be closing the baseball field parking by 7:30 AM.

Parking at the Mendon Meadows Marketplace location will be most plentiful, but the parking south of Assembly Drive should be plentiful as well.

Not (quite) depicted in the below: There will ALSO be parking available at the Studio Move! Parking Lot off of Route 64. You can see Studio Move! in the map; jsut not the parking. A parking attendee will be happy to guide you if you approach the Route 251 race entrance.

[Parking Map]

Q: Can you tell me more about the Half Marathon Course?

A: The course surface is primarily packed stone dust, but there is a strip of grass in the middle, and there is dirt in some areas, and even old cinders and larger rocks in places - and you'll also cross a narrow, wood-decked railroad bridge over Honeoye Creek. If it rains, there will certainly be some muddy puddles. This is a rails-to-trails path, which means you should expect the surface to be a little uneven at times, although we try to do a good job making the trail as smooth as possible. However, since this was once a railroad bed, it's very flat and fast!

[HM Satellite View]

[HM Map View]

Q: Can you tell me more about the 5K Course?

A: The course surface is primarily packed stone dust, but there is a strip of grass in the middle, and there is dirt in some areas, and even old cinders and larger rocks in places. If it rains, there will certainly be some muddy puddles. This is a rails-to-trails path, which means you should expect the surface to be a little uneven at times, although we try to do a good job making the trail as smooth as possible. However, since this was once a railroad bed, it's very flat and fast!

[HM Satellite View]

[HM Map View]

Q: Please tell me more about the Half Marathon start, water stops, and road crossings.

A: Pre-race ceremonies & announcements will commence at 7:45 AM. We will have a live performance of our National Anthem, so please don't be late!

The Half Marathon starts at 8:00 AM. Participants will depart the starting gate at the mouth of the Lehigh Valley Trail south of Route 251 in Mendon. The turnaround point is 6.55 miles down the trail, just short of the Rush United Methodist Church. Road Marshals will help you cross West Bloomfield Road, Chamberlain Road, Quaker Meeting House Road, Clover Street and Plains Road in both westward (outbound) and eastward (return) directions.

There will be water stops near mile 1.55 (5K turnaround), mile 3, mile 4.8 (approx.), and at the halfway turnaround, and of course the same stops will be there on the way back! There is an official Water Stop Map available for download.

There are restrooms located at the Rochester Junction Freight House near the Plains Road crossing as well. Weather permitting, there will be live musicians there to push you forward as well!

Q: Is there an early start option for the Half Marathon?

A: There sure is, and it is recommended for people who believe they will take more than 4.5 hours. Please make sure you request it on your registration form. You'll start at 7:30 AM, exactly a half-hour before the official race start. For those taking advantage of the 7:30 AM Early Start for the Half Marathon, a few notes:

Q: Is there a time cut-off for the Half Marathon?

A: There is no formal cut-off — we wait for everybody to finish — but we do appreciate it if people finish by 12:30 PM. Please read about the early start option, above, if you think you will take longer than 4.5 hours.

Q: Please tell me more about the 5K start, water stops, and road crossings.

A: Pre-race ceremonies & announcements will commence at 7:45 AM. We will have a live performance of our National Anthem, so please don't be late!

The 5K starts at 8:20 AM. Participants will depart the starting gate at the mouth of the Lehigh Valley Trail south of Route 251 in Mendon. The turnaround point is 1.55 miles down the trail, just short of Chamberlain Road. Road Marshals will help you cross West Bloomfield Road in both westward (outbound) and eastward (return) directions.

There will be a water stop at the halfway turnaround.

Q: Are either of the races part of a series?

A: Yes! We are proud to announce, as of 2020, that our 5K has been named part of Greater Rochester Track Club's Rochester Runner of the Year (RROY) Series!

Q: Do you have a flyers or poster to print and hand out?

A: Yes, indeed!

Q: How do you prevent cheating in these out-and-back races?

A: As these are out-and-back races, it is all too easy to cheat. Since the Half Marathon course is now USATF certified, it's important that we do everything we can to prevent cheating. In order for your time to be official, you MUST hit the turnaround point. We will have an electronic timing mat for the Half Marathon turnaround this year, and while will NOT require you to use the tear-off portion of your bib, you must hit the electronic timing mat at hte half marathon turnaround point in order for your time to be official. For the 5K, we will be monitoring the leaders to ensure they hit the turnaround point. If you think you will be eligible for a prize for the 5K, you must have turned in the bottom portion of your tear-off bib to the crew at the turnaround point.

Q: What do you offer at the end of the races?

A: Quite a bit. There will be liquid and solid refreshments at the registration Pavilion near the finish line, and a few other perks:

Q: What are the awards, and when will they be presented?

Q: What are the half marathon course records for male & female?

A: The male course record was set in 2019 by Bryan Morseman, with a gun time of 1:10:46. The female course record was set in 2017 by Dawn Sudol, with a gun time of 1:30:32.

Q: Do you provide discounts to elite runners?

A: As the purpose of this race is to raise money for our nonprofit volunteer organization, we do not provide discounts to elite runners.

Q: I know that the runners have mile markers along the course so they can keep track of their progress, but I'm a family member at a road crossing. Where am I along the course?

A: We get asked this by spectators all the time! Here's how far along the runners are at each intersection (in miles):

Q: Is there a Facbook event that I can add to my calendar or share with my Facebook friends?

A: There sure is. It's https://www.facebook.com/events/233867370831847/.

Q: What in the world is a “virtual” race?

A: A virtual race is something new in the last few years. It enables people who want to run in support of a cause, but who for one reason or another can’t attend the physical event, to participate remotely and/or at a different time. Some virtual races ask that you try to run the same course as the “official” race, but most do not. We are in that camp.

A virtual race result is not “official” under USATF standards, because there is no way to verify anything. You use whatever tools you have available to measure your time and distance, and you report your results using the honor system. You can use a treadmill, you can run backwards, you can do what you want. You will enter your time into a form on RunSignUp when you are done, and you can upload photos of things to share what you did if you’d like. That part is totally optional. Some people like to upload a photo of their watch at the end of their run, because they feel it gives credibility to their effort. It’s all up to you.

All we ask is that you run safely, have a good time, and that you feel good because you supported a good cause (The Mendon Foundation, in this case!).