On Sunday I decided to fly under the radar and run a small, semi-local half marathon called the Bridge2Bridge Half Marathon. After a doozy of a racing season, this race was just what I needed.
At the eleventh hour over the weekend, I decided to jump in to a small race called the Bridge2Bridge Half Marathon. I participated back in 2015 in an entirely different capacity (check out the recap here) and I was intrigued to head back to the course to run it myself. This race came on the heels of my decision to bow out of the Marine Corps Marathon and I had energy to burn.
The Bridge2Bridge half marathon is located in Ashtabula, Ohio, which is a good hour+ drive away from me. The solo drive didn’t bother me one bit. I spent many a weekend traveling to and from that area in my youth and I enjoyed the quiet time.
When I say this race is small, I mean it’s small. This year there were 117 runners total. I really enjoy small races. They’re kinda my jam. Parking is easy, bib pickup is a breeze, there’s not a million hour wait for potties — feel me? Plus this race was far enough away from where I live that I knew I could keep a low profile and not be noticed by anyone. I even wore my most nondescript running apparel so as not to draw attention to myself.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my race and the overall experience, let me give you some details on all the important stuff first.
Bridge2Bridge Half Marathon Race Review
Parking is a cinch at this race. The town is quiet, there’s ample street parking, and if you can’t find a spot on the street, there are a couple public parking lots runners can use. When I arrived, I pulled up to the exact spot I wanted to park. It was close to packet pickup and the starting line (think feet away, not blocks).
Since this race is so small, it’s really no frills. There was a race shirt, a medal, and a bib. I didn’t get the shirt this year since I signed up at the very last minute. I’m 100% okay with it since I didn’t plan ahead.
There wasn’t a lot of crowd support since it is such a small race, but the folks that were there were truly amazing. They cheered on every runner, not just the people they knew on the course. What the crowd lacked in numbers they made up for with enthusiasm!
The Bridge2Bridge half marathon is aptly named since it traverses a course between two bridges. It’s an out-and-back course and begins and ends at a drawbridge. After running 7.5 or so miles, runners then turn around just past the Smolen-Gulf Bridge (which is the longest covered bridge in the U.S.!). The course had something for everyone — quiet residential roads, hills, flats, and busier city streets. But runners beware: this is an OPEN course. If you aren’t comfortable with the potential for traffic, this race is not for you.
The post race party is amazing for this small group! They know how to throw a party. Free chili, free coffee, bananas, water, music, a fire pit — I don’t even know what else they had! Sadly I didn’t partake in the festivities because I was so cold when I stopped, but it was a really fantastic atmosphere.
Now that the logistical details are out of the way, let’s go on with my race recap!
Bridge2Bridge Half Marathon Race Recap
I spent Saturday evening organizing a playlist and going over a race plan. I had a time goal but I knew it was lofty. With my haphazard training this season, very little speed work going into this race, and a long time removed from my last half marathon PR, it was a long shot. But I was still going to try. I wrote down my little race notes, taped them up so they didn’t get wet in the predicted rain, and went to bed.
On my drive up to Ashtabula, I listened to a City Club forum on the radio. I don’t even know how I got to whatever it was that I was listening to but it helped me focus on something other than racing. By the time I got to bib pickup, I was as calm as could be.
Pre-Race, Weather, and Apparel
I got my bib and went back to my car. It was pretty chilly out (43˚ and drizzly) so I decided to stay in my car for as long as possible. My plan was to run as light as possible for this race. I carried my phone, a couple of chews, and a plastic bag in case it rained.
Race day weather was eerily similar to the Iron Horse half marathon and I remembered how miserable I was for that race. For Bridge2Bridge half marathon I chose to wear capris, a t-shirt, arm sleeves, convertible mittens, and a buff around my neck. My biggest issue at Iron Horse was that I wasn’t able to regulate my temperature so well which contributed to my misery. The buff would help keep my neck warm in the beginning miles, the arm sleeves and mittens would keep my arms and hands warm, and my t-shirt would keep my core cool so I could exert more energy during the race.
