Training For The North Face Endurance Challenge

Tackling The North Face Endurance Challenge

Runners at Bear Mountain (Photo: The North Face Endurance Challenge)

It’s official. After eight years and 90 races, I’m finally tackling my first trail race: The North Face Endurance Challenge New York at Bear Mountain!

I blame my husband, Phil. He was all, “Can we do a trail race? I really want to do a trail race this year.” And I was all, “Sure, just pick one.” And he was all, “How about The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain on May 3?” And I was all, “Bear Mountain? But it’s so steep! Ahhhhhhhh! Sure, let’s do it.”

I love Bear Mountain and I love Harriman State Park that surrounds it. It’s a 90 minute drive north of New York City.

Tackling The North Face Endurance Challenge

Photo break in Harriman State Park (Photo:

I love the views from the top of Bear Mountain, and I love taking Cinderella there for hikes.

Tackling The North Face Endurance Challenge

Cinderella hikes Bear Mountain (Photo:

Bear Mountain was where I trained to climb Mount Kilimanjaro back in 2008. Phil and I even did our engagement photo shoot in Harriman State Park.

Our engagement photo shoot in Harriman State Park (Photo: Lev Kuperman

Our engagement photo shoot in Harriman State Park (Photo: Lev Kuperman)

But running Bear Mountain? The thought has never occurred to me. It’s really, um, traily and technical.

Here’s the thing: I “hike like a fish,” as Phil likes to joke. He’s not being mean. He’s being completely accurate. I am, truly, a fish out of water. The second you take me off of a road, smooth grass, or groomed trail and onto a trail with any sort of technicality, I lose all sense of balance. I am the opposite of sure-footed. No, it doesn’t stop me from hiking and running in amazing places like Cinque Terre and Machu Picchu.

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Running in Cinque Terre (Photo: Phil Hospod)

It just means that Phil has to be really patient with me while I carefully contemplate each step or while I moan heading down steep inclines, which my knees just don’t like. Yes, these photos were taken the same day. Confidently running Italy’s gorgeous Cinque Terre one moment. Walking—with a walking stick—another moment.

Hiking, Running and Eating Through Italy's Cinque Terre

Using a walking stick to help my arthritic knee. (Photo:

So when it came time to decide which distance to do at The North Face Endurance Challenge, I really hemmed and hawed, debating between the 5K and 10K. The 50 Mile, 50K, marathon and half-marathon were automatically out because I’m gunning for a fast time at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon on May 31. The North Face Endurance Challenge will be a great fitness check-in in the lead-up to that. Bear Mountain is four weeks before, so logic tells me to pick the 10K from a distance perspective. But this isn’t a road 10K where I’ll be able to test my speed. This is a short mountain climb with 1,115 feet of elevation gain. To wit, the elevation profile:

The North Face Endurance Challenge

10K Elevation

The 5K will be tough enough with an elevation gain of 528 feet. And when I run short, I like to run fast. Let’s face it, a hard-raced 5K is just as painful, if not more, than a half-marathon. It’s a more intense kind of pain.

So after hemming and hawing, sleeping on it and then sleeping on it some more, starting the registration for each distance and then closing the tab before finishing, I’ve finally made a decision.

I’m running the 10K. The race is called an “endurance challenge” after all. And the 10K will be much more “endurance challenging” for me. Phil is also taking on the 10K. He’s running the Airbnb Brooklyn Half two weeks later.

Mountain Athletics Training

Living in Manhattan, how the heck am I going to train for a trail race?

Tackling The North Face Endurance Challenge

North Face summons (Photo:

The North Face and Mountain Athletics sent me a three part summons:

1) A video from ultrarunner and Western States 100 course record holder Timothy Olson challenging me to do 60 seconds of pushups. Challenge accepted and completed.

2) A box filled with gear, and emblazoned with my personal goal: Bear Mountain

3) An actual summons, calling me to the Mountain Athletics workouts in NYC

The North Face’s Mountain Athletics has teamed up with the November Project to host some free whip-you-into-shape workouts in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C., starting March 31. Athletes are encouraged to set a goal—like, say, run your first trail race—and jump into training with sport-specific workouts, outdoors. Workouts will be hosted every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Anyone can sign-up online at

Tackling The North Face Endurance Challenge

Bear Mountain race (Photo: The North Face Endurance Challenge)

What if you don’t live in one of those five cities? Mountain Athletics has sport-specific training programs online and through the Mountain Athletics App. Sports include running, general fitness, climbing, alpine climbing, back country skiing, and all mountain skiing. Check it out at

I’m also planning on getting off the road in Central Park once a week. A few years back, The New York Times put together a great interactive map of trails in Central Park: Trails Less Traveled.

