Photo credit: Bird's Eye View Helicopters
The Newport Pell Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in New England, and perhaps one of the most recognizable landmarks in Rhode Island. It spans the Eastern Passage of Narragansett Bay between Jamestown and Newport. According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, its overall length is 11,247 ft, its main towers reach 400 ft above the water surface, and the roadway height reaches as high as 215 ft. Didn't know that, did you?
It's not usually open to pedestrians or cyclists but today, very early today, it was open for the Inaugural Citizens Bank Newport Pell Bridge Run, a 4 mile road race from Jamestown to Newport. I signed up for this run almost as soon as it was announced, for three reasons I guess...
- I thought it would be cool to run the bridge.
- It would be a chance to cross the bridge without having to pay those damn tolls, and, as I am a mean old bastard, that appealed to me.
- If I signed up very early I would get a low bib number and all the pretty girls doing the race would wonder if I was some superfit elite runner and would come and chat me up.
So I got up at o'dark thirty this morning, ate some breakfast (a banana, a bagel and some coffee) and said goodbye to Tillerwoman...
"Sorry to wake you up so early, dear. You must be crazy for putting up with me."
"No. You're the crazy one."
She was right. As usual.
Drove down to Newport in the dark on empty roads. Took the shuttle bus to Jamestown in the dark. Stood in queue in the dark for porta potties. Used porta potty in the dark. Grabbed another coffee in the dark. And it was time for the start.
According to Newport Betty, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse addressed the 2,500 runners before the start of the race and told us that, "Anything worth doing is worth getting up in the middle of the night for," or words to that effect. Somehow I missed those words of inspiration. Maybe that was when I was in the porta potty doing what I usually get up in the middle of the night for. Or perhaps when that pretty girl was asking me why I had such a low bib number.
I was so far back in the pack, I hardly heard the starting gun, but eventually we stragglers ambled across the start line and started jogging up the approach road and up through the toll booths (no charge today - woo hoo!) and up on to the bridge and up to the crest of the bridge. There did seem to be a lot of "up" involved.
Photo credit: Newport Betty
I kept a steady pace up with no walking and passed a lot of fat girls walking up the bridge and a few fat boys walking up the bridge. It must have really hurt to see this old geezer, three times their age, jogging past them with only the occasional wheeze and snort.
The sun was rising as we ran and was shining in our eyes. There were spectacular views of the natural amphitheater of Narragansett Bay and the iconic Newport waterfront. You never really get a chance to stop and smell the roses and admire the view when you are driving over the bridge. Actually I didn't spot any roses today either.
After what seemed like only about 13 miles of uphill we were at the top.
Photo credit: George Ross Sports Photography
Woo hoo! It's all downhill from here.
Photo credit: Newport Betty
Actually it wasn't all downhill from there. There was another small hill after we exited the bridge, but then it was round a bend to be welcomed by the massive cheering crowds on the ironically named Farewell Street. There must have been dozens of spectators. I was overtaking other runners again on this stretch. I guess I must have saved a bit of energy for the last mile, and the finish came up faster than I expected. Always better than the other way round.
Grabbed a bottle of water and walked the few yards back to the car which was parked opposite the Brick Alley Pub, the traditional location for the Newport meet-ups of watery bloggers. And so home to see the beautiful Tillerwoman (who was just getting up) and a second breakfast of a bacon and mushroom omelet.
Life is good.