Guide to New York City's Group Running, Walking, and Biking Events
By Bianca Jordan
>> Most of my visitors return home saying, "Phew, I walked a lot on this trip" and it's easy to understand why!
Think about the two-mile journey from Times Square to Central Park. Not only can you see one of the world's greatest theater districts and public parks, but also the grand edifices of the New York Public Library and Saint Peter's Cathedral. Then you have Rockefeller Center's towering shadows, the latest fashions on Fifth Avenue, and the Plaza Hotel's opulent red carpets. With walking often being a faster mode of transportation than a cab during rush, it makes sense to tour New York City on foot.
If you're the type who loves getting out and about while sightseeing, love meeting new people, are good at organizing friends for good causes (or want to get better at it), and hate being confined to slow-moving vehicles, consider putting on your sneakers and participating in charity-sponsored athletic benefits.
Since 2002, when a few friends and I signed up for the Race to Deliver, I've taken part in many benefits, finding that they are a great way to explore, have a lot of fun, and give back to New Yorkers and society at large.
What exactly is an athletic benefit?
Let me tell you about my Race to Deliver experience. It was a four-mile race held the weekend before Thanksgiving sponsored by God's Love We Deliver, a charity that delivers food to the seriously ill. At the time, the idea of running four miles scared the living daylights out of me.
Even though I was on a high school track team, I did little more than pick up the shot put. The fastest I ever ran was when I was about miss the bus home. So, I took the Race to Deliver slowly . . . very slowly. In the end, I felt great and had the pleasure of having God's Love We Deliver volunteers thank me for my support.
And what did I get back? As the leaves were starting to change color, I got to see Central Park in its full glory. Pushing my body that "extra mile" built up my self-esteem. And, finally, I was able to enjoy a guilt-free pancake brunch with friends after the race.
I encourage you to try running (race-walking, quickly strolling, straggling, or even "wheeling") for organized benefits. Seeing New York by subway or cab is way too limiting and not all that quick, anyway. Meeting people (local or tourists), seeing great sites with others, breezing down interesting streets, and feeling exhilarated after an event are more than enough reasons to get involved.
If you're planning a trip to New York and want to try, start by using this list of sports-based fund raisers that support everything from cancer research to bringing disabled athletes to the New York marathon. This guide is based on events held in 2005, but the information and links will be useful no matter what year you take on the challenge.
And keep in mind that your money really does help these worthwhile organizations. "The more the merrier," as they say!
List of New York City's Group Walking, Running, and Biking Activities
Pfizer Oncology Colon Cancer Challenge (4-mile run, 1.7-mile walk or half-marathon)
Take your pick at this event: you can do a 4-mile run, 1.7-mile walk or (for men only) half-marathon through Central Park. Every March, which is Colon Cancer Awareness month by act of Congress, thousands participate to combat colo rectal cancer. In 2005, the challenge raised $93,000. Members of the general public attended, as well as colo rectal cancer survivors and their friends and family. In the past, out-of-towners from as far as Florida and Chicago have traveled to New York for the event. There is a mandatory registration fee; however, no fund raising minimums apply. About 85% of funds raised are contributed to research and community outreach. Unlike other Manhattan athletic fund raisers that support New York beneficiaries, the challenge's proceeds are donated to nationally, and even internationally focused research. For more information, call 718-430-2600 or e-mail.
New York City Multiple Sclerosis Walk (2.5, 7.5 or 12.5 miles)
Check out Manhattan's South Street Seaport by joining the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's MS Walk. In past years, up to 5,000 have walked, including people affected by MS, event volunteers, corporate sponsors and, in many cases, entire teams of families. Up to $2.5 million has been raised by the walk in previous years. About 60% of proceeds to go programs and services in New York's five boroughs, 40% to national research. Walkers can choose a 2.5, 7.5 or 12.5 route, and are asked to raise a minimum of about $50. For up-to-date details, visit the Web site or call 212-463-9791.
Parkinson's Unity Walk (2 miles)
Since 1994, families, friends, caregivers and major Parkinson's foundations have gathered each year in Central Park to support of one goal: find a cure for Parkinson's disease. The Unity Walk has grown from 200 participants in 1994 to well over 7,000 participants 10 years later. In recent years, the walk has raised close to $1 million. Unlike many other New York-based benefits, this event is focused largely on national programs: every donation goes directly to major U.S. Parkinson's foundations. Those planning to make a donation or raise money must register. Registration is not required otherwise. For more information, see the Web site, call 1-866-789-9255 or e-mail.