Areas known as The Ramble and The North Woods have short trails where I can give my feet a test. The Bridle Path offers a dirt and rock-strewn surface to run. And Harlem Hill, Cat Hill, and Great Hill repeats sound like just what the coach ordered. Best of all, it will only help my road training.

So here goes. I have my spring goal half-marathon nailed down, and now I have a fun and challenging tune-up 10K all set four weeks before. I’ve got six weeks until The North Face Endurance Challenge and 10 weeks until Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego. The countdown begins!

The North Face sent me complimentary gear. As always, all opinions are purely my own. I truly believe in being honest about my experiences. Seriously. For more information, read my Disclosure policy.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


03 2015

18 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. Arun #

    I ran this race last year and will be there again this year. I won’t lie: the course is NO JOKE. And last year it was very wet and muddy because of a wet spring. But you know what? It was amazing. It was exhilarating and fun and challenging and exciting. I went out slowly because I didn’t quite know what to expect. I increased my pace about halfway through and took some risks on the downhills. I chatted with other runners and soaked in the scenery. Fun fact: Bear Mountain is rattlesnake country! See you there!

    • Karla Bruning

      Rattlesnakes?? Ahhhh! Haha, it will be an adventure. I’ll definitely be going out slowly and just trying to enjoy it. Even at a slow pace, this one will be tough! See you there!

  2. Arun #

    Also, if you want to run some other trails besides CP’s North Woods (which are mostly paved), come out to Queens and hit the real trails of Forest Park! I love it there.

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks the the rec! I’ve never run Forest Park. I’ll have to check it out. In CP, I’m going to try mixing up the Bridle Path, the Ramble and Great Hill in the North Woods to get a variety of terrain and lots of hills. But it definitely pales in comparison to a technical trail!

      • Arun #

        Yeah the Bridle Path is fun to run. Haven’t run the Ramble, I need to do that. BTW the hills on the 10K course are challenging but manageable if you are careful and conserve energy whenever possible with bursts of power-hiking. I have friends who have run the 13.1 and say that course is much worse in terms of elevation change. Good luck and see you there!

  3. 7

    I have run a 10k and half marathon trail race, both of which I loved. This is an awesome new training app and I can’t wait to give it a try! I also had never heard of this trail article re: Central Park!!

    • Karla Bruning

      Glad to hear that, Ash! I figured I’d start with a 10K and see how that goes. And that CP map is great–it’s got the usual Central Park routes and a few hidden gems too!

  4. Pam #

    Tom and I have done tons of hiking in Scotland, Italian Dolomites, Machu Pichu and of course in the US. But a trail race seems daunting. I will really enjoy following your journey as you work towards race day. It sounds like you will have a great training plan to help you get through this!
    Pam recently posted..Volunteering at Shamrock Half & Full MarathonMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks, Pam! I feel the same way. That elevation map is so daunting. But I’m just reminding myself that I’ve enjoyed all my trail adventures while traveling, so I’ll hopefully enjoy this too!

  5. 11


    I am such a clutz-I am afraid to run a trail race but I will need to put it on my list for sometime before i get too old-lol!

    Have fun-enjoy!

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks! I feel the same way! I’ve avoided it all this time because I’m the opposite of sure-footed. But life is for living, right?!

  6. 13

    I think you are AWESOME for taking on this challenge! I always say I’m going to do a trail race like this “someday,” but in reality, I’m scared sh*tless. It’s great that it’s something you guys can do together. I’m sure it will be tough, but I’ll bet you end up having a blast!

    • Karla Bruning

      Thank you! Not gonna lie: pretty terrified, especially to do the 10K. But I’m going for it!

  7. 15

    Yikes, that looks intimidating! I want to do more trail running this summer. Right now it’s too muddy for me (I never earned a badass card and probably won’t). I love the visual of a hiking fish, lol.
    Judith recently posted..Running Happy, Blogging FatiguedMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Haha, I don’t have a badass card either. You should see me run through mud, or rather, around it whenever possible. I don’t want to get my shoes dirty! Methinks I’m going to have to get over that.

  8. 17

    If you want a less challenging, but still fun, trail race in the fall, do Paine to Pain ( in New Rochelle (Westchester County). I’d do it again this year, except it’s happening the same time as Wineglass.

    • Karla Bruning

      I know so many people who love that race. Definitely on my radar, thanks!


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