One Off My Bucket List

DSCF3731-257x227At the encouragement of Tom Castronovo, the executive editor and publisher of Gardener News, this months article has virtually nothing to do with plant material. Rather, June’s column is dedicated to another hobby, a non-profit organization, the Special Olympics.

“The Special Olympics New Jersey provides year-round sports training and athletic competition to children and adults with intellectual disabilities throughout the state. More than 24,000 athletes enjoy camaraderie and gain a sense of pride and accomplishment through participating in these events” ( A lifelong hobby, and at one time a paid endeavor, is track and field. My wife and I have supported the Special Olympics for over a decade and are extremely proud to be associated with the organization.

April 19th of this year offered me and roughly 3,000 other runners the opportunity to compete in the 29th annual Lincoln Tunnel Challenge 5K. This single-day Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey helped raise significant funds through pledges collected by participants and donations from sponsors. The Lincoln Tunnel Challenge 5K has helped to fund the creation of new programs as well as existing ones. An event that starts and stops at the Weehawken side of the Lincoln Tunnel is a one of a kind challenge that has you running under water. This 3.1-mile road race uses the south tube to New York, the far right tube entering Manhattan, and returns back to the finish line on the Jersey side. A Grand Prix 500 point USATF sanctioned event, runners even have time chips embedded into their numbers on their shirts. A far more techno-style approach to the clumsy chips tied to our shoes years ago when I ran the New York City Marathon in 2001. Touch screen kiosks allowed athletes and spectators to access and view individual finish times. Not to mention a 40-inch LCD time display for runners, a smartphone app and email notification of individual results. This was an extremely well run event that was as safe and clean as any I can remember.

As mentioned, this article speaks little to horticultural discipline. During my morning stretch, in preparation for my run, some green friends, Ginkgo and Zelkova trees, notorious for surviving urban situations, helped feed me my other passion. An avid runner most of my life, I had my wife and daughter there to cheerlead my efforts. Situating myself in the first of two heats, those able to complete the event in less than 30 minutes, I had prepared myself both mentally and physically. Fortunate to finish the course in the top 10%, I exceeded my expectations. Let me defunct any misconceptions you may have about the Lincoln Tunnel on this day. The night before this event, the Port Authority does an outstanding job of degreasing and cleansing the tunnel, continuously pumping fresh air to all the runners. A surreal experience to run through the Lincoln Tunnel, this industrious marvel has always held my attention. Experiencing the halfway point, the New Jersey/New York painted line halfway through the tunnel, on foot rather than by car was sensational itself. Despite the nearly 900-yard uphill climb to reenter Jersey’s side, my daughter and wife’s encouragement, at the finish line, made it all worthwhile.

Hats off to the Port Authority and Special Olympics for fulfilling a “Bucket List” experience and for raising over $200,000.00 dollars for a cause near and dear to my heart!