Whether you are looking for some new inspo to revive your exercise drive or have been itching for an excuse to spend more time outside (and TBH, who hasn’t?), the latest virtual challenge has your name written all over it. New York State Parks has partnered with Boilermaker (the organizers of the eponymous 15K race in Utica, New York) to bring you — drum roll, please — the Empire State Trail Challenge, a four-month-long virtual race along the Empire State Trail.
ICYDK, the Empire State Trail is the longest multi-use state trail in the nation, spanning a total of 750 miles from the southern tip of Manhattan to the Canadian border. Although plans for the trail were first announced in 2017, it took nearly four years to complete the project. As of December 31, 2020, however, the Empire State Trail was fully operational and open to all. The only problem? The coronavirus pandemic, which continues to inhibit travel and, despite the latest mask guidelines, overall outdoor adventure. But that’s where the virtual challenge comes in, as it allows you to experience the impressive trail no matter the distance.
Officially started on April 9, the Empire State Trail Challenge encourages runners, walkers, cyclists, and hikers from across the country to compete by tracking and logging miles remotely. While you can definitely complete the miles by following the actual trail IRL (the Empire State Trail’s website has maps to help guide your adventure), you can also go the distance by running around your neighborhood or sweating it out on a treadmill at home. No matter how or where you complete the mileage, you just need to track and report it regularly through the event’s website. As you plug in your progress, you’ll be able to watch your digital avatar journey along the trail on a map and compare your progress to fellow challengers.
Don’t want to complete all 750 miles? No problem. Participants can also sign up for one or two legs of the race, including the Hudson Valley Greenway Trail (210 miles from NYC to Albany), the Champlain Valley Trail (190 miles from Albany to Canada), and the Erie Canalway Trail (350 miles from Buffalo to Albany). And the options don’t end there. The Empire State Trail Challenge is truly a “choose your own adventure” race, and the goal is for folks to participate (read: get moving) through whatever means works best for them. For example, you can run the whole distance or you can split it up between biking and walking. What’s more, you can go the distance solo or with a team, either by joining an existing team or creating a new one on the challenge’s site. (
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Registration opened on April 6 and will close on July 5th, allowing participants a full four months — April 9th through July 31st — to compete in the challenge. To register, simply head to the challenge’s website with your credit card nearby, as you’ll need to pay a fee of $25 for one leg and $5 per additional leg. And just like live events and races of the past (#tbt to pre-2020 times), participants will also receive an Empire State Trail Challenge t-shirt and can purchase other race-oriented goodies such as an athletic headband or an Empire State Trail Challenge medal. Additionally, each participant will receive a custom certificate upon completion of the challenge.
Whether biking on your Peloton or jogging through a local park, there are endless ways to get involved in this summer-long challenge and show your body some love in the process. Happy trails!