BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - As 2018 was getting ready to become 2019, a discussion about New Year's resolutions was being had between a few friends over drinks. Not the usual "I'm going to go to the gym more often" or "eat less dessert type of resolution," not when one of the participants is Mickey Cassu, a Berkeley Heights resident, the Oak Knoll Cross Country Coach and co-founder of Start-Tri, a Triathlon training company.
A lifelong athlete, Cassu decided this little group of occasional runners needed something different, a more interesting challenge. "How many roads are there in Berkeley Heights?" was asked. "Could you run every one of them in a year?" -- "If you ran the length of every street, how far would that be?" An idea was born. The "Run every street in Berkeley Heights 2019 Challenge."
Before the running could commence, the rules had to be agreed upon. Where are the actual boundaries of town? What about the Countryside neighborhood, is that technically Berkeley Heights? Do we really have to run up Diamond Hill? After much discussion, it was decided that the Township Tax map would dictate the borders, the town name on the telephone poles and manhole covers would provide the on-run guidance and everyone agreed to stick by the motto; when in doubt, run the route. Strava GPS maps would be the ultimate judge, so no short cuts could be taken.
So, beginning on January 1st and then on most weekends throughout the year, Cassu and other local residents, Steve Grimes, Tricia Kelly, and Kristin Cacicedo pounded the streets, roads, lanes, crescents, drives, and avenues of the town. After conquering the hills of Cinnamon Ridge, dodging the traffic on Mountain Avenue, discovering Berkeley Heights has way more dead-end streets than you ever imagined and passing more than a few puzzled residents, the final miles were clocked on November 30th. From Allen Terrace to York Place, from Angela Way to Yale Avenue, every road was run.
So how many roads are there in Berkeley Heights? 266 is the official number, but a couple more once you include the unnamed streets and the Desserted Village. How far would it be? Each runner ran over 150 miles, individual distance varied depending on how many times you needed to double back to add another road.
As the idea was born over drinks, it was only appropriate that the final run included Ghost Pony Road and the final miles were toasted with Trap Rock's own Ghost Pony Ale.
"On reflection, it was an immensely satisfying and enriching challenge," said Grimes. "We all discovered sections of our home town we had no idea existed, marveled at the incredible diversity that the town has to offer and we were reminded what a special place it is we get to call home."
As for a 2020 challenge, suggestions are welcome.