First, let me say, this is not yo’ mamma’s bridge walk, when 50,000+ people stroll across the Mackinac Bridge each year on Labor Day. This is a 5.8 mile timed road race, most of which takes place 552 feet above the chilly Straits of Mackinac on the amazing feat of engineering, the Mackinac Bridge. This is the same bridge that is closed during windy weather, least its travelers be swept off into the water below. The same bridge where a Yugo driver met a watery grave in 1989. The same bridge where 400 or so drivers a year avail themselves of assistance from the Timid Driver program, too frightened to drive themselves across. Though the 5.8 mile distance is almost twice the mileage I’ve ever run, Best Husband and I accept the challenge and train to run Mighty Mac.
The day before the race we drive to Mackinaw City at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge, so we’ll be ready to board the bus to cross the bridge at 5:30 next morning. Once we are settled in our hotel room, BH and I begin our pre-race rituals, for most runners, a cross between runner superstition, preparation, and nervous anticipation.
BH: Pin race number to front of T-shirt.
Me: After checking weather.com, lay out appropriate running clothes for the predicted weather, and affix race number.
BH: Lie on bed and nap.
Me: Lay out alternate running clothes in case weather turns out colder or warmer than predicted.
BH: Lie on bed and nap.
Me: Lay out running accessories – lucky socks, earrings, heart rate monitor and pre-race food.
BH: Continue to lie on bed and nap.
Me: Do pre-race manicure with favorite red polish.
BH: Well, you know.
Me: Stretch hamstrings and tight muscles while nail polish dries.
BH: Wake up from nap and ask if it’s bedtime yet.
It tuns out that BH is much more relaxed about this run than I am.
Next morning we rise early, wanting to be one of the first to get on the bus to take us to the start at the north side of the bridge. The enthusiasm among the runners as we board the bus is almost palpable. Mostly young people, in assorted neon, black tights and warm weather gear, as we expect it to be a little chilly that high above the straits, which only a month or so ago still sported ice floes. I capture the pink sky with my iPod as the sun gets ready to peek over the horizon on our right as we cross the bridge on the bus.
And then, it’s showtime, Unlike most races where the runners congregate at the start line and take off all at once, this is a staggered start, since there is not enough room on the bridge to send off all the runners at the same time. We start off with the sun rising on our left, and a mild breeze coming off the water on our right. For this far up in Michigan in May, this is about the most perfect weather we could hope for. There are no mile markers, no cheering crowds, no water stations – just a few race monitors scattered across the bridge. It feels like we had just decided to get up early one day and run across the Mackinac Bridge on our own.
But despite this idyllic setting, I’m having a little panic. I’ve never run this distance, and once you’re out on the bridge, the only way off is to finish. It’s a gradual uphill to the halfway point of the bridge, roughly 2.5 miles. From there, the rest of the way on the bridge is all downhill, then just a few blocks through the city and we’re done. I can do this. BH and I take off together, pacing each other, as we’ve decided to run this together.
As we pass the half-way point, I know I’m home. Still amazed at how well I’m doing, we speed up on the downhill side of the bridge. We finish the last few blocks through the city, still quiet this early in the morning, and bring it home, well under the time I predicted for myself.
Running Mighty Mac was by the far the most amazingly beautiful race I’ve ever done. Will I see you there next year?
© Huffygirl 2014