Elie's Challenge: Racing to Support the USA Triathlon Foundation, Central Park

Elie Hirschfeld, 71, celebrates after finishing a self-supported long course tri in Central Park on Nov. 10, 2021.

Elie Hirschfeld was looking forward to the 50th anniversary of the New York City Marathon in 2020. When COVID-19 disrupted those plans, he shifted his focus to racing in a place that’s close to his doorstep and his heart: Central Park.

Although he’s had the opportunity to run all over the world, Elie views it as the “the most magnificent park in the world.” The 6-mile loop there is his refuge from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Unlike the rest of New York City, you can’t see more than half a block at a time in Central Park. “With the curves, you don’t know where it’s going,” Elie said. “Everything is a surprise.”

He chose to run his virtual marathon on Oct. 29, 2020, a drizzly day that kept most people indoors.
“It was me, the Park and hardly anyone else,” the 71-year-old said. “It was an amazing experience.”
As he ran for four and a half hours, Elie had a thought. What if I put on my own virtual event to support the Park and the charities involved in my sports?

He settled on doing a self-supported long-course triathlon and said having a goal of racing to support others gave him extra motivation and energy. Elie accomplished his goal in seven hours and 15 minutes on Nov. 10, 2021. He swam 1.2 miles at his athletic club, then biked 56 miles and ran 13.1 miles within his beloved Central Park.
He then generously donated $27,500 to the USA Triathlon Foundation, which will benefit running and biking opportunities through the Central Park Conservancy. And the USA Triathlon’s mission of triathlon for all: youth, adaptive athletes and Olympic/Paralympic hopefuls.
He hopes his challenge will inspire others to do something they love. And to donate or raise funds for charity as they do it.
“Find an activity that inspires you and think about the positive you might gain for yourself if you attach a little fundraising to it,” Elie said. “It doesn’t need to be a fortune.”

Elie Hirschfeld celebrates a first-place age group finish at the Central Park Duathlon on Oct. 3, 2021.  

His self-supported race is way to give back to the sport that’s given him so much. Elie started running in his 20s and raced his first triathlon in 1985, the Mighty Hamptons in Southampton, New York. He had spotted the race in the local paper and ripped out it to review later, mistakenly thinking it was a running-only race.

When he reviewed the article in the spring, Elie remembers being shocked that someone could swim 1.5 miles, bike 25 miles and run 10 miles. But after learning how to swim, he successfully finished the race.

This September marked his 37th Mighty Hamptons, where he placed second in his age group. He estimates he’s finished well over 100 triathlons of all lengths, including four Ironman races, and hundreds more biking and running events.

Tri training helps him stay mentally and physically strong. He’s skied for the past 62 years, and says swimming, biking and running helps him ski “very strong in the bumps, even now.”

Elie’s race schedule for the upcoming year includes the New York City Triathlon and the Mighty Hamptons, as well as watching his 11-year-old son, Jacob, race youth triathlons.

Will you accept Elie’s challenge of racing to support the USA Triathlon Foundation? Your tax-deductible donation helps open pathways to swimming, biking and running for all, including youth and adaptive athletes, as well as Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.

About the USA Triathlon Foundation

The USA Triathlon Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the charitable arm of USA Triathlon. With its mission to transform lives through sport by providing opportunities to swim, bike and run, the Foundation serves to generate a greater impact on the multisport community through charitable giveback and grants that advance the Foundation’s three pillars: (1) Encourage youth participation; (2) Inspire adaptive athletes; and (3) Ignite Olympic/Paralympic dreams. Since the Foundation was established in 2014, it has provided millions of dollars in grants to organizations and individuals in pursuit of its mission and pillars to create a healthier United States through triathlon. To learn more about the Foundation and get involved, please visit usatriathlonfoundation.org.