I have driven over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge many times on the way to Ocean City, Maryland. I’ve always marveled at the engineering that went into making the bridge and enjoyed the spectacle of looking out over the Bay from two hundred feet above the water. When I heard they were doing an inaugural 10K race across the bridge, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
November 9, 2014 – Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Weather: Cold. Temps in the low to mid 30’s at start of race.
Terrain: Paved entire way. 200 feet elevation gain on bridge.
Organization: Well organized, no hiccups.
Freebies/Goodie Bag: Snacks, nice tech tee, nice medal.
The shoes: SKORA Phase running shoes.
I signed up for the race nearly a year ahead of time. My wife had seen an ad for early registration that promised a fast sellout. So I went ahead and registered. Sure enough, that early registration block filled up and subsequent blocks of 2000 sold out. The race registration capped out at 20,000 runners and walkers.
As race day got closer, I got more and excited to run across the bridge. I was also skeptical about how 20,000 participants could run across a bridge that is only 28 feet wide. There are a lot of logistics that go into organizing a normal road race. This race seemed like a logistical nightmare; road closures, security, transport. The night before the race, the director sent an email warning that there may be delays due to it being the inaugural event and the nature of the course.
I am happy to say that, from my personal experience, it went off without a hitch.
Parking was not available at the start line, so runners had to be bussed in from several parking lots in the surrounding area. Parking passes were $10 per car. Fortunately, my in-laws live twenty minutes from one of the designated lots and my father-in-law dropped me off as the convoy of busses showed up. We counted at least 25 school busses. I got on the first bus and departed for the bridge.
It was about a twenty minute ride to the Northrup Grumman facility, where the race would start. Staging areas were set up to get each wave of runners ready. The field was broken up into waves of 2000 runners. Waves would be sent across the bridge every fifteen minutes. I warmed up by running on a nice trail along the waterfront, with the bridge as a picturesque backdrop.
I intentionally overdressed for the race, wearing an old pair of sweatpants and sweatshirt. It was a chilly morning. There was no bag-check available since it was a point-to-point race. I ditched the sweats at the starting corral. I heard people complain that they were too warm during the race due to having too many layers.
The first group of runners to start were the handicapped individuals, pushed in running wheelchairs by their team of Wing Men and Women. They then brought the first group of 2000 to the start. My estimated 10K time was fast enough to get me in the first wave. I was shooting for a low 38 minute time, hoping to be in the top 50 or 100 of the 20,000 registered runners. I managed to get lined up in the second row of runners hoping to avoid traffic at the start. There are always some front-runners that shouldn’t be up that far.
After the National Anthem, the race director gave us the “GO” and we were off. Immediately, I moved to the outside so I could avoid the slower front-runners. I tucked in behind the lead pack and settled into a steady pace. The course brought us out of Northrup Grumman and onto the beginning of the Bay Bridge just past the toll plaza. The first two miles were a steady climb to the peak of the bridge, about 200 feet above the water. It was not a steep incline, but it was enough to challenge my pace.
Below are some great photos by Swim Bike Run Photo
At the top of the incline, the bridge leveled out before a gradual descent to the eastern shore. We were now catching and passing the racers and their Wing Men. Each wheelchair had a flag with the racer’s name. I made a point to share words of encouragement with each team I passed. I couldn’t help but think about our son, Lucas, who passed away shortly after he was born. If he had pulled through, he would likely have faced some of the challenges these kids live with every day.
The views from the bridge were spectacular. I know I will have a new appreciation for the Bay Bridge next time I drive across it. My pace was much faster on the second half of the bridge. Gravity will do that for you!
Almost four and a half miles of bridge behind us, the course went through a few turns and then into a park on the east side of the Bay.
I crossed the finish in 37:09, one second shy of a personal best 10K time – a full minute faster than my goal. Later, I found out that I placed 17th out of almost 15,000 runners that crossed the finish. I came in third for my age group. I was the top runner for the state of Virginia. Not bad!
I didn’t hang around for the finish line party. I jumped back on a bus to take me back to the parking lot so Jen could pick me up.
This race was a memory-maker and very well organized. I highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a unique 10K experience.