My hometown race! This run over the Hale Boggs Bridge in St. Charles Parish has been around for quite some time, but I’ve never done it before even though it is the biggest race by far in my hometown. I guess the fact that I haven’t really lived in my hometown since graduating high school contributed to that. This year we were looking at weekends to come down and visit my family, and the weekend of the Bridge Run happened to be a good one, so I decided to do it.
This race has grown into a huge event over the years, but I was able to register for the 10K the day before. Online registration had already closed, so as we got into Luling we had to stop by the Bridge Park Friday evening so I could register in person and get my T-shirt and bib. Looking at last year’s results, I saw that the 10K had about 300 participants and the 5K had about 1,600 participants. This is definitely a big community event that attracts a lot of non-runners/walkers for the novelty of crossing the huge bridge, a symbol of our parish.
The 10K race was slated to begin at 8:15 while the 5K was to take off at 8:40. Both races began on the east bank of the Mississippi River, so I planned to park on the west bank (the side my parents live on) and take a school bus over the bridge to the 10K start. I thought leaving my house, about 5-7 minutes away, at 7 a.m. was plenty of time, but there were already tons of people out at the West Bank Bridge Park by the time I got there. I had to wait in a bit of a line but was able to park not too far away from the park in some grass. There were separate buses for the 5K and 10K starts, because the starting lines for each race were different. The 5Kers basically started right under the bridge at the East Bank Bridge Park, but the 10Kers were starting about 2.5 miles down River Road across the street from a place called the Seafood Pot.
The bus ride over was uneventful, and when we got to the Seafood Pot, there was still 30 minutes til starting time, so I and some others huddled inside the restaurant to get out of the wind. It was chilly, but I knew it would warm up as soon as we could run.
The national anthem started playing around 8 a.m., so I left the warmth of the Seafood Pot and climbed on to the levee path, where the race was to start. The actual race didn’t actually begin until 8:25 a.m., 10 minutes late. I couldn’t detect any reason for the late start – there were no late buses bringing more runners, no long lines for the restroom.
The first 3 miles of the 10K race were basically on the levee alongside the Mississippi River. We ran down a smoothly-paved asphalt path, which was congested at first. But once the race got going and everyone got comfortable, the congestion thinned out and I found myself going pretty fast. I had an unspoken goal of breaking an hour, and I knew I needed to go all out while I was still on flat ground. About two miles in we approached the East Bank Bridge Park, where we could see the huge throng of 5Kers waiting for their start.
We continued on for about another half-mile, then turned off of the levee down to the road, and headed back the way we just came toward the bridge. At this point, the 5Kers had been released, and we were to merge with them and begin our trek toward the bridge’s entrance ramp. It was a sea of people, a lot of them walking, so I had to run on grass and weave around people for what felt like forever. This was pretty frustrating, because at this point we were approaching Mile 4, I had been keeping a great pace, and then I had to expend all this extra effort to cut through this wall of people.
The fifth mile was definitely my slowest as we began our ascension up the bridge. I finally was able to get more freedom once I passed a lot of walkers, but then the uphill climb began and it got tougher to keep running. At a water stop on the bridge, I took the opportunity to walk some and take some photos. A lane of traffic next to us was open and separated by cones, and at one point I remember feeling sickened by the exhaust from a truck. I tried to take some selfies unsuccessfully, and then got to running again. It was rough and it felt like the crest of the bridge would never arrive.
When it did, and the downhill began, I started FLYING. It felt great! I was going faster than I ever go and it felt effortless! I definitely made up for a lot of the time spent climbing up and taking selfies, and my last mile was 2 minutes faster than the previous. But after the downhill ended, we had to climb one more overpass shortly before the finish. Ugh!
We made it back toward the West Bank Bridge Park and the Finish Line on the road. They had two clocks set up, one for the 10K time and one for the 5K time. I was thrilled to see that I made it under an hour!
After crossing the finish, we were handed a medal, and I immediately started searching for water. I felt a little disoriented but finally found a table of water bottles near the park entrance. There was also a table set up with plastic containers filled with orange slices. I grabbed one of those, then sat down to catch my breath. There were other refreshments, but I planned to go home and run more miles, so I didn’t want to eat or drink anything else. The post-race party seemed big and exciting, but I needed to get back home, so I eventually got up and made my way back to my car. One side of River Road was closed for the finish line and runners, but the other side had been divided into a two-way road, so I was able to get out pretty easily.
This was really fun! There were tons of people, so any race like that is going to have a hiccup here or there. I read complaints last year from 10Kers about running into the wall of 5Kers at the bridge, and that was an issue again this year. I don’t know what they could do except start the 10K just a little earlier, maybe at 8 a.m. It was very frustrating to have to weave around all those people 3.5 miles into my race, but I survived.
I want to get my husband to do it with me next year, and then he can take pictures of me on the bridge ;) My own photos of myself came out pretty lame. I loved the medal and shirt that came with the race, and I thought pretty much everything ran smoothly. I was very proud of my home parish today!
This was maybe the first EVER race where my Garmin distance said exactly what the race distance was supposed to be! 6.20 on the dot. After the race, I went to my parents’ house and then ran 5.8 more miles to get to 12 for the day. I didn’t do a good job of fueling for that 2nd half and felt miserable. It was considerably slower than my 10K time.