New York State of Mind: The Ultimate in Urban Ultrarunning by Don Allison

New York State of Mind:
The Ultimate in Urban Ultrarunning

New York City: The Ultimate in Urban Ultrarunning

by Don Allison

For most ultrarunners, New York City does not immediately come to mind when discussing venues for ultra distance running. Majestic mountain top views? Not here. Rugged, single track trails? Not many.
Peaceful communing with nature? Forget about it. Upon further examination however, New York does indeed have a long history of ultrarunning. Some of the most prolific ultrarunners have come from the Big Apple, including the legendary Ted Corbitt, a man who has arguably has had more influence on the sport in America than anyone during past half century.

Of course, there have been and continue to be many ultras held in New York City. Central Park, a huge expanse of greenery, is the most logical place for long races in the city. Loop 50-km and 50-mile
events are held in the park each year, including the Metropolitan 50 Mile and Kurt Stiener 50 Km, held this past February. The park was also the site of the IAU 100 Km USA Championship, in 1993.

Running a race in the park, especially on a mild sunny day, is unlike almost any other ultra. Even with an early morning start, Central Park races share the road with a steady stream of cyclists, walkers, roller bladers, and other runners. Ultras held in the park require runners to wear numbers on their backs as well as front. The reason for this becomes evident early on, when runners not in the race, some moving along at a very fast clip, become mixed in with those who are. Depending upon your point of view, it can be comforting or disconcerting to know that the runner who just flew by you is just out for a training run.

Training is always a challenge for an ultrarunner living in New York City. The reality of millions of people living on a relatively small island presents obstacles that those living on or near remote trails just don’t face. Ellen McCurtin, a several time member of the USA national team, lives and trains in the heart of the metropolis known as New York City. She offers a glimpse of what it is like to be an ultrarunner in the city.

“There is a lot I could say about running in the city. I have been in New York for almost 14 years and I have been running about 100 miles (in the early 90s it was more like 120 or more at times) a week for about 12 of those years. There are both advantages and disadvantages to being an urban runner. On the minus side, there can be traffic (even when you have the right of way, drivers will just go for it to make one more light), too many people doing too many different things (bikers, bladers, people pushing baby joggers, power walkers, and dogs), pollution (especially in the summer when it is hot and humid), and noise (people lean on their horns before the light even turns green). All in all, just too much going on.  Read the whole article on

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