Warriors movie inspires bold new ultra event
Nothing like running the streets of NYC in the middle of the night
“I often run in excess of 26.2 miles to track important historical events in the city,” he says. “Instead of canyons and mountains, I use history to fall into a meditative state as I put in long miles.”
He recently completed a “Run of Sam,” 65-miler visiting all eight of the David Berkowitz crime scenes in a single night. He’s also run 40-70 miles tracking the history of slavery, homelessness, Nikola Tesla, Walt Whitman and Teddy Roosevelt in NYC.
In 2018, in the middle of a warm summer night and all alone, Todd Aydelotte ran from the Bronx to the historic Coney Island boardwalk in New York City following the route used in the cult-classic film Warriors.
Warriors Ultra organizer Todd Aydelotte
Warriors is a movie from 1979 that follows a gang as they must run through the streets of New York City to their home turf Coney Island overnight as they are tracked by rival gangs in a fight for power.
“I ran through two subways stations on the way, and finished on the beach at dawn, just like in the movie,” says Aydelotte. “After the press got wind of this, I started hearing from ultrarunners from all over the world, who asked to join me if I ever ran the route again.”
When word got out about The Warriors Ultra ultrarunners from around the world were key to join in the fun.
“I threw up an announcement on my IG page, @toddaydelotte, and I had 30 ultrarunners sign up in one week,” he says. “We held the race on Sept. 21 and it was truly mind-bending.”
The race is simple, start in the Bronx and race to Coney Island. Like the movie, there is no set route.
As Aydelotte explains, participants embrace the theme and race in costume.
“I ran the full distance in a Warriors vest, sunglasses and a bandana… and we had runners dressed up as members of The Rogues, The Gramercy Riffs and The Lizzies, the all-female gang that appears in the film,” he says. “We even had one guy who ran with a fake machete and a scary-as-hell mask.”
The race begins in an old cemetery where Aydelotte recreates the “conclave” scene from the movie, and when the gun goes off in the movie, the race begins.
“The only two requirements were that all participants had to run through the two subway stations featured in the film, the 96th Street and Union Square subway stations,” he says. “The whole race was totally underground — I’m not even sure it’s legal to go running through subways.”
The top finishers were Ramon Bermo and Dave Maloney, who ran together all night and finished together on the beach the next morning at Coney Island, in 4:01 hours.
“In my 42 years as a runner, I’ve run everything and anything between one mile and 240 miles races, but nothing as cool as this event,” said Bermo, after finishing the race. Shaun Mills came in third place, at 4:50 hours.
Winners Ramon Bermon, Dave Maloney and Shaun Mills
As one can imagine, running through New York City in the middle of the night is a rare and interesting experience. And, one city where a gaggle of gang-attired runners racing at all hours wouldn’t cause the slightest of stirs with the local populace.
“We ran through the Bronx and Harlem at 2 a.m., and those neighbourhoods are always super interesting late at night. Everyone is out on the sidewalks, playing backgammon and partying as Latin music echoes into the night,” says Aydelotte “So the runners experienced a part of New York that tourists never get to see, the real New York, the heartbeat of the city. And we were running through Times Square, which at 4 a.m. is packed with wasted tourists and ne’er-do-wells. We ran through pure neon chaos and energy. After that, we were running down The Bowery, dodging Tweakers and drunks before a simply mind-bending view off the Brooklyn Bridge as we made our way down to Coney. There’s no other Ultra in the world that can give you this experience.’
The first race was so successful that Aydelotte is expecting hundreds of runners for the 2020 event next August.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by all the interest I’ve received from the ultrarunning community about this race. It’s such a cool concept, and the movie has a huge, global fan base,” he says. “Perhaps the most exciting thing is that I heard from Ian Corless, the legendary photographer, author, podcaster and unique voice in the ultrarunning community. He’s a huge fan of the movie and has signed on to be a consultant for the 2020 event.”
With the move to becoming a right-and-proper ultra, Aydelotte expects to create one route for the 2020 event in addition to dropping the run through the subway stations. But there will be a big bash right on the Coney Island beach following next year’s race.
“I’ll gladly sacrifice the ‘no route’ and ‘subway running’ elements of this race, in favour of turning The Warriors UltraRun into an actual chase, which truly captures the spirit of the movie,” he says.