Marisa Sutera-Strange may be the area’s greatest of all time (GOAT) runner.
Sure, Frank Shorter, who spent his youth in Middletown, won an Olympic gold and silver medal in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games and helped ignite the “running boom,” was great. However, he was not a local runner in the sense of living, working, and raising a family in the mid-Hudson Valley. On the other hand, Marisa has spent the bulk of her 58
years right here as a neighbor, friend, mother, teacher, and runner.
Sutera-Strange started running when she was 12 and her mother suggested she run around the block. She put on her Pro-Keds and said she loved it from the very beginning. She would time herself by looking at the oven clock when she began and finished.
She joined the Ketcham High School track team in 1978 and got her first real pair of running shoes. At Ketcham High, she was a sprinter and hurdler. Strange placed third in the New York State Championships and participated in the National Championships at UCLA. She said this experience opened her eyes to what hard work and determination could accomplish.
Strange went on to run for Ithaca College from 1981 to 1985. She was a two-time All-American in the 400-meter hurdles. She said her hurdling success came from being able to hurdle with either leg. After college, she started running in road races and longer track events and successfully transitioned from sprinter to distance runner.
In the mid-1970s, Sutera-Strange found herself as part of the first group of young girls to feel the impact of the movement for equity in sports for women under Title IX. Fifteen years later, in the early 1990s, she was once again a pioneer for women. In 1984, the women’s marathon was finally added to the Olympic Games. However, other events like the women’s steeplechase were still not included. For an event or sport to be added to the games, there is a process that must be followed. First, it must be demonstrated that the event is contested globally and at a high level of performance.
In 1991, Sutera-Strange was one of five women to compete in the first-ever steeplechase for women held at the U.S. Track and Field Championships at Randall’s Island in New York City. The women competed at the men’s height for the barriers and the water jump since no barriers existed at what would become the women’s height.
In 1992, she would compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials in New Orleans, taking sixth place. In 1993, she would win the national title. Then, in 1996, she ran the steeplechase in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Atlanta. Finally, in 2008, the women’s steeplechase was added to the Olympic Games.
After turning 40, Sutera-Strange won 35 National Masters titles at distances ranging from the mile to 10k. Many area runners have performed at a high level, but what makes Sutera-Strange unique is her longevity. At age 22, in 1986, she won the Freihofer’s 5K Race For Women. This race often had over 3,000 women and served as the national championship for road racing. In 2017 at age 54, she would win this race again. Amazingly 32 years later, her time was only 22 seconds slower.
On Sept. 18, Marisa competed in the 45th Dutchess County Classic 5K in Poughkeepsie. She won the race for the 22nd consecutive year and for the 29th time overall. This year, she came from behind and, in a sprint to the finish, held off a
competitor 19 years her junior. Her time was 20:09. Dennis Moore of New Paltz said it was the most exciting finish of the day and illustrated the inner competitiveness of Sutera-Strange.
At national masters championships, Marisa doesn’t compete to win her age group (now 55-59); she challenges to win overall. The year 2019 was a banner year for her. She won the USA National Masters 5k Cross Country Championships as the overall winner, besting women 15 years younger than her. In addition, she won the USA 55-59 road 5K title with a sterling 18:38. She set a new American age-group record in the mile with a blistering 5:27.18 clocking. In 2019, she
was named the National Runner of the Year for her age group.
With all these accomplishments and titles, you might think Sutera-Strange is driven or focused on just running. However, I have known her since 1981, and in all those years, I never saw her be boastful or draw attention to herself. She never posts about her victories, fast times, records, or titles. Not being laser-focused on running helps explain her longevity. She is a mother of two and a wife. In addition, she just retired from a 37-year career as a teacher, the last 29 years in the Arlington School District.
