**Enter my Simple Hydration Giveaway here!**
Name of the race: BCB 4 Mile Bayonne Bridge Run
Where:Bayonne Bridge, Bayonne, NJ
Date: Sept 29, 2013
Time: 8:30 am
Distance: 4 miles
Terrain: Road race, hilly, over a bridge
Entry fee: $25 before Sept 27th, $30 after
Swag: Cotton t-shirt and finisher dog tag
Post-race Food: Hot dogs, hamburgers, oranges, bananas, soda, beer, and water
Time: 31:58 (PR)
Performance:Overall 41/226; Gender 6/98; Age (35-39) 1/11 (1st AG place!)
Weather: 61 degrees and 82% humidity
In prep for the Wineglass Half Marathon next week, I’ve been looking for a 5K so that I could compete and test my level of fitness. I chose the distance of 5K because it’s short enough that I would recover quickly, but long enough to give to me a reasonably good estimate of my finishing time using the McMillan pace calculator. As Ben and I discussed which local race I should do, he discovered the Bayonne Bridge Run. We both read Bayonne Bridge Run’s website and were instantly charmed by its writing.
Most websites for small local races are rather perfunctory, but whoever wrote the description for this race had a fun sense of humor and cared about the quality of the race. I learned that the Bayonne Bridge is fifth-longest steel arch bridge in the world, and was the longest in the world at the time of its completion. It’s a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Opened in 1931, it will soon be closed for an audacious reconstruction plan that will raise the bridge span in order to allow bigger ships to pass underneath. This race is the first and last time that runners will be allowed on the bridge before the reconstruction.
I loved the personal phrases and little touches on the website, such as this: Tolls (otherwise known as entry fees). It was clever to refer to race fees as tolls because there is a toll when you drive over the bridge. Clear information was given about awards. We don’t like it when we don’t know for sure if the race will be timed and age awards are given. We want a race, not just a fun run. Plus we loved the charity for which the money was being raised. Proceeds were going to be given to the Independent Fund to purchase two or more all terrain wheelchairs for disabled veterans. These rugged wheelchairs that can move in gravel and sand will vastly improve the quality of life for those soldiers. So it was a no-brainer that we were going to do this.
From the beginning Ben and I were impressed with the race. This was one of the best organized races that we’ve ever been to and THE BEST organized inaugural race. Normally in an inaugural race, there are some unintended errors. It’s to be expected. In contrast, the Bayonne Bridge Run was executed flawlessly by Sports A/R. From beginning to end, Ben and I couldn’t find a single thing to find fault with the race.
There was plenty of free parking in a local lot and it was yards away from the start line. Last minute registration was quick and easy. Because our car was nearby, we sat in the car to keep warm and to stow our shirts. The start and finish lines were clearly marked. Remarkably, the race went off in time! All the other inaugural races that I’ve gone to started late because the organizers were busy trying to fix some snafu or another. But the Bayonne Bridge Run ran as smoothly as a platoon of well-disciplined soldiers.
We were also blown by just how well conducted the actual race portion was. The City of Bayonne and Port Authority kindly shut down the entire bridge to traffic from 7:30 am to 10 am, so runners and walkers could take over the bridge. This was incredibly fantastic because runners didn’t have to deal with congestion that you find in an out-and-back course. At 8:30 the runners in the 4-mile race started and then at 8:45 the walkers in the 2-mile walk started. Runners ran the entire span of the bridge on one side, turned around at the toll booth and then ran back on the other side. Walkers walked out on the same side of the bridge as the runners, but when they turned around, they continued to stay on that same side of the bridge. In other races where there were both a running race and walk, organizers try to separate the runners and walkers by instructing the walkers to stay to the right. Let’s face it, that doesn’t really happen. In those situations, I spend a bit of time and energy ducking and running around walkers in an out-and-back course. But by having runners and walkers separated like this, runners got to run free and clear.
At 8:30 we promptly started racing. Before the race, Ben went over with me on my strategy.
“How fast do you plan on doing your first mile?” he asked.
“6:30,” I deadpanned.
“Your second mile?”
He shook his head and said, “Perfect. You’re planning on going out too fast and then crashing and burning.” That’s me, guilty as charged. I’m really working on not going out too fast, but I am afraid of starting too slowly, which seems worse to me.
I wrote last week about what a hard time I have in doing tempo runs lately. I wanted to treat this race like a tempo run, to show myself that I can do this. I’m a much better runner in a race situation than in a training situation. I wanted to complete the race in about 32 minutes (8:00 pace).