American Heart Association Wall Street Run and Heart Walk (5K)
This Lower Manhattan-based fund raiser has attracted 4,000 in the past and, in conjunction with other events, has allowed the AHA to invest more than $364.3 million in research, professional and public education and advocacy. The benefit includes a 3.1-mile competitive run and a non-competitive walk in New York's Financial District. The aim is to promote the cardiovascular benefits of regular exercise. Walkers must raise a certain minimum to receive a t-shirt. For more information, visit the Web site or call 212-878-5900.
AIDS Walk (10K)
This is a highly successful 10K (6.2-mile) walk that begins and ends in Central Park. Funds raised go to Gay Men's Health Crisis and other AIDS organizations in order to provide services for people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City. In the past, 45,000 walkers have participated and helped to raise $5.6 million dollars. There are no fees or mandatory fund raising commitments. Register online or call 212-807-9255 with questions.
Revlon Run/Walk New York (5K)
Established in 1993, this is a huge event that has gathered up to 40,000 people in Times Square for a benefit that ends in Central Park's East Meadow. About 95% of participants have a connection to the women's cancer cause. Sine 1993, the Revlon program has distributed $32 million for cancer research, counseling and outreach programs. There is a mandatory registration fee ($25-$30 in the past). There are no fund raising minimums. Proceeds from the Manhattan race are equally distributed among 15 beneficiaries, most of which are New York-based. The amount donated depends upon how much the race costs and how much is raised by participants. See Web site, call 212-379-3199 or e-mail for up-to-date details.
The Melissa Fund (5K)
Established in 2005 to honor Melissa Bambino, who, at 29, lost her life to Melanoma cancer in December. The fund was established by Melissa's family and friends to honor her memory, help eliminate this disease, and promote healthy, invigorating activities. The run/walk takes place in New York City's Riverside Park. Participation requests a contribution of approximately $35. Children under 13 participate for free. For more details, visit the Web site or phone 646 734-2567.
American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure NYC to Suburb (15, 32 or 62 miles)
This bike ride brings together a community of diabetes sufferers, their friends and family and corporate teams. Up to 1,000 have participated to further ADA's activities. The event is a great way to tour the city streets of New York and breath in the healthy greenery of its suburban neighbors. Riders can choose how far they want to travel - 15, 32 or 62 miles - on routes that take them through Manhattan, over the George Washington Bridge and into the more peaceful suburbs of Northern New Jersey and Rockland County. Cyclists must pay a registration fee and obtain at least $100 in pledges. For every dollar raised, 80 cents goes toward diabetes research, education and advocacy. For complete details, visit the Web site or phone 212-878-5900.
Easter Seals' Walk With Me (5K)
This walk raises money to further the Easter Seals mission: to provide programs and services to children and adults with disabilities and other special needs, and their families. The event takes place in Riverside Park, along the Hudson River and typically draws a group of Easter Seals programs participants, as well as corporate and individual donors. In the past, hundreds have participated. In the future, the number is expected to rise to a thousand, plus. There are no fund raising minimums or registration fees. To get involved, visit the Web site.
Get Your Guts in Gear: the Bike Ride for Chrohn's & Colitis (210 miles)
This is a three-day, 210-mile cycling event that raises funds for research, education, patient support and advocacy work for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Cyclists ride from New York City to Saratoga Springs. Along the journey, riders will average 70 miles a day and make two overnight camping stops as they tour the picturesque Hudson River Valley. There's a registration fee (under $100), and fundraising minimums apply (around $1,850). Participants must be 18 years old or older or, if between 16 and 18, be accompanied by an adult. About 50-100 have participated in the past, including those with the disease, their family and friends, medical professionals and others simply excited by the sightseeing. All participants receive detailed training materials. Out-of-towners can train together. In its first year, 45% of profits went to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, the United Ostomy Association, IBD Quilt Project, Inc. and Get Your Guts in Gear, Inc. The amount of proceeds depends on the cost of producing the ride, corporate sponsor contributions and how much is pledged. For this year's information, call 646-536-7408 or e-mail.
