Endurance races: For mountain goats only

The Catskills are known for their arts, food and scenery. But they’re also getting a reputation in the ultrarunning set for a growing number of challenging endurance races.

Greene County hosts the oldest of these, the ESCARPMENT TRAIL RUN (escarpmenttrail.com), an annual endurance test held every summer since 1977. (This year, it's happening on July 26.) Organizer Dick Vincent, a native of Palenville, says that the race is for “mountain goats only” — it’s restricted to 250 runners who must be able to hoof it through rain, heat, thunder, lightning and the occasional pack of irritated bees for 30 kilometers along the blue-blazed Escarpment Trail from the race start at the Route 23 Windham trailhead to the finish at North-South Lake in Haines Falls. Runners are aided at hiked-in water stops by volunteers, many of whom return year after year to cheer on competitors.

The lactic acid build-up doesn’t stop there. MANITOU’S REVENGE (manitousrevengeultra.com), a cross-county 54-mile ultramarathon trail race from Windham to Phoenicia, takes place every June. Race organizers warn that the toughest parts of the grueling course, which features 15,000 feet of steep climbing, will end up being traversed overnight. It can be done in one shot, or as a relay.

If pavement is more your speed, the CATSKILL MOUNTAIN 100K ROAD RACE (todjen.wix.com/catskillmountain100k) hits the road every August -- this year, it's August 16. Run annually since 1992, the relay begins on Woodland Valley Road in Phoenicia, continues on County Road 47 past Frost Valley YMCA and the Rondout Reservoir, and ends with the finish line at Wagon Wheel Gap in West Shokan.

To run the ROCK THE RIDGE endurance challenge (mohonkpreserve.org), racers should be able to hoof it over 50 miles in under 24 hours, race organizers say. The race is also a fundraiser for the Mohonk Preserve, which hosts the run. (This year's event was held in May.) 

The newest kid on the block is the SHAWANGUNK RIDGE TRAIL RUN/HIKE (srtrunhike.com), which happens in September. (This year it's Sept. 19.) A variety of distances are offered on the single track trail including 20, 32, 50 and 74 mile races for ultrarunners of every stripe, traversing the SRT’s most beautiful spots, including Minnewaska State Park and Sam’s Point Preserve. All the races finish along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail at the elevated trestle in Rosendale.

For runners who love mud, the Catskills are home to obstacle-course races, too. Racers leap over fire and face a dozen other obstacles at WARRIOR DASH NEW YORK (warriordash.com), held this year on July 25 at the Windham Mountain Resort in Greene County. The BARBARIAN BLITZ OBSTACLE COURSE RACE (riedlbauersresort.com) is a homegrown version, held at Riedlbauer’s Resort in Round Top each summer. (This year's was held over the Fourth of July weekend.) And this year, Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in Highmount is hosting YOUR FIRST MUD RUN (yourfirstmudrun.com), a muddy obstacle course that both kids and adults can do side-by-side, on Sept. 5. 

Andrea Girolamo is a freelance writer. In 2014, she was stationed at the base of Blackhead Mountain as a water stop volunteer for the Escarpment Trail Run.

This article originally appeared in the print version of the 2015 Catskills Outdoor Guide, our annual publication the Catskills outdoors. The Catskills Outdoor Guide is distributed across the Catskills region and at select locations in the NYC metropolitan area. Find a copy near you here.