This weekend I ran my first bridge run, a 5K stretching from the East Bank to the West Bank of the Mississippi River, across the Huey P. Long Bridge in Harahan, Louisiana. My running buddy Ben’s mom, who lives just minutes from the bridge, offered to host me for the weekend. Thanks to her, I was able to get plenty of good food and rest the night before the race.
Saturday morning, me and Ben arrived at the start line 15 minutes early, despite a last-minute run to Starbucks so I could get breakfast. We spotted our fellow grad student, Nick, checking out a sweet Lamborghini parked at the race start. We took some pictures and then lost each other in the crowd of about 1,000 runners. A few minutes later, the Lamborghini started rolling and we were off!
So, confession: I didn’t actually train for this run… My last 5K, two weeks before, was the last time I’d been running. Now considering I was about to run across the Mississippi River on an incline, I didn’t expect to be very fast.
So I went slow and steady. Taking off at a leisurely pace, I set my goal to finish in under 30 minutes. We ran for about a half mile before reaching the actual bridge. Then there it was: the first incline. I kept telling myself to go slow, not knowing what to expect.
The bridge leveled out for several yards, and then we faced another incline. I felt thankful when I saw a water station staffed with several wonderful volunteers on that second incline.
As we increased in elevation, I became distracted by the awesome view of the river and city below me, everything looking so small. Then I saw a sign that said “You made it to the top. It’s all downhill from here!”
I slowed down for a moment to sneak a glance at all the runners behind me–hundreds of determined people, all running uphill. It was an inspiring view.
Just as the sign promised, it was all downhill from there. I picked up my pace and let gravity work its magic. I could see what was ahead of me, and I knew the finish line (and free food!) was near. I laughed when I heard one man say “I’m just running to the beer.”
The race finished in Gumbo Festival Park, where a live band was playing and several vendors were set up. They were serving delicious gumbo and jambalaya, as well as beer and donuts. Ben finished exactly two minutes ahead of me, with a time of 23:44, placing third in his age group. I finished 6th in my age group, and was quite pleased with my time.
The band, Imaginary Frenz, was awesome. They played a great mix of oldies and contemporary stuff, like Better Than Ezra and Blues Traveler. I absolutely loved them and their song choices.
Ben and I caught up with Nick and got some food. I held off on the beer because the line stretched all the way across the field.
Later, we were heading over to the finish line to take a picture when we noticed the last runner coming in. It was a man who had walked the entire 5K with a cane. Everyone flocked to the finish line to cheer him on. He is awesome!
Ben and I hung out for a while after the crowd thinned out, enjoying the band while we waited for the awards ceremony. I eventually got my beer–not because I actually like beer, but because supposedly it restores electrolytes (and it’s part of the whole experience, especially at a New Orleans race).
I took a shuttle bus back across the bridge, marveling at how I had just run over it. Me and Ben headed back to his mom’s place, where his family and friends were having their annual Kentucky Derby pool party. We had boiled crawfish, gumbo, cake, and tons of snacks. It was amazing. My chihuahua, the social butterfly that he is, had a great time as well.
The Huey P. Bridge Run is definitely worth doing again next year. I recommend it to any runners reading this!