Monday, May 18, 2015

Beat the Bridge 8K race report

Beat the Bridge 2015 logo

Beat the Bridge is one of Seattle's great races. But somehow I have never run it. Looking over my race calendar, it looks as though we've been out of town most years -- Sage Rat Run in 2014, Rock 'n' Roll Portland in 2013, Bay to Breakers in 2011 … and I think there was a Bats Day in there as well.

In the beginning, the idea behind Beat the Bridge was this: start the race precisely at 8:30, raise the University Bridge precisely at 8:50. So you had to run the two miles to the bridge in 20 minutes or less to "beat the bridge". Those who didn't beat the bridge had a band and prizes while they waited for the bridge to lower again. I still remember my friend Brenda telling me about the first year she ran BtB -- and how she needed a potty break right at the beginning and was, in her words, "the first person to be stopped on the bridge". (I told her she needed to "beat the bladder" next year….)

But in recent years, partially because the race has grown, and partially because it's nicer to have people feel like they succeeded, the bridge is now raised 20 minutes after the last person crosses the start line… so the bridge isn't actually raised for 35 minutes or so -- giving most people ample time to BEAT THE BRIDGE.

Still, it's a fun premise, inspired me to inspire the name of another local race (ahem), and it raises over a million dollars for the JDRF every year. So it was far time that we run it.

I "won" a race entry at a silent auction at work, and in addition Brooks employees were offered free entries, so Wil and I rolled up on Sunday morning, not sure what to expect. Because there are so many people who participate, they now divide up the race: there is a 4-mile family walk, a 1-mile kids dash, and the 8K wheelers and runners. Each course shares the starting area, but then splits so that they don't reconnect until the finish areas inside Husky Stadium. I love this, because it keeps congestion down on the courses.

t was a little hectic at the start. It wasn't clear how/where to enter the starting chute, so a lot of people --  Team Wil-Sun included -- just climbed over the railings. Because they moved the start arch between the Kid's Dash and the 8K, people moved to the start from the front, rather than from the back. So there were repeated calls to take three steps back, three steps back, three steps back…

There were lots and lots of people behind us:

And lots of people in front of us…

So many people, in fact, that they decided to do small "waves"… apparently so that they could allow traffic to ease at the 520 offramp. This gave us time to capture our race faces:

and after several minutes, we found ourselves at the start of the next wave. One odd thing -- they didn't cut us off very cleanly (and admittedly very difficult thing to do!), so we were left standing on the timing mat for a minute or two, and could here it pinging away with all of our chips. Oh well -- the point was to BEAT THE BRIDGE, which, given the fact that we knew they would break up the crowd behind us as well, we knew we had plenty of time.

Still, for our own goal, we wanted to get to the bridge within 20 minutes of when we crossed the line. I found this surprisingly challenging -- in part because of the hordes of people, and in part because I simply don't run fast anymore.

We rounded the corner past the Brooks tent -- with Tara and Stevie waving like mad at us -- and ran across the bridge in just under 19 minutes. Woot! Bridge beaten:

Not much to tell about the rest of the race, other than that it remained crowded. We held hands and scooted across the line in Husky Stadium … and were astounded by the crowds. We made a beeline for water, then the exit, and I took this shot from the stands. Lots and lots of people!!!

Really nice day for a run -- cool weather, no rain -- and a great cause. I admit that I probably won't run it again, but I'm happy to know that I can BEAT THE BRIDGE!!!

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