Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Great Huey P. Long Bridge Run: The 2013 Recap

Thanks to a quick search on Wikipedia, I now know that Gephyrophobia is anxiety brought about by the fear of bridges. I’m personally not sure if it’s a specific phobia brought on by a fear of height, fear of water, or a fear of going over the side, but I’m certain that I’ve known people who suffer from it hardcore. These people, my mother included, avoid bridges like the plague and find alternate routes to get where they need to go. After this past Sunday’s Great Huey P. Long Bridge Run 5K, there’s no question that a fair number of people in the New Orleans area have a clean bill of mental health, at least when it comes to Gephyrophobia.

The Huey P. Long Bridge Run was the third and final race in the New Orleans Bridge Run Series (see posts about the other two bridge runs here and here), and was in celebration of the completion of a total renovation of the historical structure. The race proved to be the warmest and most humid of the three in the series, but also was the most unique. I woke up at 6am Sunday morning, the last morning of a much needed stay-cation, to get myself together. My thoughts on Twitter from the night before still rang true, “Running a 5k over the Huey P Long Bridge on the last morning of a 10 day vacation. #PoorPlanning #Splash.” However, I was ready and out the door with time to spare.

A friend texted me the day before with the simple message “I’m Registered.” Not quite sure what this was in reference to, I went with the odds and replied with “For what? A criminal offense?” She begrudgingly informed me that she would be running with me the following morning, and sure enough showed up at the Walmart parking lot bright and early to meet for the bus ride to the Westbank. Boarding buses was quick, and the ride over the bridge painless; however, stepping off the air-conditioned bus felt like running in to a brick wall of moisture. There’s something about being on the opposite side of the Mississippi River that makes the humidity jump 10 percentage points.

I had over-hydrated that morning pre-race, knowing full well that temperatures would reach the mid-80’s by the time the race started. Unfortunately (or fortunately if I’m not being selfish), every other runner on-site had done the same. The line for the 5 restrooms was getting increasingly longer by the second, so I decided to forgo my years of pre-med biology education and decided to stick to the ill-advised plan to “just sweat it out.”

The race started on time, with the first mile being on a flat, freshly paved road leading up to the first incline of the Huey P. Long Bridge. The bridge’s approach is actually comprised of two separate inclines, with the first being a short stretch followed by a flat elevated segment. It was in this flat section where the one-mile marker was situated along with the first water stop. Soon after rehydrating, the second, much longer and steeper incline begins. I didn’t quite mind this incline, though. It felt less steep than it looked and was curved so that you had a great view of the bridge’s structure as you approached. At the top of the ramp was the second mile marker and yet another, much appreciated water stop. The span of the bridge was wide and straight, two things that the old Huey P. Long Bridge could not claim. The decline of mile 3 seemed to be much steeper and direct, so I opened my gait and took it at full speed. A couple of quick left turns at the base of the bridge brought runners back in the Walmart parking lot where the morning began and under the finish line banner.

The race organizers set up a finish line that featured live music and a festival like atmosphere. It was complimented with local actor / radio host Spud McConnell in Huey P. Long attire welcoming runners to the end of their 5K. There was also a really attractive and useful bottle opener medal created for every finisher to celebrate their race. I waited for my unwitting accomplice to finish her run, saw a few other friends who had participated, and drip dried as much as possible before returning to my car.

An iced coffee was in order, so a rendezvous at the nearby Starbucks was arranged. It was here that I was told of a fallen runner that most participants behind me witnessed receiving chest compressions and CPR. It was learned later in the day on that the runner did not survive the incident, and my condolences go out to his family. All accounts show that race and emergency officials responded quickly, and this was an instance of unforeseen misfortune that sadly couldn’t have been averted.

In spite of the tragedy that happened during the race, overall I would say that the inaugural event was an amazing success. Granted, the organizers have been putting on the successful Gulf Coast Half Marathon Series for several years, but their experience with those races showed in this foray in to the New Orleans 5K circuit. Let’s hope they stick around, and make the Huey P. Long Bridge Run an annual staple on the summer race calendar!

NOTE: On June 19, 2013, published an update on the runner who collapsed during the race. Its a touching tribute to his life that can be read HERE.


  1. As much as I'd love to join you for a bridge run, I have that aforementioned phobia, and it's definitely thanks to the height! Was it scary up there at the top? On another note, absolutely loving the shirt and the medal. This looks and sounds like a race that was really well run, except for the availability of restrooms. When will race directors get with it and provide ample restrooms for runners?

    1. You know, it wasn't scary at all. The bridge is now ample wide enough that if you don't want to see over the side, you don't have to. I have a slight fear of height, but its mostly as a result of looking down from them. That I didn't do. I've never had an issue driving over bridges, and this was a similar experience to me. Yes, the shirts and medals were all great. They did an excellent job with execution of their brand. As far as the restrooms go, I think they had plenty at the finish of the race, which is where you caught the buses pre-race to head to the start. But a few more near the start line would have been nice. Small issue to deal with for a 5K.