The Day I Raced Across the Brooklyn Bridge

The first day I ever went running in Brooklyn was the summer of 1997. I had been married for just over a year, and my husband was doing an internship in Manhattan. Since I was finishing out the school year (I worked at a middle school in Utah), Travis had been in the city for 1.5 months before I came out. I arrived at night, and we went straight to our friends’ apartment in Brooklyn, where all four of us would live that summer in about 300 square feet of space. Good times and a lot of Tetris... but I’ll save that for another post. The next morning I woke up and began to get on my running clothes. Travis was waiting for a futon from Ikea to be delivered, and convinced me to not run until after it came so he could accompany me and show me where to go. I thought this was very sweet and chivalrous of him, especially since I can be quite directionally challenged at times. So we sat around most of the morning until I got antsy, and decided to head out on my own. As I peeked out the window to check the weather, I saw a man getting cuffed by two sets of cops right across the street. Suddenly it became clear that Travis was less concerned about me getting lost than getting killed.
After my shady introduction to running in New York City, I quickly learned that the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest stretch without stoplights or cars. The biggest obstacles on the bridge were the tourists, who think nothing of stopping you full-stride to ask you to take their pictures, or point them in the direction of Junior’s. It became my habit to run across the bridge at least twice a week, and I did it under all kinds of conditions. I did it with a baby jogger. I did it in 15 degree weather with the wind threatening to blow me off. I did it while a Korean boy band filmed a really bizarre video. And then there was the time I raced across it.

It was a lovely spring day in 2006. We were preparing to move to the suburbs, and had lived in Brooklyn for 7 years. Our apartment was a good 1.5 miles away from the bridge, so by the time I got there I had already put in substantial mileage down the promenade and across Cadman Plaza park. As I ran up the steps to the bridge, I felt great. My two kids were at home with their dad, and the weather was perfect; bright and clear, but not hot. I tied my sweatshirt around my waist, cranked up the Killers on my iPod, and got ready to cruise.

There were two men, probably in their late 20’s, ahead of me at the entrance to the bridge. I had noticed them in Cadman Plaza park, first walking and then beginning to jog. It was evident they were just starting their run, and I couldn’t help but label them Brooklyn Heights softies as I blew by them on the bridge. Since they were now behind me I can’t verify what happened next, but I have a feeling that a look was exchanged as I passed them, and with mutual consent it was decided there was no way they were going to let me get away with passing them. Within seconds, both of them (one on each side of me) sprinted by, smirks plastered all over their faces. Well, they had messed with the wrong lady today.

I quickly increased my pace, and found Mr. Brightside, my go-to song for speed. They seemed surprised when they glanced back a few minutes later, and found me right on their tails. The pace was quite a bit faster than I’m used to running, and I think they found it fast as well, because after we were about halfway across the bridge one of them dropped off and began to walk. I nearly gloated aloud as I breezed by him, but I was trying to keep it classy so I just smiled. I stuck right behind Mr. Speedy the entire way, which in my estimation is about a mile. When we had reached the stairs at the end of the bridge he stopped and turned around, again showing shock that I was right behind him. He went back to meet his friend, and after I had looped around the end of the bridge, the three of us came face to face. As I jogged by, I met both sets of eyes. I saw shame in one set, and grudging respect in the other. Granted, I had not “won” the race across the bridge... but I had soundly beat one of them, and shown I could keep up with the other. I didn’t say a word, but I wished I had yelled, “Nice race guys! Now I’m going to run the two and a half miles back to RED HOOK where my TWO KIDS are waiting for me to come home!” I sure showed them.

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