Wow what a day, one I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life. For my 60th birthday I decided to raise money to feed families in need with a great organization called FeedingTampaBay.org. I was originally going to run the Big Sur marathon which has been on my bucket list for some time. When that got cancelled I came up with this crazy idea to run 60 miles crossing over Belleair Bridge 80 times to help feed families in our community during these difficult times. I haven’t done any fundraising before so I’m not sure where this came from, maybe the seed was planted by my good friend Leo doing so many charitable events. As the day grew closer, the thoughts of Big Sur and Yosemite had become a distant memory, replaced with something much bigger and more rewarding.
I trained harder for this run than any race I’ve ever done, I didn’t want to let people down and wanted to make sure I could finish the challenge to thank everyone that contributed to my fundraiser. So many people donated and shared my posts, and then their friends also donated. My original goal of $2,500 was quickly met so I increased it to $5,000, and when that was met they suggested I increase it to $6,000, it made sense, 60 / 60 / $6,000. I was also lucky to have my run covered by 2 local news stations, NBC CH8 and CBS CH10 to help get the word out.
I met Ray at the bottom of the bridge and we started the run at 3am, luckily the weather was kind to us, it was dry and a nice breeze. We started at a slow pace and had the bridge to ourselves for a couple of hours. Dave and Jeff came out and joined us sometime around 6:30 and would alternate running over the bridge with me, Darin is injured but also stopped by on his bike and Beth also came out a little later. Ray’s wife Robin also stopped by several times during the run as she does often biking alongside us for our Sunday long runs. The Head Over Heels running group had been a big part of my training for this event. As the sun came out more of my friends turned out to wish me luck and either joined me for a lap or two, or just wait at one end of the bridge. Others rode their bikes or honked their horn as they drove past. I was amazed at the number of people that showed up to support me, it was great to see so many friends. T and Maddy had placed balloons at the starting side of the bridge and during the day someone had also placed balloons at the other end of the bridge.
Normally when I run the bridge, it’s usually 20 times, occasionally I’ll run 30 times, and it’s both a physical and mental challenge with the last few always difficult as my legs are heavy and the sun is out with no shade. Today was different, 10, 20, 30, 40 crossings and I wasn’t thinking about how tired I was or I wish it was over, mentally it was easy. Running for a purpose which was now close to my heart lifted that burden, and the support I received including many strangers that had seen or read about the event and wishing me happy birthday kept my motivation high.
As the day progressed the sun came out and it got hot, but it didn’t drain my spirit and I was able to maintain a steady pace throughout the run. Leo stopped by for a second time doing a Facebook live stream and commented it looked like I was running a 5K when I was about 48 miles into the run. Ray and Dave made sure I stopped and got nutrition every 4 bridge climbs and Judy had stopped by to deliver a toasted cheese sandwich with bacon in it. The police stopped by about 3 times to see what was going on at our unofficial aid station at the base of the bridge, but were kind enough to let us stay there. The City of Belleair Beach also posted a sign on their community board wishing me luck on my run, a nice pleasant surprise.
I apologize if I miss anyone that came out to support me, there were so many people and my focus was on the run. As I walked over the bridge this morning, I realized I didn’t once look at the beautiful water views either side of the bridge and the ocean to the west. Jeff biked over and ran a few bridges, Terry joined us, followed by Al who ran with me to the end completing his longest run ever of just over 20 miles. Chuck joined me for a dozen or so bridges and William at the end. Brian, a stranger that saw the event on the bridge also ran a couple of bridges with us. Cliff joined in the run and Andy turned up to also finish the run with me, just as he had done at the end of the Long Haul 100 back in January. Paul and Cheri also a lap over the bridge along with my daughters friends Jen and Heather who are not even runners. Jackie as always turned up with camera in hand to capture the event as she always does. Our old neighbors Ted and Helen also ran over the bridge.
My neighbors surprised me a couple of times, Bryan and Rhonda and Rick and Lindy turned up with signs wishing me luck, later Rhonda came back with Wanda and Nicole, and Carol came out at the end. Ted and Sabrina from HSN surprised me at the top of the bridge, I hadn’t seen them for years. Also after the run when we pulled up on our driveway, the neighbors were there to welcome me, including Gail and Steve, Rick and Lindy, Dan and Kaye along with bacon wrapped water chestnuts, Tom, Wanda and Tom and Jane with their grandson Grayson, with more balloons and a bottle of bubbly for us to celebrate with later. John and Kelly were eating lunch so they stopped by shortly after to also congratulate me after and Elena stopped by also with a nice bottle of bubbly.