Before I knew it, it was race time. I wanted to do a warm-up mile but I decided to conserve my energy since it was cold and I knew I could make up any time I spent slacking in the first mile later on in the race. I skipped the warm-up.
The first three miles weren’t easy. They weren’t hard but I knew I was on a mission. I didn’t go out too fast, at least not that I felt anyway, but I could tell I was working. Within the first half mile I decided to throw my race plan out the window. I didn’t want the pressure. I spent the last several months with so much pressure surrounding a race that it became very unfun. Within the second mile I decided I wouldn’t even look at my watch. I covered it up with my arm sleeve and then buried it under my mitten. My only goal for this race was to run hard, exert some effort, and enjoy my time on the course.
I had been running behind a guy with a gray shirt, long hair, and shorts. On the back of his shirt it read, “Mike.” I stuck with Mike for a while. He was running a solid pace and it felt comfortably hard. I liked Mike. Mike was a good pacer.
Somewhere between miles 4 and 5 I lost Mike. I was sad. Until I spotted another guy wearing a bright pink shirt and a black vest. Pink Shirt Guy became my new pacer. He was running the same speed as me, just a little farther up. I figured if I could hang on to him for the ride I’d be golden.
There were several hills in miles 4 through 8. I can’t recall exactly but it was somewhere around mile 6 that had an aid station with candy bars. Best aid station ever. I had been thinking that I could use some fuel but I frankly didn’t want to fumble around with my pouch to get my fuel out of my belt. Seeing the candy was a saving grace because I could run on without having to worry about anything. Thank you, candy aid station people!
Pink Shirt Guy kept up a great pace throughout the race. There was one monster hill that I didn’t think I could continue running up but Pink Shirt Guy never quit, which meant I couldn’t quit either.
My goal for the last three miles of any race, but particularly a half marathon, is to bust them out like I would a 5K. If I play my cards right I have a decent amount of energy left in the tank to do so. As soon as I saw the mile 10 marker I knew it was time to turn on the heat.
Luckily Pink Shirt Guy continued with the solid pacing. But I started closing the gap! What was happening?? Pink Shirt Guy was slowing down and I was so sad. What would I do without my pacer friend?
Just after mile 11, when Pink Shirt Guy began slowing down, I spotted a woman with braids. She was running my new, faster pace. I decided I wanted to try to close the gap between us. There were a couple more hills but the last tenth of a mile was all downhill. As we rounded the corner I saw the time clock. 1:59:23!! My immediate thought, “oh hell no!” 1:59:40 was my PR and I refused to come this far and run this hard in a half marathon to miss a PR by one second. I sprinted as fast as I could muster across the finish line.
I never did catch Braid Lady.
After I gathered my thoughts and caught my breath (and removed myself from Keller’s Corner) I checked my race results. I PRed by SEVEN SECONDS! Boom! I was thrilled with my effort and I felt like I really accomplished something. It was an amazing feeling and I was so proud that I could muster a half marathon PR on a whim. It was — and still is — such a great feeling!
Official finish time: 1:59:33
After the race I found Pink Shirt Guy and Braid Lady and thanked them both for unknowingly pacing me through the race. It turns out Pink Shirt Guy needed to walk when he started slowing down, and Braid Lady (Christine!) snagged herself a nice little PR, too! I never found Mike but I’m sure he had a great race.
I rounded out my successful race morning by meeting my family for a celebratory post-race brunch. It was the best way to finish off a weekend that could have otherwise been very hard to cope with.
The Bridge2Bridge Half Marathon met and exceeded my expectations on many levels. I had heard varying degrees of like, love, ambivalence, and even distaste for this race. Personally, I thought it was very well-executed and organized. I really loved how small it was and I enjoyed the course — hills and all.
If you enjoy small races like I do, I definitely recommend this race. It was the perfect place for me to keep a low profile and fly under the radar, and to race for the sake of racing. After my MCM debacle, this race was just what I needed.
Special thanks to Dan the Man at Ashtabula Distance Runners Club for allowing me to jump in to this race at the last minute. It was great!
Do you fly under the radar for goal races?
Do you prefer big or little races?