Around 60 men and women toed the Take The Bridge chalk line on a windy, blustery Saturday night in North Point Park in Cambridge, under the spectacular Zakim Bridge. We saw two thrilling races over a two-lap course of approximately 2.5 miles. Host Heartbreakers Run Club led the way with serious speed. Boston fans delivered runners an awesome experience, complete with confetti cannons and one hell of a thunder tunnel. And an hour later, runners from New York, Boston and Chicago got together, swapped race highlights and hoisted beers to celebrate.
In short, we took our show on the road for the first time*, to Boston, and it was an unforgettable night that left us hankering to come back. We also learned a ton in planning this race. So let’s peel back the curtain a little, to see how we went from just an idea to the thrill of Caitlin and Conor taking their bridges!
We’ve organized races on most of the major bridges in our home base of New York City. But Boston? All new for us. So we stamped our BoltBus tickets several weekends leading up to the race. We needed to answer a bunch of questions. Could we organize our race operation on the road? Would clubs and crews turn out? Would photographers get on board? How would we adapt to the shorter bridges of Boston? And would there be room for us, on a weekend when the running community is focused on the most spectacular race in the country, maybe the world?
Instead of the traditional single long bridge format of NYC, we adapted the course to two thrilling laps that were all about bridges. We took advantage of the beautiful views of the Zakim Bridge from the N. Bank Bridge, and embraced the grittiness of the Charlestown Bridge. We also incorporated some natural course obstacles - the narrow, slippery causeways connecting North End to Cambridge, and a set of stairs that would spice up the course as an optional shortcut. The resulting course was challenging and fun, a striking photo backdrop and a thrill for spectators.
We’ve heard there’s kind of a Boston-New York rivalry in sports. Haha, well this isn’t exactly Sox-Yankees. The Boston running community embraced us from the moment we made our first visits to plan the race.
Our old friends Jared and Hillary shared their local expertise to help us plan an authentic event that stayed trued to Boston. We connected with runners from various crews to spread the word -- Heartbreakers, November Project, and Unnamed Run Crew. Our experienced race staff made the trip to ensure the night went smoothly. Heartbreak Hill Running Company opened their doors as home base, and rallied their athletes. And our presenting sponsor Nike ensured we had the gear and resources to provide runners an awesome night.
As we drove up from New York, we didn’t have much left to do but cross our fingers. But come race night, we saw how much the preparation had paid off. Runners from Boston, New York, and Chicago joined us in North Point Park to embrace Take The Bridge in a way we had not quite anticipated. The Heartbreakers brought their fastest “Flyers”, November Project brought #allthevibes, and Brooklyn Track Club (co-hosts) came to represent NYC’s title of #fastasfuck runners.
THE WOMEN'S RACE
Okay, let’s head back to that start line. Around 30 ladies toe the chalk at the foot of North Bank Bridge. It’s cold and windy, and light rain falls, so they jump around to stay loose. Fans and photogs line the start chute. You know the drill. This is the moment of quiet suspense before a starter’s pistol cracks (or this case, we yell go!). As we start the On Your Mark, Get Set…..there’s a false start. Nerves. So we start over, and the ladies fly off.
We had our eyes on five top contenders heading into this race -- NYC urban racing vets Leigh Gerson and Lena Placzek, and the crew of fast ladies from Heartbreakers (Caitlin Abelseth, Haley Abing, and Claudia Tishler). Everyone took it out fast -- welcome to Take The Bridge. But Caitlin took a lead a mile in that she would never give up. She claimed the prime, and widened the gap on lap two to win in 14:10, 10 seconds ahead of Haley, over approximately 2.5 miles. Claudia completed the Heartbreaker sweep, and our NYC crew rounded the top five. This race wasn’t about time; you had to run the course, in these conditions, to believe the effort these athletes needed to place.
THE MEN'S RACE
With the crowd (and your race staff) revved up over a powerful women’s race, we called a STACKED men’s field to the line. Hello four (at least?) sub 4:10 milers. We knew several Heartbreakers would push the pace (Conor, Jordan, Nick, Sean, and Matt), along with a former Colorado Buff (David), and a former OTC professional (Finley. He has no first name).
As the men gathered, November Project’s chant said it all:
“What time is it?” . .
“Game Time” . . .
“Y’all Good?”. . .
And boom, they were off. This time, David edged Conor on the short N. Bank Bridge, for a thrilling prime. Man was the two-lap course a treat for spectators and race crew! But Conor gapped the field on lap two, taking the win in 12:24, with David in second at 12:40. Jordan led the Heartbreakers in claiming the rest of the top five. BTC and NP each placed two in top 10 (and kudos to Luke of BTC for grabbing 10th after missing the stair shortcut. That’s an extra tenth of a mile!).
So there you have it. TTB Boston was a big challenge to plan and we loved every minute of it (except for some of those Bolt Bus trips). We are so grateful to the Boston running community for welcoming us, and you bet we’ll be back.