Two Hollows Monster Marathon and Half 2023 Recap

For 2023, the Two Hollows Monster Marathon and Half Marathon—formerly, simply the Monster Marathon and Half Marathon—moved to a beautiful network of Finger Lakes Trail-associated trails in Kennedy State Forest that most participants had never set foot on, despite being local to the area. In this way, the trail races differed from past runnings, along with nonbinary registration option and a new team of race directors, but in many ways the Monster remained the same:

  • it moved back to its traditional date of the Sunday of Labor Day weekend;
  • it retained the age-and-gender head start structure;
  • it was conducted as an out-and-back (this time, two out-and-backs, or more precisely an out-and-back in one direction and then a down-and-up in a different direction), so runners could assess where they stood with respect to their competition, but mostly so they could encourage one another throughout;
  • it featured hand-crafted finisher awards for every runner who covered the distance, in this case hand-knit leaf “medals” by RD Nancy and bottles of homemade “Monster Sauce” that RD Steve V. cooked up from his homegrown hot peppers;
  • it had friendly monsters in the woods greeting runners before they climbed the last of the monster hills.

The race team, volunteers, Wilderness Search & Rescue, and runners convened on a picture-perfect day—albeit a bit warm, especially as the marathoners were finishing up their final out-and-back.

Inexplicably, nearly half of the marathoners were no-shows, including all of the young bucks, so each of the 11 marathoners was out on the course in advance of the 8:00 am scratch start. This was definitely an opportunity lost for those who elected not to show up: no lovely singletrack, no trail camaraderie, and no cake and beer and sandwiches at the finish line for them. Nine marathoners finished, with Stephen Jesch crossing the line first in 4:36 clock time and, at age 54 and therefore with a 31-minute start ahead of the clock, logging the fastest raw time of the day (5:07). He definitely earned his “Thing 1” plush monster award and six-pack of beer of his choosing. “Thing 2” went to the 2021 champ, Gerrit Van Loon (4:39). Rounding out the top five in close succession to one another, were Gabrielle Woo (5:23:03), Pete Kresock (5:23:51), and Diana Hackett (5:28:54)—all clock times, not accounting for their respective head starts. Each of them went home with a personal “monster” and six pack.

The half marathon had 62 entrants and 55 starters and 54 finishers, so a much better respective turnout. These folks ran each out-and-back once, whereas the marathoners did it twice. With RD Steve Shaum holding down the monster cave at the finish line, RDs Nancy Kleinrock and Steve Vanek both partook of the fun on the trails. When all was said and done, Nancy (age 63) was second out of the gate and first across the finish line in 1:39 clock time (2:23 raw time), earning Thing 1 for her efforts. Thing 2 went to Brian Lee (age 50) in 1:46, and the 3rd place monster went to Crosby Woods (age 17) in 1:50. Monsters 4 and 5 went to Jeremy Thomas (age 47) and David Olds (age 56) in 1:59:14 and 1:59:42, respectively—again, all clock times. Just missing out on a stuffed monster of his own was Bob Swizdor (age 57), who crossed the line in 1:59:43, but had a one-minute head start on David; it just wasn’t quite enough to prevail.

Full results can be found for the full marathon and half marathon.

Snippets of the entire event were captured by photographer Jamie Love. You can view them here and download free of charge those you like. If you have pix you’d like to share, please upload them here.

Of course, the race couldn’t have happened without the many volunteers who stepped up to help: Vinny and Charlotte Cappadora (bib pickup and morning start/finish aid station); Pete Kresock (bib pickup before heading out to face his own monster on the marathon course); Ian Golden and Jake Werblow (Hilsinger Road aid station; special thanks to Ian who supplied all the food, fluids, and equipment for that aid station); Michelle Dardia and Stephanie Mulinos (afternoon start/finish aid station and post-race cleanup); Gerald McKinley (post-race cleanup, as well); Adam Engst, Heather Cobb, and Bob Talda (finish line timing); Margaret Frank and her daughter Genevieve (post-race food pickup); Jami Landry and Paul Maza (course sweeping); Jan Vanek-Raphaelidis and Colin Buckley as the woodland monsters; and Gary McCheyne (coordinating equipment before and after). Huge thanks as well to Ryan Healy and his intrepid volunteer Wilderness Search & Rescue crew who you saw periodically on the course tracking your bib numbers.

