Run Like a Warrior

by Steve Vida

You’re in the woods at a secret location in the Bronx.  It’s 1:00 AM.  You need to get to Coney Island, about 28 miles away, but there is no marked course.  You’re about to begin the Warriors Ultra-Run.

Jon Durand heard about this race, and we headed to NYC together to check it out.  The race format is inspired by the 1979 gang movie The Warriors, where 8 members of the Warriors are trying to get from the Bronx back to their home turf in Coney Island while being chased by an assortment of rival gangs.

The event itself is more fat-ass than race.  There is no swag, no aid stations, no bibs, no course.  You do get Todd Aydelotte, the enthusiastic race director.  You get a fun group of people to run with.  And you get New York City – a lot of it.

Jon and I followed Broadway from the start and through the length of Manhattan, counting down the cross streets from 242nd to somewhere below 14th.  This route was well-lit and simple to follow, with places to restock food along the way.  Bathrooms weren’t as easy to come by.  The overnight atmosphere through here was surprisingly subdued.

There were opportunities in Manhattan to see locations from the movie.  Jon and I are pictured outside 72nd Street station, where the encounter with the Furies begins.  (It’s presented as 96th Street in the movie.)  We also made a slight detour to see the real park where the opening conclave was filmed.  Further down Broadway we passed through Times Square and Union Square.  

We took the Brooklyn Bridge out of Manhattan.  The temperature all night was upper 70s with high humidity, so it was a relief to get some cooler air on the bridge.  The optimal route through Brooklyn wasn’t obvious.  We passed the Barclay’s Center and Prospect Park and then turned straight toward Coney Island.  We were spent by this time, and traffic was picking up with the daylight.  But we soldiered on and made it to the finish on the boardwalk well after sunrise.  There were a few beers available for the finishers, but Nathan’s wouldn’t be open for a few hours yet.

The top 3 finishers (in the 4:30 range) will get replica Warriors vests.  The plan is for them to begin next year’s race with a 10 minute head start, while the rest of the field chases after them.  2020 was only the second year for this event.  Last year had 32 participants, and this year was on track for well over 100 before COVID reduced the number to around 30 again.

The race director added a few nice features for big fans of the original movie.  We gathered for the start and listened to an audio replay of Cyrus’ speech at the conclave (pictured – note our masks).  The race began at the sound of the gunshot that kills Cyrus.

Participants were also encouraged to come dressed as one of the gangs.  You only have to watch the first 10 minutes of the movie to get plenty of great costume ideas.  But in the July heat this wasn’t very practical.  I started the race with a Furies baseball jersey and a ring of face paint around one eye.  Both had to come off in the first mile.  However, if you go with a group of people, it might be fun to wear matching running shirts and show up as your own “gang”.

You can eventually find updated information at thewarriorsultra.com, or hit up me, Jon or Jason Karpinski (another local participant) for more details.

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