So many friends from our Clever Training Run and Triathlon club came out to support me, we usually meet 3 times a week for our speed workout, beach run and fun triathlon and we haven’t seen much of each other recently. T, & Maddy, Tom and his girlfriend stayed for an hour or longer, Tony and Kelly rode by, Jim and Kim stood and cheered me on at the far end of the bridge in the sun for a couple of hours, as did Cliff and his daughter Cassidy that did some of the filming for the CH10 News coverage. Lisa and Shawn also came as did David and Brenda. It was great having a cheering squad at each end. Patty, Elena, Casey & Cheryl, Brian, Bill & Elizabeth, Emily, Billy, Lisa, Debby and Sherry. Tom’s brother, John, owner of Juice Habit turned up near then end and told me he had a Berry, Berry, Extraordinary in my cooler for me. Seeing Tom I was thinking I would love one and it was a real nice surprise that was greatly appreciated at the end. I’m sure I’ve missed many and I do apologize, there were so many people honking their horns that I didn’t recognize.
ABC News also turned up about 45 miles in to the run and filmed me running down the bridge and I did a short interview with them. I was kind of grateful for the rest. I did a handful of Facebook Live events so those that couldn’t stop by knew how it was going, most on the run going up over the bridge, apart from 70 bridges in, the sun was out and I was a little drained so I was happy to sit on my cooler under the shade of an umbrella that Dave held. I also did a quick Teams video with my work colleagues just to let them know and thank them for their support.
What has amazed me about this is the generosity of so many people donating to the cause, as I write this I’m just a little over $11,300. People from the various running communities, ex work colleagues, people I haven’t heard from for years, friends, neighbors, friends of friends, complete strangers, so many people. You’ve helped provide meals for so many people during these difficult times.
It’s a great organization doing so much in our community. If I can leave you with one thought after reading this is to either look how you can volunteer at one of their events or donate to my fundraiser in these final few days.
A few final words about the actual run, as I said it went so well, much better than I thought. After 40 bridges my legs were aching and I was dreading the usual slow down that occurs in the second part of the race. The sun had come out and the temperature was hot with no shade at all. Having people running with me for almost all the run, strangers wishing me happy birthday, friends, runners and neighbors cheering me on, it made the effort easier than expected. I was expecting it to take me 12 hours if everything went well and I finished in 11 hours, with actual moving time of less than 10 hours. I had my hip replaced 10 years ago and at no time during the run did it bother me. My ankles were aching with the constant compressing and extending of the bridges, my legs ached and my glutes had a hard time firing up at each turn. I felt great until about bridge climb 70, then for my Facebook live I just sat down and did the broadcast there while I hydrated. The last 10 were tough but I kept going and felt strong. At the end my friends were there to cheer me in as I crossed the finish line. Yes it was hard, but I enjoyed every one of the 107,436 steps, and the 6,004 feet of elevation gain. Don’t expect me to run 61 miles of bridge repeats next year, but as people that know me, it may not be the end of the what I put my body through.
I also had so much love and support from my family back in England, watching my live updates and posting messages. Michael even tweeted to a nation radio station Talk Sport that mentioned it on air. A couple of my sisters have surprised me for my 40th and 50th birthday and wished they could have been there at the finish line for me. I know my mum and dad would have been so proud of this, my love goes out to them for who I’ve become.
I also want to spend a moment to recognize Ray and his part in this event. When I first mentioned I was thinking about doing a run for charity he was encouraging me all the way. He’s been a friend for the last 8 years or so, I met him at a local 5K race and he told me to come out and train with him. I wasn’t a runner before my hip replacement and only started to lose some weight, I quickly became hooked and wanted to get faster. He spent so many hours with me, riding his bike while I ran. His guidance and support over the years, the times he spend selflessly with me and so many others, there’s no way I can ever repay him for the love he’s shown me. Initially I was thinking about just 60 bridge climbs, and maybe 80 for 60 miles, he pushed me to run the 60 miles as it meant more. Every time we met for our runs he would ask me about it, wheat time are we going to start, how are we going to do. I think he was more excited about it than I was. Having a hard challenge like this I think helped raise money, people recognize how hard it is and more willing to contribute to it. He helped me with the logistics, made sure I had everything I needed, invited friends to run with me, and stayed til the end. It was so good to run the last loop with him, I wouldn’t be the runner I am today without his help. As we made the 79th bridge climb, he played Love Shack Baby on his phone and I sang to it, and on the last climb I thanked everyone for their support. I think on the day of my birthday we raised over $3,000.
When I got home, I had a bath and then sat down to read the Facebook comments. Thank you everyone for being part of this event, it took me 5 hours to get through all your comments and reply or thank you for your posts. It was 9pm when I finally got around to opening my birthday cards and within 15 minutes I was asleep. I feel great today, much better than I thought I would. I’ll take a few days off before I run again. Thank you, and if anyone hasn’t donated and can, please do so. I’m so happy to experience this journey, one I never would have had the opportunity for if it wasn’t for these hard times, but so grateful for the support and love that everyone has shown. God bless you all and stay safe. BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!