Suzanne and I are not “typical” destination race enthusiasts.
We have traveled to Augusta GA, Jacksonville FL, Nashville TN, New Orleans, and Panama City FL, for the sole purpose to run a road race or do a triathlon, but we are, for lack of a more-eloquent term, “private equity” racers.
If you’re not familiar with how private equity works, a private equity firm generally uses shareholder money to purchase firms. They pay back the shareholder either by the purchased firm’s profit or the liquidation of its assets. Suzanne and I aren’t quite so mercenary; we look for race events which coincide with business travel and adjust our schedule so as to be able to participate in the race, then take care of the project or attend the conference. She has raced the ING Half-Marathon in Miami twice, done a couple of 10-kilometer runs in Orlando, FL, as well as a few other small races.
My day job entails doing work for a large government organization. I spent my first year as part of a civilian education and training internship (living out of a suitcase) in exotic locations; Great Lakes, Illinois. Arlington, Virginia. Orlando. It took me three years to learn my way around Pensacola, much to the chagrin of my wife. My running habit was not lost on my fellow interns. Once, when we were slated to attend a conference sponsored by the American Society of Training Development, my friend Terri Kelly said, “Mikey, there’s a run that weekend, too.” Both Terri and her husband Tom spent some time In San Diego, and Tom ran his share of races, including the Bay Bridge 4-Miler.
Having run the Bushwacker 5K, a race where you run over a bridge in 90-degree heat and 90-percent humidity, I figured this couldn’t be “much” worse. I was correct.
I have a mug with the San Diego skyline from a coffee purveyor whose name sounds much like “Four Bucks.” Just inside the rim is printed a phrase: ’78 Degrees and Sunny.” If you’re going to run, it might as well be in San Diego. The weather can be very warm as you move more inland, but the city as a whole is a meteorologist’s – and a runner’s – dream.
The Bay Bridge run starts near the Convention Center and Gaslamp Square District, goes down Harbor Drive, then turns after a mile to go onto the Coronado Bay Bridge. Gaslamp Square on a Sunday morning is like Bourbon on a Sunday morning, only more quiet. I was fortunate to be fairly close to the front when I raced; the race announcers were making a big deal over a nine-year-old girl who was some age-group ace. Her father was also running so as to keep her from being trampled. When the gun went off we were all hell-bent for election, hauling down Harbor. Darned if the little girl and her father didn’t leave me in the dust. Just after one mile we approached Cesar Chavez Parkway and the on-ramp to the bridge. Take that right hand turn and…holy cats…that IS a bridge.
The Coronado Bay Bridge is steep. Not terribly steep, but it seems to keep going and going. All you can do is what most smart folks do when racing on a hill; shorten the stride and increase the turnover. And, most importantly of all, keep moving. I caught the waif and her father about half a mile up the bridge and gave a brief word of encouragement. Perhaps, though, I should have kept it for myself. The two-mile mark is at the top of the bridge, just enough time to look out straight ahead toward the Hotel Del Coronado (glorious!), North Island and the Silver Strand (site of future post-marathon recovery jaunts). Also at the top is a suicide hotline phone number. I remember telling a fellow runner, “I’m not in the mood to jump and I don’t have a cell phone, so I guess we’ll just have to run the rest of the way down.”
Downhill on the bridge is a comfort and joy, it seems much less painful than hammering down the hills on our training loop around Bayou Texar. Next thing I know we are not only back on terra firma (the more firmer, the less terror…) on Coronado Island but still have a little less than a mile to go. The race finishes in Tidelands Park, traveling down a footpath and into a grass chute. I felt bad for all the guys who finished only a few minutes behind me, as the race announcer made a point to inform them and the spectators…they had been beaten by a nine-year-old girl.
As the race was sponsored by the Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation group, I don’t recall whether there was beer during the post-race – besides, we were stuck going to some mindless educational seminar – but the post-race celebration and awards were top-notch. A fleet (pun not necessarily intended) of shuttle buses carried runners back over to Gaslamp Square and the Convention Center. All in all, the Bay Bridge 4-Miler stands as one of the more demanding, yet scenic races I’ve ever run.
And well worth traveling to on someone else's money.