Spring races

Indulge your competitive side and explore the city's trails, waterways and practically everything in between during these five contests.

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  • Photograph: Matt Richardson

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    Great Hudson River Swim

  • Photograph: Matt Richardson

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    Great Hudson River Swim

  • Photograph: Susan Egan

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    Great Hudson River Swim

  • Photograph: Capri Djatiasmoro

    races04hudson

    Great Hudson River Swim

  • Photograph: Capri Djatiasmoro

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    Great Hudson River Swim

  • Photograph: Courtesy The Amazing New York Race

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    The Amazing New York Race

  • Photograph: Courtesy The Amazing New York Race

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    The Amazing New York Race

  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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    Run for the Parks

  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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    Run for the Parks

  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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    Run for the Parks

  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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    Run for the Parks

  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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    Run for the Parks

Photograph: Matt Richardson

races01hudson

Great Hudson River Swim

If you're willing to get dirty


Urban Environmental Challenge
(Van Cortlandt Park, meet opposite the Tortoise and Hare sculpture, Broadway between 246th and 251st Sts, Bronx; vctconline.ning.com; Sun 3 at 10am; $25, before Fri 1 $19)
The lowdown: For this excursion, adventurers are set loose on the northern trails of the 1,146-acre Van Cortlandt Park. Be sure to don a pair of trail shoes: The route traverses wooded areas and a stream (there's a bridge if you don't want to get your feet wet), providing prettier scenery than your average journey through the city. "We have two volunteers who'll spend hours clearing the trails," says director Jill Staats (her husband even used a machete to prune overgrown brush one year). "But if there's a fallen tree in the way, we'll leave it for people to climb over." Adding local flavor, winners in each age bracket walk away with decadent treats from Bronx bakeshop Lloyd's Carrot Cake.
Pro tip: Don't be afraid of a little drizzle—the event happens rain or shine, and Staats encourages people to participate when it's gross out. "Usually the messier the weather, the more fun people have," she explains.

If you're practicing to become an Ironman


Brooklyn Biathlon (Meet at Breeze Hill, Prospect Park, enter at Lincoln Rd and Ocean Ave, Brooklyn; 845-247-0271, nytc.org; Apr 10 at 8am; $60--$75, NYT members $55--$70)
The lowdown: Test your athletic prowess at this sprint through Prospect Park, which is slightly less daunting than a triathlon; in this case, participants complete a ten-mile bike ride sandwiched between a pair of two-mile runs. The physical challenge offers a good introduction to this type of multidisciplinary competition, says New York Triathlon president Daniel Honig. "If you can run a 5K [3.1 miles] or bike for about 45 minutes, you can do this race," he says. If you're still on the fence about competing, you can sign up to volunteer for any of the club's upcoming events: Not only will you be able to check out the competition, but the club will waive your entry fee for your next match.
Pro tip:
"Don't let your bike hold you back," says Honig. You don't need a high-tech road cycle to compete: A vintage two-wheeler or mountain bike will suffice as long as it has two wheels and working brakes. (Don't forget your helmet.)

If you're a couch potato who wants to get outdoors


The Amazing New York Race: Come One, Come All
(Meet at Perdition, 692 Tenth Avenue between 48th and 49th Sts; theamazingnewyorkrace.com; Apr 17 1--5pm; $35)
The lowdown: Inspired by the CBS reality show, the creators of the Amazing New York Race give TV addicts a chance to emulate the show and to test their resourcefulness in themed scavenger hunts throughout the city. Contestants receive an envelope with geographically based puzzles at the beginning of the game, which teams must solve within the four-hour window; the team who figures out the most clues wins. Anything goes when you're trying to solve each clue; the only restrictions are that you can't ride in a car or photograph pictures in a book to complete each task. Teams have four hours to finish, and the winners walk away with a gift bag full of swag, including discounts, gift cards and T-shirts.
Pro tip: If you're stuck on a clue, think outside of the box. "We like a creative interpretation of the clues," says founder Mary Catanzaro. "Once, for the clue 'triplets,' a team took a picture of three similar chairs. We accepted that."

If you're looking to work your quads


Run for the Parks (Central Park, East Dr, enter at Fifth Ave and 68th St; 212-860-4455, nyrr.org; Apr 17 at 8am; $33--$40; NYRR members $18--$25)
The lowdown:
Nonprofit org New York Road Runners hosts nearly 300,000 pavement pounders during a plethora of competitive jaunts throughout the year, most notably the ING New York City Marathon (although the group also coordinates a number of less formidable five- and ten-kilometer jogs). This four-mile dash is long enough to make you break a sweat, and affords lovely views of iconic Central Park scenery, including the obelisk and the reservoir. In addition, proceeds benefit the City Parks Foundation, which presents arts, sports, fitness and other activities in New York's green spaces.
Pro tip:
Even though a four-miler is a good introductory competition for novices, this event gets off to a difficult start: It begins with a push up Cat Hill (named for the cougar statue at the top), the steepest part of the route. Take the incline slowly; you'll be running along rolling hills from there.

If you're not afraid of what lurks in NYC's rivers


Great Hudson River Swim
(Meet at Hudson River Park, Pier 45, Christopher St at West St; 888-692-7946, nycswim.org; May 28 at 8am; $45--$85; advance registration required)
The lowdown:
Good recreational swimmers and triathlete hopefuls wanting to dip their toes into open waters are encouraged to come out for this 1.6-mile paddle along the Hudson River. "There's nothing like seeing Manhattan from sea level," says NYC Swim founder Morty Berger. If you're unsure about your ability to complete the route, Berger suggests testing yourself before registering: If you can swim a mile (65 lengths in a 25-meter pool) in less than 45 minutes—a rather leisurely pace for most swimmers—you should be fine.
Pro tip: Though the temperature on land may be balmy, the Hudson is usually 58 to 65 degrees at the end of May. To make sure you don't lose too much body heat, pick up an insulating wet suit at a sporting-goods store such as JackRabbit Sports (locations throughout the city; visit jackrabbitsports.com) before diving in.

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