Sunday, February 3

Race report: Double Bridge Run (15k and 5k) 2013

For three years in a row I've run the Pensacola Double Bridge Run - either the 15k or the 5k.
(I even returned after swearing, last year, that the timing company's terrible attitude and abysmal customer service would keep me from running again...)

The start:
The Double Bridge Run 15k changed courses this year, starting at the new Community Maritime Park in downtown Pensacola. This point-to-point course takes runners over the 3-mile bridge to Gulf Breeze, then across the Bob Sikes bridge over the intracoastal waterway into Pensacola Beach.
Image Source
Despite a 7:00am start time for the 15k and an 8:30am start time for the 5k, runners need to wake up extra early, drive to the beach, and then shuttle-bus to their start area. Shuttles for 15k runners are only available from 5-6am, so if you are not an early bird, run the 5k (shuttles 6:00-7:30am).

The advantage of the early start time...
Sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico before the Double Bridge Run in Pensacola Beach
...watching the sun rise over the Gulf.

There are no post-race shuttles for runners who want to park at the starting area. Those runners need to arrange a ride or double-up on their double-bridge running.
View of 15k runners from the pedestrian bridge in Gulf Breeze

The bad:
My only real complaint about this race (this year) is that the finish area is over-crowded, as is the post-race venue.

I am pleased to see a local race gaining traction. But given how big this race has gotten (a sellout crowd of 4,000 this year), I think it's time to rethink some of the logistics. 4,000 runners + spectators do not fit on the comfortably on the boardwalk at Quiet Water beach.

The beer lines were long. The food lines were long. The venue was unpleasantly over-stuffed.

(Also, not having post-race shuttles is an annoyance, but is not a deal-breaker.)

The good:
The Double Bridge Run is an iconic Florida race. How many times in your life will you get to run more than three miles of your race directly over beautiful emerald-green water? Not alongside it. Over it.

Also, the crowd support is fairly impressive for a small town race. While Pensacola is a runner's town, it is not a spectator-haven. This race is an exception. Because of the staggered start times, 5k runners line up to cheer on the 15k racers, and there is excellent crowd support in the home stretch.
Pain now. Beer later. 
Also a rule, I don't love shuttle buses. In general I prefer the start/finish area to be one and the same. However, the logistics of the shuttle busing are perfect. No lines. No waiting. The process couldn't be simpler.

In fact, the same can be said of almost everything about this race. The organization this year was nearly flawless. (Well... except that the finish line banner fell across the course and blocked runners. Oops!)

The finish:
The post-race feast included a respectable spread of bananas, oranges and bagels in the finish area, plus red beans and rice and cold beer at the after-party.

But it's crowded.

I skipped the food line entirely* and got one measly thimble-full of beer because I couldn't bear to wait in a 100+ person line more than once. (Yes, I'm impatient. But really, it's too crowded.)

*Lest you think I'd race and not eat... First: You should know me better than that by now. Second: There are dozens of delectable breakfast establishments in Pensacola. I availed myself of one of those for a post-race omelette and coffee.

Parting thoughts:
All things considered, I've run both the 15k and the 5k, and I prefer the 5k. But I'd recommend either distance to runners looking for a well-organized and scenic race.

My race:
It was the best of races. It was the worst of races.
The face of someone who knows it wasn't a PR kind of day
I didn't make my goal time, but I did run fast enough to take home an age group award.

Finish: 25:05 (official)
Place: 2/80 division, 110/1102 overall.

I have work to do to get faster, but it was a pretty good day overall.

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