Moderation in training and understanding what her body could tolerate helps explain how she has been able to thrive and avoid injuries. Sutera-Strange runs six days a week and averages 40 to 45 miles weekly. Her training revolves around three basic workouts: a track interval workout, a tempo run, and a longer run. The other three days are easy. Her long runs are in the 10-mile range. She has resisted jumping into longer races like half marathons, marathons, and ultra-marathons. She doesn’t care about accumulating “impressive”-looking stats, like mileage or elevation totals, or how many
races she has run. She isn’t a “slave” to her GPS watch or Strava log. For her, running is about being outside in the quiet of winter or the sounds of summer. Above all else, her success is based on consistency.
I suspect running is all about what it does for her body and mind. She fell in love with running as a 12-year-old and continues to love it. We would be wise to emulate her!
The Rosendale Runs half marathon is all set for Saturday, Oct. 8. The start and finish are at the Rosendale Recreation Center on state Route 32. The half marathon and the 4.3-mile Plains Run will take off at 8:30 a.m. There is day-of registration beginning at 7:45 a.m. Online registration is at https://www.zippy-reg.com/online_reg/index2022.php?e=1741.
The Shawangunk Runners Club organizes the Rosendale Runs event to benefit the Town of Rosendale Recreation
Department/Youth programs. As a running club, their focus is putting on a well-done event. It is runners putting on races for runners. The fact that the events raise money for others is a bonus.
The club tries to keep running affordable, which explains the inexpensive entry fees of $25 for the half and $15 for the Plains Run. The half marathon course begins with 3.6 miles of road running and uses the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and
Williams Lake for the rest of the course. Both the half and the Plains Run has only one major hill. Past participants have raved about how unique and special the course is!
Over the next six weeks, the Shawangunk Runners Club, besides organizing Rosendale Runs, is involved in putting on or helping to organize four more running events. These races all have in common that they are well-organized, modestly priced ($25 or less), and help raise money for worthy causes.
Oct. 15 — Esopus Autumn 5K Run/Walk and kids dashes. This flat and fast 5k in Port Ewen benefits the Esopus Community Foundations. The entry fee for the 5k is $20, and there is a family fee of $35. Children’s dashes are free. There are T-shirts for the first 50 registrants, refreshments for all, awards, and raffle prizes. The race starts at the Town
of Esopus Town Hall. For info and to register: https://www.zippy-reg.com/online_reg/index2022.php?e=1751
Oct. 22 — Morning Star Run/Walk for Shelter 5k. This 5k is in Kingston through the neighborhoods between East Chester Street and Foxhall Avenue, with two passes through Hutton Park. The Morning Star Christian Fellowship organizes this event with assistance from the Shawangunk Runners and the Onteora Runners Club members. All proceeds benefit a homeless shelter and rehabilitation program. The entry fee is $20, which includes T-shirts for the first 75 registrants, refreshments, and unique awards. To register for this great race, visit the website: https://www.zippy-
Oct. 29 — The 12th Annual UlsterCorps Zombie Escape. There is a 5k Run, 2K Walk, and free children’s 1K. This event has a Halloween costume contest and uses the trails of the Williams Lake Project in Rosendale. It’s a really fun event that has been going strong for 12 years. The entry fee is $20 with a discount for teams of three. The entry fee includes
a T-shirt, refreshments, awards, and a finisher’s medal. For more information and to register, visit https://www.zippy-reg.com/online_reg/index2022.php?e=1731
Nov. 13 — The spectacular After the Leaves Half Marathon at Minnewaska State Park. Enjoy 13.1 miles of unpaved carriage trails around two pristine glacial lakes as you climb the Shawangunk Ridge with a view into five states. Refreshments, chip timing, unique awards crafted by Christopher Regan, and finishers medals. The entry fee is a modest $25. This event usually sells out. For more information and to register, visit the website https://www.zippy-reg.com/online_reg/index2022.php?e=1753.
Wow, what a month and a half for running right here in our backyard!
Steve Schallenkamp has been active in area running circles since 1966 as a runner, race director, volunteer and coach. He is a member of the Onteora Runners Club and president of the Shawangunk Runners Club.