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New Jersey man runs length of state, finishes in Cape May
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New Jersey man runs length of state, finishes in Cape May

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CAPE MAY — Cole Crosby was extremely hungry and unbelievably tired Monday afternoon. His muscles were tight, and there was swelling near his knees.

“I put myself through the ringer,” said the 32-year-old from South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

Over the weekend, Crosby ran the entire length of New Jersey — 197.22 miles in 44 hours, 42 minutes and 21 seconds — breaking every 5 miles or so for nourishment, having slept a total of about 90 minutes along the way.

He started at the High Point Monument in Sussex County at 2 a.m. Saturday and finished at the Cape May Lighthouse at 10:30 p.m. Sunday. The farthest he’d ever run prior was 86 miles.

Asked why he decided to run the length of the state, his response was a simple, “Why not?”

He said he’s been running since the sixth grade, when given how quickly he had run the mile in gym class, he was recruited by the school’s cross country coach.

“All you need is a good pair of shoes and the will to step out of that front door and out into the world,” said Crosby, who works at a golf course.

A documentary about running the length of New Jersey, “Running the 184,” inspired him. He crafted his route from the documentary and online maps.

Along the way, people dropped off food like doughnuts and pizza, or cheered from the sidelines. He remembers some having cowbells.

Other runners joined him for different stretches of the run, some in the middle of the night.

“He’s like the Forrest Gump of New Jersey,” said Ryan Thorpe, 33, of Washington Borough, Warren County, adding, “We’re Facebook friends, and he posted about it. It sounded like he could use some company.”

Thorpe joined Crosby on the run for about 12 miles in Hunterdon County.

“When I thought about doing this a year ago, I wanted this to be something that could really rally people,” Crosby said, saying people joining him were the shining moments of the entire venture.

Thorpe had heard of people running the state before but was impressed with Crosby’s time goal.

“He’s a talented runner that could do justice to any route. I’m impressed he’s set such an ambitious goal and kept it,” Thorpe said.

Crosby was going to run rain or shine. Running in January never bothered him, as he’s also run snowshoe races.

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If there were an ice storm and it wasn’t safe to drive, then he may have rescheduled.

But he never wanted to give up.

“I’ve never been more laser-focused for this run,” he said. “No matter what, I was making it to that lighthouse. It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. If I had to crawl to that lighthouse to get there, I would get there.”

The hardest part was around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, when he was running along Route 206 into Hammonton.

“It’s just, in many ways, a very monotonous kind of desolate stretch,” he said. “It feels like the road goes on forever.”

His favorite part of the run was Bedminster, Somerset County, where he described wide gravel roads with horse farms on either side. Other times he was running in what he described as a tunnel of pine trees.

“It was really tranquil, peaceful,” he said. “When most people think of New Jersey, they would never think of seeing something like that.”

Crosby credits his wife, Ashlee, as the backbone of it all.

“She was the one who held me accountable and made sure I was taken care of throughout this whole thing,” he said.

When Crosby told his wife he wanted to run the entire state, she somewhat brushed it off but knew he’d try it, one day.

Once he started reaching out to different running groups a few months ago to set up the run, she knew it was a go.

“I thought, ‘Oh he’s really doing this, we’re doing this,’” said Ashlee, 32. “I have seen him do so many things that nothing surprises me anymore. I never had any doubt that he could do it.”

Ashlee acts as his unofficial manager, making sure “he doesn’t mess it all up for himself.”

While Crosby was running, she took care of everything behind the scenes, from driving alongside him to sharing his location on social media to making sure he ate enough.

“We support his running,” she said. “It’s something that he loves to do. It’s not just a hobby for him, it’s part of the fabric of who he is. If he wants to do whatever adventure he wants to go on, then let’s do it.”

New Jersey may not be Crosby’s only running adventure.

There’s a four-desert run he plans to accomplish — the Sahara, the Atacama in Chile, the Gobi in Asia and the desert in Antarctica.

“That’s the next frontier for me,” he said. “I’m looking to do some events like that where I can pull from deep within this quality I know has been there all along.”

Ashlee said running the four deserts may be a little insane, even for him.

“That one is crazy. I don’t know about that,” she said. “If he goes for it, he goes for it and he’ll make it happen.”

Contact: 609-272-7239

CFairfield@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPress_CJ

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