With COVID Restrictions Lifted, Many Local Races, But Not All, Are Set To Return

The third annual Jordan’s Run: Veterans’ Memorial 5K Run/Walk was held on July 28, 2019, in Sag Harbor in honor of Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, United States Marine of Sag Harbor, New York.

When New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo lifted COVID-19 restrictions on June 15, with 70 percent of New Yorkers aged 18 or older having received the first dose of the vaccine, a return to “normal” was just on the horizon, not just for life in general, but for the many athletes who enjoy the numerous road races, open water swims and triathlons during the summer and fall months on the East End.

For race organizers and directors who put forth the dauntless task every year of getting their events underway, the June 15 announcement by the governor was welcomed, but for some it was a little bit late. The following is a list of many of the East End’s biggest running and swimming events of the summer and fall, whether they’re returning, what changes have been made, if any, and what the future holds for them going forward.

Hamptons Young At Heart Triathlon, Saturday, July 17, Long Beach 

Instead of the Hamptons Youth Triathlon, the main event for i-Tri, the East End non-profit organization created in 2010 by Theresa Roden that is dedicated to connecting and empowering adolescent girls through triathlon training and workshops, the organization is hosting the Hamptons Young At Heart Triathlon on July 17, which is open to the public, ages 15 and over. Like the HYT, which was done virtually last year due to the pandemic, the Young At Heart Tri is a “super sprint-distance triathlon” that is challenging but also gives each participant an opportunity to meet their personal goals. It features an open water 300-yard swim in the clear, shallow waters of Long Beach in Sag Harbor, followed by a 6-mile bike ride that follows a mostly flat course on wide roads with designated bike lanes, and a 1.5-mile run that is down-and-back on a closed course. Also, like the HYT, proceeds with continue to benefit i-Tri.

For more information and to register, go to itrigirls.org/event/hamptons-young-at-heart-triathlon.

Soldier Ride, Saturday, July 17, East Hampton-Sag Harbor 

The Soldier Ride returns this weekend to both East Hampton and Sag Harbor. FILE PHOTO

Soldier Ride, a four-day cycling experience that provides wounded warriors the unique opportunity to use cycling and the bonds of service to overcome physical, mental, and emotional injuries, makes its return to the East End on July 17. The opening ceremony will begin at 8:45 a.m. at the American Legion Hall in East Hampton, with the ride starting at 9 a.m. There is a water stop at Marine Park in Sag Harbor with riders expecting to hit it around 10 a.m. and the ride expecting to be completed at 11:30 a.m. back at the American Legion Hall in East Hampton.

For more information about Soldier Ride, visit soldierride.org.

Montauk Lighthouse Triathlon, Sunday, July 18, Montauk 

Montauk, and the greater East Hampton area for that matter, has become more synonymous with open water swims and triathlons than road races in recent years, with races such as Ellen’s Run and the Hamptons Marathon moving further west to Southampton in recent years. But Montauk and East Hampton seem to be stable ground, or waters, for swims and tris because of its obvious location to many waterfronts, and the Montauk Lighthouse Triathlon is one of the many events that takes advantage of that.

Returning after being canceled last year due to the pandemic, the tri starts at 6:30 a.m. on July 18, with a point-to-point swim at Gin Beach, followed by a 14-mile bike ride through Montauk and around Gosman’s Dock with a 5K run that leads triathletes up to the historic 225-year-old Montauk Lighthouse in which is the main beneficiary of the event.

For more information and to sign up, go to eventpowerli.com/race-details/montauk-lighthouse-triathlon. Online registration closes at noon this Thursday, July 15.

Montauk Swim Challenge, July 24-31, virtual only 

​The Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation is hosting the 13th annual Montauk Swim Challenge, taking place from Saturday, July 24, to Saturday, July 31, as a virtual online event via the Elite Feats athletic event platform. The Montauk Swim Challenge features three distance categories for swimmers of all ages and abilities. Beginners can sign up for a half-mile swim, more experienced swimmers can register for the 1-mile swim, and the adventurous can tackle the 5K swim. Participants will seek personal sponsors for their swim, swim their chosen distance, and log their results online. Swimmers will choose their own location to complete their swim (pool, ocean, bay, lake, etc.).

Julia McCormack, development director of the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation, said, “We’re thrilled to continue the tradition of the Montauk Swim Challenge this summer as a virtual event. This annual fundraiser for the Playhouse Foundation is a wonderful way for us to continue to move forward in our mission to raise funds to construct Aquatic and Cultural Arts Centers at the Montauk Playhouse. We invite the entire community to participate — this is an especially fun summer activity for kids and families!”

For more information and to register, go to events.elitefeats.com/montaukswim21.

