Monday, May 7, 2007

Governor's Bay Bridge 10K

Governor’s Bay Bridge Run: Race Canceled for 4th Time in Six Years.

That was the headline today. Rarely does running make it to the news page. This time it did. A point-to-point 10K race that requires a fleet of buses to conduct the runners to its starting line has been cancelled four times in six years. This is a race in peril. And what a nice race it is.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is a four-mile long double structure spanning the Chesapeake near Annapolis. The two parallel roadways were built at different times so they differ slightly from each other.

The bridge is 186 above the water at its highest point so that’s the height runners climb to in the first two miles as they leave sea level on the Eastern Shore. Then it’s two miles downhill back to land on the western side, and two miles of flat running to the Sandy Point State Park where the race ends.

The runners park their cars in the park early in the morning to take buses to the start line across the Chesapeake. After the race it takes awhile to leave because of the crush of traffic. There’s a nice post-race festival in the park, though, with free beer and a nice view of the Bay Bridge. Last year they handed out finishers’ medals.

I ran the race last year. It was fabulous. I did it in 47 minutes flat, which is my 3d best 10K time. I was 59 seconds off my PR from the 2001 Pike's Peek 10K which is basically a downhill run on Rockville Pike. I got to thinking afterwards about what kind of a time I might have had if I hadn’t fooled around so much on the bridge during the race. My time included a stop in a Porto-San on the bridge in the first mile as well as two more quick stops for photo ops at the high point of the span. (A bracing early morning run over Chesapeake Bay in 2006.)

The views are stupendous. I love running over bridges. That’s why I liked running the NYCM so much last year (five bridges). And even though the Annapolis Ten-Miler deserves its reputation of being hot, hilly and humid, I loved running that cruel albeit scenic race last August because of the opportunity it afforded to run over the hulking U.S. Naval Academy Bridge twice.

I think the Bay Bridge 10K would be a good race to try to PR on. You run uphill the first two miles while you’re still fresh. Then you run downhill for two miles recovering. If you can push the pace during the last two miles on the flats you have a shot at a great race.

If I didn’t have to leave my house in Virginia at 5 am in order to be on time for the buses leaving the park for the start line across the Chesapeake, I would run the race again and try for a PR. In any case, it was an incredibly worthwhile Been-there-Done-that race, running high over the Chesapeake in the tangy salt air for thirty minutes before regaining terra firma. I also fondly remember driving out the highway in the early-morning darkness towards Annapolis and falling in with the posse of school buses coming from DC to service the race.

But with four cancellations in six years, ouch! It bodes ill for the future of the race.

This year it was too windy. At 7 am yesterday it was blowing hard in DC, at least. It 2005 there was construction on the bridge which caused the race to cancel months ahead of time. In 2003 the authorities cited security concerns in canceling the race, and in 2002 there was lightning and thunder on race day which caused cancellation.

The Annapolis Striders, which puts on the race, is a very fine running club. They conducted a 5K race in its stead yesterday in the state park. There is a Bay Bridge walk which gets underway after the race which has also been cancelled those four times as well. I hope the Bay Bridge 10K race continues in good health.


Laurel said...

Sounds like a beautiful race. Hopefully they will try again next year.

Just12Finish said...

Too bad. The PR opportunity sounds exciting! How many races do we run where the opposite is true ... i.e. they put the hills at the end!