The first mile and half was almost all uphill. The few hundred yards were on city streets and then we made a right turn onto the on-ramp for the bridge and the serious climb up started. I didn’t find the find the first uphill climb to be too challenging because it was right at the beginning and I was feeling fresh. They had mile clocks at every mile, which is impressive for a small race. I saw that I completed by first mile just over 8:00 pace. I was really pleased to see that. At about the top of the climb, there was a water station with volunteers handing out cups of water.
The second mile went by pretty quickly. I loved running downhill after a long climb up. I got to see Ben run back as I was running toward the turn around point. The best part of the race for me (aside from running downhill) was running through the toll booth. It’s SUPER FUN!!!!! I go through a toll booth when I go to work. At this race I got to run through it and not pay a toll! We ran through the toll booth and then turned around to head back to the finish line.
The third mile was the most painful mile. By this time I was tired, so I really felt the incline. I didn’t worry about pace and instead concentrated on running an even effort. Even though the Bayonne Bridge Run has long inclines, it’s made psychologically easier by the fact that you know you get the exact same drop in elevation on the other side. Rather than thinking about running uphill for an entire mile, I broke it up into several little sections. I selected a landmark (e.g., a pole, a mark on the ground) and concentrated on running hard for the duration it took to reach my landmark. Then I selected another landmark and ran hard for that portion. I repeated this until I reached the water station again. I glanced at my Garmin for the pace, and reminded myself that a slower pace was to be expected and that I shouldn’t be defeated by it.
The fourth mile was EASY BREEZY! Oh my gosh, I never had an easier last mile in a race in my life. After the pain of running uphill, running downhill was an utter delight. I mentally squealed with pleasure when I saw my pace on my Garmin. I was running so fast! It was so easy! I don’t have to work hard to run this fast! I’m flying! I barely felt like I was running at all.
There was one last turn off the bridge and onto the city streets. At this point, I knew the finish line was a straight shot down. I continued to concentrate on running hard and ignored my untied right shoe (the laces, sigh, unraveled at about 3.2 miles in). I was worried that a runner would catch up to me, so I prayed that my shoe didn’t go flying off and ignored the stinging sensation of the laces slapping my left ankle.
About a few hundred yards away from the finish line I heard Ben cheering for me. He raced for a some yards along side me to yell out the time on the finish clock. I saw that if I ran just a bit harder, I could finish under 32 minutes. A few yards away from the finish line, I ducked my head and poured every last bit of energy out into churning my legs. I found my Leo Manzano kick that I never had before.
Official time: 31:58
I was elated! I did it. I met my goal of running a tempo race (in a hilly course too). I was also certain that I did well enough to garner an age group award.
A volunteer handed me my finisher “medal,” which was a military dog tag commemorating the run. I don’t really care about finisher medals, but I do love personal touches that reflect the nature of the race. This was a race to help veterans. Dog tags were a perfect race souvenir.
One of things we did was look at mile splits and compare what our Garmins recorded as the distance. The course was perfectly measured. Exactly 4 miles. Ben got 4.01 on his Garmin and I got 4.02 on mine. It was a great course. I love running on bridges.
While waiting for the times to be posted and the awards ceremony, Ben and I got food. There were tons of bananas and oranges. We loved that the oranges were cut into halves and quarters instead small little slices. The oranges were really juicy and tasty. Perfect for quenching your thirst. We also ate hot dogs and hamburgers. A DJ played music. Ben drank some post-race beer. The after-race party was lively and festive. We had fun walking around, talking to other runners, and congratulating them for how hard they ran.
Another thing that organizers of the Bayonne Bridge Run did right was having the race times listed in two different locations. This meant that we weren’t all trying to crowd around the same small area to see what our official times were.
There was a symmetry to our results that mirrored the symmetry of the race course. Ben and I both ended up 6th for our gender and in 1st place for our age groups. We got a nice little medal for our efforts. This is the longest race in which I’ve won an award and because it’s my first 4-mile race, it’s a new PR.
As we were driving home, we were a little sad that the Bayonne Bridge Run wouldn’t be happening next year. The bridge will be under construction. The race was just so well-organized and incredibly fun. From start to finish it went off perfectly. I can’t praise this race enough. Sports A/R did an incredible job of managing the race. I really hope that when the bridge is re-opened that this race is put back on.
Kudos to Sports A/R, the City of Bayonne, Port Authority, the sponsors, in particular BCB Community Bank, and the volunteers for making the Bayonne Bridge Run the incredible event that it was.
You can read about the race here in NJ.com.