Jordan’s Run, July 25-31, virtual only 

Sag Harbor’s biggest road race — named after Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, a native of Sag Harbor, who, along with Corporal Jonathan Yale, sacrificed their lives to save 33 Marines and 21 Iraqi police in the war on April 22, 2008, by stopping a truck loaded with 2,0000 pounds of explosives — will be virtual once again this year, from July 25 to July 31. Race organizer JoAnn Lyles, Haerter’s mother, said it was a tough decision to be virtual again, but with little to no time to correctly plan for it, she didn’t have much choice.

Vickie Lawrence and Andrew Dalbey run Jordan’s Run. The third annual Jordan’s Run: Veterans’ Memorial 5K Run/Walk was held on July 28, 2019, in Sag Harbor in honor of Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, United States Marine of Sag Harbor, New York.

“The novelty of virtual runs has certainly worn off,” she said. “Trying to have the run somehow, so it is not forgotten and not to lose our momentum, made the virtual option a good choice for us again.”

Lyles said she typically starts applying for permits and insurance in January. But this year, in January, everything surrounding the pandemic was still very much uncertain with the vaccine just starting to be rolled out. With Pierson High School the start/finish location for the run, as well as packet pickup and registration headquarters day of the run, the school was still remote, or in a hybrid learning style in January, and had canceled all sports and after-school activities.

“How could we ask to plan a July event there?” Lyles asked. “Some runs that are located in parks had an advantage.”

On top of that, race restrictions were still in place up until the governor’s lifting of restrictions on June 15. That included staggered starts to keep distance between runners, which would have been difficult, Lyles said, for a 5K through Sag Harbor Village and over the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Masks would have been required for the start of the races, as well, Lyles explained, and water stops would have had to have been eliminated and individual water bottles would have needed to have been provided and individually wrapped, creating more of a cost.

“Extending the time frame that the roads would have to stay clear for runners to get back to the school, taxing the Sag Harbor Village Police and Sag Harbor Fire Department, who help us that day, and frustrating travelers I’m sure,” Lyles explained. “And none of our usual race elements — the band, photo booth, ceremonies — could happen because of gathering restrictions at that point.”

Last year, a portion of the race proceeds were donated to the Sag Harbor Food Pantry. This year, proceeds will support the Fisher House Foundation, which builds comfort homes where military and veteran families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital.

Jordan’s Run medals. FILE PHOTO

“Some good happens from virtual events,” Lyles said. “We try to make it fun — ‘where in the world will you run Jordan’s Run?’ We award the runner who lives furthest away. Last year it went to a Marine, Machel Burke, stationed in Japan who served with Jordan.”

Runners who register receive their bibs in the mail and kids under 12 are free. Medals are mailed out to the male and female runners who finish first, second and third in each age category.

Lyles said the plan is to bring everyone back for an in-person race in Sag Harbor next year. “Bigger and better we hope!”

For more information and to sign up for the race, go to events.elitefeats.com/jordans21.

Joe Koziarz Memorial 5K, July 24-August 1, virtual only 

Similar to Jordan’s Run, race director Mike “Digger” Koziarz, who is the son of the race’s namesake, said COVID restrictions and protocols were lifted too late in order for the Westhampton Beach race to come back as an in-person race and therefore will be virtual only this year, from July 24 to August 1, with the hope and plan to return to an in-person race next year.

The Joe Koziarz race proceeds benefit local organizations such as Southampton Town PAL, Koziarz Hurricane Scholarship Fund, Peconic Bay Medical Center Emergency Room, and other local charities. For more information and to register for the race, go to events.elitefeats.com/koziarz21.

Race For Hope, Sunday, August 8, Southampton 

Hope for Depression Research Foundation’s Race of Hope returns to Southampton this summer as an in-person experience on Sunday, August 8, at 8:30 a.m.

The sixth annual 5K race in Southampton Village will be led by Hope for Depression Research’s founder Audrey Gruss, who will serve as co-grand marshal with East Hampton resident Arthur Dunnam. The pair will take racers on a similar route to that of the longstanding Firecracker 8K around Lake Agawam in Southampton Village. The event has continued to evolve and grow with 750 participants in 2019 and has raised over $1 million for depression research since its inception in 2016.

The race will continue to have a virtual component this year after the success of last year’s virtual race, which attracted hundreds of participants, and runners will be able to sign up and run in their own hometowns.

Individuals can register at raceofhopeseries.com. All funds from the race go directly to depression research.

Ellen’s Run, Sunday, August 15, Southampton 

One of the most popular 5K races in Southampton Village every year, Ellen’s Run, is returning as a “hybrid” event for its 26th year, offering both an in-person 3.1-mile race as well as a virtual race that will be available from August 15 to August 30. This year’s in-person race, though, will follow a different route, with the start/finish line at the Southampton Intermediate School. Typically, the route had started and finished behind Parrish Hall behind Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, but the temporary move to the intermediate school was to avoid bringing crowds so close to the hospital, Anne Tschida Gomberg, one of the race organizers and executive director of The Ellen Hermanson Foundation, one of the benefactors of the event, said.

