Thursday, November 10, 2016

2016 Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge 10k: Race Report

Every year in November for the last decade or so, runners have gathered in Camden, NJ to run across the Ben Franklin Bridge in a race aptly named "Run the Bridge."  It's a 10 kilometer race with an additional 2 mile walk, and benefits the Larc School, a facility in New Jersey that caters to students aged 3 - 21 with moderate to severe disabilities.

It's one of those races that has been on my radar for years, partly because I'd always heard good things about it but also for the novelty of getting to run on a closed bridge (the only other time I'd done so was when the Pope came to town).  So 2016 was the year I finally got to check it off my bucket list.

The staging area for the race is Campbell's Field, home of the now defunct Camden Riversharks baseball team.  We live pretty close to it now, so I was able to take a leisurely Sunday morning ride through Camden to get there.

Once I got there, thousands of people were streaming into the stadium.  Everything was very well organized, from bag check, to packet pickup, to ID check (for the post race beer garden).

A little after 8 o'clock, runners started heading over to the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge, about a half mile away.  They had signs for paces, and I placed myself between the 7 and 8 minute pace signs.  There were a few guys from Who's Up? there with me, including Erik who jumped in at the last second.

Dave Welsh announcing before the start: "If you're elite, please come to the front.  If you think you're elite, take a step back."

At 8:30, the gun went off, and we all began the long slog up the mile long incline of the bridge. The entire first half of the race is on the bridge, with the first turnaround point on the Philadelphia side.  The second half of the race is run through the downtown streets of Camden.

I was feeling pretty good on the bridge and began picking people off, and then tried to hold the pace once back on level ground.  By about mile 4.5, I had caught up with two guys from Who's Up?, but I soon began to wonder how much longer I could keep it up.  At the mile 5 water stop, there were several employees from the Haddonfield Running Company all yelling encouragement, which was a nice boost, but I was still hurting and wanted the race to be over as soon as possible.

I forgot how tough 10k's can be.  5k's obviously hurt too, but they're only half the pain.  And 10 miles or longer, you at least have the chance to build up to cruising speed.  But 10k's seem to be balls to the wall for the entire race.

Once we reached the homestretch and the stadium came into view, Michael began pulling away.  I yelled at him to finish strong, and he looked back at me over his left shoulder while motioning with his arm and shouting back "COME ON!"  We made the final turn into the stadium and onto the outfield grass, with Michael just barely edging me out in a photo finish. When we crossed the line, he  immediately turned around to congratulate me, which the finish line camera caught on video:

This is why I love racing.  Getting up early.  Pushing myself to my limits.  Testing myself. Experiencing a beautiful fall morning when I would have otherwise been on the couch at home.  The camaraderie with a fellow running club member.  THIS is why I love it and wish I could do it every weekend.

My finishing time wasn't too bad, either.  I'm pretty sure it's a PR in the 10k, but hard to tell as I just don't race 10k's very often.

After finishing, I waited for Erik, and then we went over and got beer (Yards Brewing - interesting that they went with a Philly brewery as opposed to the many South Jersey breweries).

We hung out for awhile listening to the live music, and each got another beer.  Dave Welsh came around and while talking, he mentioned how they're planning to demolish the stadium within the next year, so next year's race will be much different.

So I'm not sure what next year's race will look like, but if it's anything like this year's, I can definitely recommend it.  Great, challenging course with great beer at the end.  What more could you need?

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