Last night I finally got to run with the legendary Bridge Runners in New York and it completely lived up to my very high expectations. Bridge Runners are the original foundation running crew. Legend has it that founder Mike Saes was late to pick his kids up from school one day and was caught in traffic in a taxi. He realised he’d be quicker on foot, so hopped out of the taxi and ran across the bridge, making it in time to pick up his kids. He got such an endorphin high from the run that he’s been running ever since.
Running with Bridge Runners was one of the main reasons I picked New York as the destination for my birthday celebrations this year. Jason and I had already had an amazing day in the city, watching the New York Mets slay the Phillies at baseball (I caught a match ball), and taking in great aerial views of the city walking the High Line. Time ran away with us and we were almost missed the crew, arriving just as they were setting out for their run. I’m so grateful we caught them.
Mike was really happy to see us and we were made to feel very welcome by everyone. It was such a good vibe. We dropped our bags under the tarpaulin in the bar on Bowery that they run out of, and then headed down to the subway. We got to know some of the other runners and other international guests from Frankfurt and Moscow as we made our way to the Bronx for the start of tonight’s run. This was unusual for the crew- while they often bring MetroCards in order to get back from the destinations of their runs, they normally start out of 310 Bowery.
The run began going straight up a steep hill, so Jason had quite a baptism of fire; this was his first run since completing the Copenhagen marathon in a stellar time of 3:30 on Sunday. At the top we stopped for a photo with the beautiful sunset, and then turned to cross a bridge to Randall’s Island. The views over the East River were epic. I would never have gone to the island otherwise and when we got to the other side of the bridge there was another fantastic view of the sunset.
We then ran past an athletics stadium and hospital for the mentally unwell as dusk fell, running under the fantastically named Hell’s Gate bridge. Mike Saes told me he was planning to have relay races under this bridge in the future, tagging the event Below Hell.
Then we got to what appeared to be a dead end. Mike explained that what we were about to do next was possibly not technically legal, but if anyone asked us, we didn’t know that right? A new bridge was being built under Hell’s Gate Bridge and was cordoned off from the general public, as it was incomplete. To quote Briggitte, there followed some “cross the wires on the unpaved bridge without breaking your ankles vibes”, so we walked as it was too dangerous to run. Finally we climbed through a gap in the wire fence to take a crew shot beneath the barbed wire at the other end. It felt exciting to be exploring somewhere we technically shouldn’t be, and the crew shot looked absolutely epic.
We then took another bridge back across to the Bronx and after a few more twists and turns we arrived in Harlem at Patsy’s Pizzeria, where several delicious pizzas had been ordered and were waiting for us. Appetites sated, we hopped back on the subway and back to Bowery.
Running out of a bar really lends itself to post-run socialising and I’m all for it. Chatting after the run over a beer, I was really excited to hear Mike’s plans for future Bridge the Gap movements. He thinks about running the same way the Wu-Tang Clan thought about hip-hop in the early 90s, and it’s pioneering and ground-breaking. There are plans afoot to have monthly Bridge The Gap events with evening runs in different places around the world, open to the general public on race day but open to the crews from Friday onwards. It sounds fantastic- the equivalent of a Lollapalooza of running, and I have no doubt Mike will make it happen.
I really can’t overstate how good an experience this was. It fulfilled all my Warriors fantasies of New York and everyone in the crew was so warm and welcoming. If you’re considering a trip to the Big Apple, don’t delay, book it up and make sure you leave Wednesday evening free to run with Bridge Runners. I hope to see Mike and many more of the crew over in London soon.
Props to Jason Lawrence and Bridge Runners for the flicks.