Special thanks go to Alex and Michelle Gonzalez, who constructed many—and maintain all—of the trails Two Hollows Monster traverses. For more about the “International Loops,” see pages 22 and 23 of the Fall 2017 issue of the Finger Lakes Trail News (Fall 2017). While runners were watching out for the pink flags, they might not have noticed that the course covered the Main FLT (white blazes), Spanish Loop (orange), and Swedish Loop (blue) on the first out-and-back, and then, in order going out the second out-and-back (actually, down the down-and-up), the Spanish Loop (orange), Irvin’s Trail (blue), Spanish Loop (orange), Polito’s Path (red), Eric’s Path (yellow), Irvin’s Trail (blue), English Loop (red—the nasty little up amongst all that down), and Spanish Loop (orange) to the turnaround at the bottom—no wonder there were 684 flags and so many wrong-way signs! Even as the marathoners were still out there running, Alex was painting the yellow end-of-trail blazes on the brand new Ukrainian Loop Trail mentioned in the article. That trail has been 14 years in the making; he had as good a day in the woods as we all did!

Plan ahead and put the Two Hollows Monster Marathon on your 2024 race calendar on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and tell your friends about it.

Happy trails from your RDs,
Nancy Kleinrock, Steve Shaum, and Steve Vanek


Thank you so much for a really fun and challenging race! You all did an amazing job with organization and the vibes were so good. I enjoyed seeing the same runners multiple times and wishing everyone well. I love this trail running community!


Thanks Nancy, Steve, Steve and all the volunteers who made my first Monster Race a memorable event. Even with my head start, I knew Nancy would catch up to me quickly (and she did) but that gave me a good boost to tackle the cool and dark trails of the first “Hollow” early in the morning. It was motivating to see the checkpoint crews (especially the turnarounds) and the aid station volunteers out there. My quads felt good when I arrived back to the main aid station area before I headed down to the “second” hollow. The heat and humidity had settled in and the climb back out the second hollow was tough. I found another runner who needed motivation to keep going - Marsden - and we made it back to the road. At the road, he took off to finish in a sprint while I cherished my jog to the finish. Another well-organized FLRC event - thanks to all.

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Thanks @melissawallace I’m glad you enjoyed the race. Wish it would have been cooler temps, but it all was good for everyone. Glad you enjoy the running community as well. We try hard to do our best to put on quality races and create a fun environment for all. See you next time!

thank you @jennifer.woltjen We try our best to put on fun and organized races. Glad you survived the heat and enjoyed the after-race.

Everything was great. The trail marking was spot on. Post race food was perfect. Course was beautiful and thankfully almost entirely tree covered. Finishing “medals” were unique and interesting. Steve’s hot sauce was awesome (in fact I’m almost out already … Steve, you selling any?). The organizers and volunteers were the best. Look forward to maybe going the full 26.2 next year.

Agrees with all the glowing reports above! Such a beautiful course, and there was such a lovely atmosphere on the day. Thanks so much for organizing such a great event - and for the fluffy monster now keeping me company in my office at work :blush:

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Amazingly well marked course, awesome food and I just tried the hot sauce :+1: (as a Sesame Street kid I appreciate the monster on the bottle).

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Good recap! Thanks again to Steve, Nancy, and Steve for such a great experience on trails that are great for running! @Steven_Vanek’s killer homemade hot sauce was a nice finishers award too. I hope the format and course remain the same for next year. One correction though — I didn’t help with bib pickup, I just showed up, got my bib and ran.