“Parrish Memorial Hall has really been our home for years, but we’re really happy to have a home again at the intermediate school,” she said. “There has been this big groundswell in the community to get out and have that community engagement that we’ve been missing the past two years. Ellen’s Run is our biggest event of the year and it helps us spread the word and every penny we raise goes to the Ellen Hermanson Foundation. And the run does raise awareness of our focus here on screenings.”

Due to the pandemic, many people had to delay their breast cancer screenings, which are recommended to be performed annually after age 40.

“If you find something further along, it could be difficult to treat, so our main message right now is it’s time to schedule your screening,” Tschida Gomberg said. “Everybody over 40 needs to have their screening as prescribed by their physician and this race will certainly bring awareness to that.”

For more information on the race and to register, go to ellenhermanson.org/events/2021/8/26th-annual-ellens-run. Registration for the August 15 in-person race closes on Friday, August 13.

‘Red Devil’ Swim, Labor Day Weekend, Amagansett 

The annual Red Devil Swim at Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett to benefit the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue squad is scheduled to return this year, according to EHVOR member Craig Brierley, although an exact date and time had not been approved yet by the Town of East Hampton as of press time. Funds raised go straight to the bottom line of operating the volunteer squad, which assists lifeguards in both East Hampton and Southampton towns with ocean rescues.

Over The Bridge 10K/5K, Saturday, September 18, Hampton Bays 

While it hadn’t been officially approved as of the date this article was written, the Over The Bridge 10K and 5K races will be returning this September, according to Frank Butz, race director and member of the Hampton Bays Lions Club, which hosts the event. The races have become widely popular the past 10 years for its route over Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays.

Hamptons Marathon, Saturday, October 2, Southampton 

After having to cancel the Bridgehampton Half Marathon this past May, race organizers Amanda Moszkowski and Diane Weinberger were both relieved and excited to announce recently that the Hamptons Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K will be returning this fall at its usual location at Southampton Intermediate School.

While it was “crushing” to have to cancel the Bridgehampton Half two years in a row, Weinberger said they had no viable alternative. May 7 is the new date for the Bridgehampton Half.

“Most people aren’t aware how early we start planning for these races,” she said. “We had opened registration in December and were optimistic that the world would be open by May. In February, we had make-or-break conversations with our medical director, race timer and the Town of Southampton. Ultimately, there was too much uncertainty and the town would not be able to issue us a permit until April.

“Given that the training for a half-marathon takes months, I wanted to avoid disappointing runners who had expended time and energy training,” Weinberger continued. “It was disappointing but it was the right decision because New York didn’t relax many of the COVID regulations until the week after our race date. The runners who had already registered were given the option to run in October or next year.”

All that being said, Weinberger said she and Moszkowski are “thrilled” to be bringing back the marathon.

“We’ve had many conversations with our team about whether October would be a go and are grateful that we have been issued a permit by Southampton Village,” she said. “After over a year of running alone, we know our runners are excited to cross a real finish line in front of family and friends.”

Weinberger said they aren’t expecting to have many restrictions in place, but are planning for a range of possibilities.

“Our race timer has held several post-COVID events and he has the social distancing protocols down to scientific precision with crowd control, staggered starts and modified water stations,” she said. “We are ready to go if that is what’s called for, while we remain optimistic that they will not be necessary. Understanding that not everyone has the same level of comfort with returning to crowds we are also offering a virtual option with the same great swag.”

For more information and to register for the race, go to runthehamptons.com.

MightyMan Montauk Sprint Triathlon, Sunday, October 3, Montauk 

Billed as one of the few metro area races with three triathlon distances to accommodate all race levels and interests, the 750-meter swim is in out-and-back in Fort Pond, followed by a 17K bike ride that includes a climb up to the Montauk Lighthouse, and then a 5K run. There is also an aquabike portion of the race where racers complete just the swimming and cycling portions of the race.

The event will be held on October 3 this year.

Go to eventpowerli.com/race-details/mightyman-montauk-sprint-triathlon/ for more information and to sign up.

Firecracker 8K, Sunday, October 10, Southampton 

Typically held the weekend prior to the Fourth of July, hence its name, the Firecracker 8K race organizers couldn’t obtain a Southampton Village permit in time to have it around the nation’s holiday and instead are planning for a fall race on Columbus Day weekend, which would be its 30th year, all in Southampton Village.

Dermot Dolan, president of the Southampton Rotary who hosts the event, said a letter of application will be sent to Southampton Village this week. All signs points for it to be approved.

“We are excited by the prospect of returning this uniquely distanced road race event on the local sports calendar,” Dolan said. “Most road races are either 5K or 10K — thus, an 8K is a sought after and welcome change up — just over a mile shorter than a 10K.”

Stay tuned to southamptonrotary.org for more information about the race as it becomes available.