Morris County Man Runs from High Point to Cape May

By Steve Sears

There were some things Ray Pinney hadn’t planned on encountering.

“I always learn something on an ultra marathon, because you’re always going beyond your limits,” Pinney says. “You’re always pushing your limits. I think the thing wasn’t the physical aspect of it that was difficult; it was more of an almost an emotional thing, because people started cheering you on. I didn’t really put that in my planning stages. I knew some people would join me for parts of the run, and they did. But I didn’t expect strangers.”

Pinney is talking about a 196-mile, 65-hour run (and part walk) he and his partner runner, Anthony Certa, did from High Point State Park to Cape May Point State Park from noon on Friday, April 8, to Monday morning, April 11. Pinney did his run for Dylan’s Wings of Change, a nonprofit organization founded due to the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He raised a little over $8,000.00.

Pinney and Certa, who were joined by other runners or folks clapping and cheering occasionally during their trek, mostly traveled Route 206, and in Sussex County and elsewhere took county or occasionally local roads. “It (local roads) steers you away from the busy roads, which is nice because you see parts of the countryside you may not see and see developments that you don’t see,” Pinney says. “We were thinking about that as it would take us off into the town of Stanhope just for a couple miles and then back onto 206. That happened over and over again.”

There were two things that surprised PInney as his run continued. The weather, which was beautiful as he departed High Point, got worse. “I would think that Sussex County would be the coldest part and it ended up not; actually, the nicest weather was up in Sussex. The other hard part, we were in Chester in the middle of the night. We had taken a nap for about 90 minutes in a van, and it started raining, and we had to get out into the rain – I guess it was probably at 1:30 in the morning – and just start running again through the back streets of Chester and into Bernardsville. That looked like a really nice area, but it was still dark at night and it was raining.”

The poor weather continued into Saturday morning as the duo arrived in Mercer County. “It had been raining the whole time,” Pinney says. “And then Saturday morning, we were in Montgomery going towards Princeton, and the sun came out. That was nice, and we took off all our rain gear and started running again. And we’re about three miles from where we were going to meet our van, and then it just got dark, and it started pouring on us. We were not prepared because we had taken all of our rain gear off. There was no report of any more rain or anything like that. We got drenched, and we had to get changed. That was tough.” In addition to changes of clothes during his run, Pinney also switched running shoes four times. 

Perhaps the most interesting dilemma Pinney and Certa ran into was in Atlantic County. “We were following Google Maps,” Pinney explains, “and we’d been on dirt roads before, and actually we were on trails before, but we got to a dead end after going back two miles into this dirt road. There was a junkyard there and nothing else – not even a footpath. This guy comes out from behind this junkyard – I think he just lives in a trailer – and he said, ‘GPS doesn’t work around here. It says there are all these roads, and there’s no roads here.” He suggested, and Pinney and Certa were desperate enough, to maybe try to bushwhack through the area, which they did. “You’d have to be really desperate, and we did just because we were really desperate at that point. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We explored it, and he was really nice, even though he has like six signs that say ‘Do Not Enter.” The duo retreated and the man offered to bring them back to where they should have been. It was there that Pinney got one his many surprises during his trip, and perhaps the best one: his 94-year-old mom was waiting for him. “I said to myself, ‘Well, I can’t quit now.’ That got me very emotional.”

Finally, Pinney and Certa entered Cape May County. “We were very excited when we came to Cape May,” Pinney recalls. “We said, ‘This is it.” But you still have a long way to go.” The men arrived at Cape May Point State Park at dawn Monday morning.

Pinney is currently writing a book about his experience, happily sharing his journey with anyone who would like to read it.

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