Hope & Possibility Race (5 miles)
The Achilles Track Club was established in 1983 to encourage disabled people to participate in long-distance running alongside the general public. Every year, it organizes this five-mile benefit race through Central Park in honor of its board chair member, Trisha Meili, a jogger who survived a serious attack in 1989 and went on to write a book about her Story of Hope and Possibility. The race attracts many New Yorkers trying to qualify for the New York Marathon, as well as club members, wounded war veterans and disabled New York City school kids. About 85% of the adult runners are not disabled, which fits into the club's goal to integrate disabled and able-bodied athletes. People also come from a variety of countries, including Ecuador, Sri Lanka and Chernobyl. There is a registration fee for adults (typically around $20-30). Children participate for free. The event is not a huge fundraiser; however, Archilles does use proceeds to bring disabled athletes to the New York marathon and to support club programs and events. Visit the Web site, call 212-354-0300 or e-mail for up-to-date information.
Komen New York City Race for the Cure (5K)
In the past, nearly 1,500 breast cancer survivors and 20,000 people in total have poured into New York's Upper West Side and Central Park for this massive benefit. Participants have come from 41 states and six countries to take part to walk or run in support of breast cancer advocacy. Over the years, it has raised millions, 25% of which goes to national groups, and 75% of which is invested in community programs in the five boroughs, Long Island and Rockland and Westchester counties. Visit the Komen site to register online or to find out where and when pre-registration takes place. All registrants receive race bibs, shirts and other goodies. There's a registration fee, although there are no fund raising minimums. For complete details, visit Komen's New York Web site.
Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (26.2 or 39.3 miles)
This is a weekend event that takes walkers from Manhattan's South Street Seaport, throughout the city along the Hudson River and up past the George Washington Bridge towards Randalls Island and, finally, across the Brooklyn Bridge. Up to 4,000 have walked in previous years, and participants have traveled from 12 countries and 46 states. Since 1992, Avon has awarded more than $350 million to breast cancer research and care organizations worldwide. Proceeds go toward furthering breast cancer awareness and supporting prevention programs, treatment, support services and scientific research. There are registration fees (in the past, $55), and fund raising minimums (in the neighborhood of $1,800). After registering, each walker will be supported by an Avon Walk Staff member, who helps walkers with training and fund raising. There is no registration deadline, however space is limited and registrants must be 18 or older. For complete details, visit the Web site or call 1-877-WALK-AVON.
National Down Syndrome Society's New York City Buddy Walk (1 mile)
This walk is held in conjunction with Down Syndrome Awareness Month, which is October. It can also be held in late September, so be sure to check the society's Web site for details each year. Walkers usually include individuals with Down syndrome, their family members and friends and the general public. Previously, up to 3,500 have done the walk in Central Park's Great Hill. In 2004, 234 Buddy Walks took place nationwide and raised $4.5 million to benefit national education, research and advocacy initiatives, as well as local programs and services. While pre-registration and fund raising are not required, individuals can take on the Buddy Walk Challenge to raise $1,000 or more. For complete details, visit the Buddy Walk Web site or call 800-221-4602.
New York City Multiple Sclerosis Bike Tour (30, 60 or 100 miles)
This benefit is a truly unique and a great way to tour New York City. On the event day, the city shuts down the Lincoln Tunnel, FDR Drive and Westside Highway so that participants can support the thousands of New Yorkers living with MS and their families. The tour brings together thousands (up to 5,000), including individuals committed to the fight against MS, their family members, corporate sponsors, bike enthusiasts and teams of families. Registration fees apply, although early registrants receive lower fees. Participants are also asked to make pledges, which differ depending on the length of the ride: 30 miles (about $50), 60 miles (about $75) or 100 miles (about $100). In previous years, the event has raised over $1 million. For this year's details, visit the MS Society's New York Web site or call 212-463-9791.
Race to Deliver (4 miles)
www.godslovewedeliver.org or www.racetodeliver.com
The goal of this race is to support God's Love We Deliver, which improves the health and well-being of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition. The race is always held the Sunday before Thanksgiving in Central Park and brings together a diverse set of 5-10,000, including New Yorkers trying to qualify for the marathon, GLWD's large volunteer base, employees of corporate sponsors and running enthusiasts. There is a race entry fee of about $25. Fund raising is not mandatory. All of the proceeds go to direct service. To find out more, visit the Web site.
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Reporter, Bianca Jordan
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Littleviews' Publisher, Karen Little
Article and photos by Bianca Jordan. First published on 4/25/2005. All rights reserved by