You Could Join the Historic Battle Shaping Up at the New York City Triathlon

This is the last year to experience the New York City Triathon’s original course.

Race organizer Life Time has put $25K in charity money on the line if any team–or anyone–can beat Hunter Kemper’s 2001 New York City triathlon record of 1:41:20. If nobody does, the record will stand for eternity as the course will change next year.

Two-time Olympian Hunter Kemper was 25 years old when he broke the tape at the New York City Triathlon in 2001. His time for the Olympic-distance race of 1:41:20 has never been touched since. (The closest anyone’s come, according to race organizers is 1:42:02). That’s partly due to race conditions; the 20-block swim in the Hudson River from 99th to 79th streets can be wicked fast depending on the current, as it certainly was on Kemper’s record-setting day. And then there’s the fact that Kemper is one of the best triathletes the world has ever seen. But that can’t stop relay teams and individual athletes from dreaming. And they should, because if anyone beats that mark, race organizer Life Time will donate $25,000 on the spot to the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

The contest has even more meaning behind it when you consider this: 2019 will be the last year to experience the original course. A years-long city construction project planned for the end of the summer at Riverside Park, the transition area location, will force Life Time to rejigger the course–and to cut registration capacity by 35 to 40 percent in 2020. This year the race expects four thousand people to start.

The NYC Tri has always been special. “My favorite thing is the swim,” says Scott ‘Hootie’ Hutmacher, Life Time Tri’s brand manager. “This is one of the only times of the year you can swim in the Hudson. It’s the only triathlon held in Manhattan. The Hudson is like the Mississippi, it’s just massive, there’s so much activity out there and so much visual stimulation.” From there athletes bike 40K on the Westside’s Henry Hudson Parkway, and finish with a run and finish in Central Park.

New York city triathlon
Photo: Life Time

Next year’s course will be somewhat reversed, swimming north and running into Central Park from a transition area near 99th street. (Fun fact: The race date fluctuates 1 to 4 weeks every year as race organizers search for a window on a Sunday morning between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. when the current will be moving in the direction of the point-to-point swim. This year’s race is on July 21.)

A who’s who of triathlon celebrities will participate, and they’re currently forming relay teams to try to beat Kemper, who will not attend as he had prior commitments. (Also: beating one’s 25-year old self would be a tall order for anyone.) Olympic silver medalist and Kona Champ, Michelle Jones will be there. So will retired MLB star Eric Byrnes, Ironman celeb Marcus Cook, and (OK this one’s not a tri celeb) cyclist and CBD purveyor Floyd Landis.

You could look at the course changes in a few ways. Yes, it’s the end of an era, but the race in reverse will be as sweet–just harder to nab a spot on the line. And whoever finishes first next year automatically gets a course record. But earning it on the last running of a now-iconic course–and earning cash for a great cause in the effort–just seems so much sweeter.