By Chris Mellides
In Northport, cowbells rang while spectators erupted into loud mooing between the waves of runners who sprinted past the starting line at the annual 10K run that marked the beginning of Cow Harbor Weekend.
The run, held on Sept. 19, is part of a long tradition that is well regarded. Runner’s World has named the Great Cow Harbor 10K Run as one of the top 100 races in the country.
This year’s race saw American participants from 41 states and numerous countries.
“It’s really great to see all the people coming down to support this run,” said longtime event volunteer and Northport resident, James Milano.
The 24-year-old has helped with the race since he was a kid, until he went away to college, but that something about the event keeps drawing him back.
“The course is beautiful, with lots of trees and just over the pit you get a nice view,” Milano said. “I’ve heard people say that they like the track because it’s hilly, and it is definitely scenic.”
The race hosted 5,000 runners, with twice as many spectators cheering them on, and encouraging the athletes to complete the course.
Northport resident Chris Hammer, 64, has lived in a small home located along the center of the race course for the past 20 years and says that she and her family look forward to the big event every year.
“We just love to sit here and cheer people on from beginning to end,” Hammer said. “It’s a great weekend.”
Hammer plays songs on her portable stereo by James Brown, Bob Marley and contemporary artists like OneRepublic to motivate the runners. Looming overhead and swaying to the music is a rod puppet of a purple cow she created herself more than ten years ago that she controls from her stoop.
Hammer says that all four of her children have participated in the Cow Harbor Run throughout the years, and that this feat of athleticism is inspiring.
“I just tell people who are interested in participating that they’ll need to pace themselves and keep taking one step after the next,” Hammer said. “I’ve never ran, but I’m truly inspired by how people do it.”
Commack resident, Charlie Gusman says he’s been running in the race since 1998, and it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that his daughter Charlene joined him on the track. “I think the crowd is terrific, and it’s a really good course,” he said.
The 69-year-old runner said that while the Cow Harbor course is good, running it isn’t without its challenges.
“It was okay for the first three miles today, but when the humidity set in, it was definitely a challenge,” Gusman said. “I wasn’t expecting that kind of heat.”
Gusman’s daughter Charlene, 43, says that running with her dad is a lot of fun and that they help support each other when they participate as a family.
“My dad has been running this race a little longer than I have, but I like joining him, we keep each other motivated during the race,” she said, adding that, “The atmosphere and seeing all of the people and the community coming together and running that scenic route is just a really great feeling.”