The second leg of the Third annual Louisiana Bridge Run Series is fast approaching.
The Huey P. Long Bridge Run, a 5K event spanning the Mississippi River in Jefferson Parish, is set for 8 a.m. Saturday. It will mark the third year of the Huey P. Long race following a widening project on the bridge in 2013.
About 1,500 people are scheduled to participate in the run, which (for the first time) will travel from the East Bank to the West Bank. The bridge series awards runners who complete the three bridge runs — the Huey P. Long Run, the United Way of St. Charles Bridge Run, and the Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent Connection Bridge Run on June 6.
Ian Carr, who swept the three races in 2014 to win the bridge run series, started strongly again this year with a 5K time of 17 minutes, 3 seconds in the St. Charles Bridge Run. Though he has battled injury for most of the year, Carr is expected to run in the Huey P. Long event, race director Mike Wattigny aid.
Jamie Sauer, who swept the women’s series in 2014, also won the St. Charles Bridge Run is expected to participate in this year.
Wattigny said the unique nature of a high-rise bridge run is attractive to runners of all abilities. He suggested that’s why the Louisiana Bridge Run Series has been such a success in only a short amount of time.
“There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with conquering three of the highest points in the metro area,” he said. “It’s a challenge, and fear of heights is right up there with fear of public speaking as far as phobias go. So this is a physical challenge, as well as a mental challenge. It’s very unique to a lot of people (in southeast Louisiana.)”
Showing the versatility of the run, last year’s youngest entrant was a 6-year-old boy. Its oldest was an 85-year old man. Runners from 14 states took part in the race.
The course change is something runners should particularly note. The past two Huey P. Long Bridge runs started on the West Bank. This year, “to improve the overall runners’ experience both pre- and post-race,” Wattigny said the course will begin on the East Bank, at the Clearview elevated on-ramp (near Mounes Street)
“The move also was made to make less of an impact on the Elmwood area businesses with the race returning to the busier East Bank area later that morning,” he said. “There is no extra cost to us for shuttles because before, we had to move the majority of people from the East Bank to the West Bank to begin the race. Now you run across, enjoy the post-race festival, and then catch the shuttle back when you’re done.
“In fact, it helps participants even more because they don’t have to arrive so early to catch a shuttle to the West Bank.”
Also new this year is a friendly competition between persons who live on the East Bank or West Bank. Wattigny said runners can request a specific bib to let people know where they live. Participants also can choose to remain “neutral.”
“This year, it will be based strictly on volume and how many people from one side of the river or the other sign up,” he said. “The bank that has more entries wins. If it’s successful, maybe we can do something more with it in coming years.”
A post-race festival will follow the run, with food, beer, water, mini-smoothies, and much more. Shot Time will provide live musical entertainment, and the festival should continue until about 11 a.m. The festival will be held in the wide linear green space off the bridge’s West Bank side.
Registration for the Huey P. Long Bridge Run will continue through race day. Packet pickup and registration will be at Academy Sports on the corner of Clearview Parkway and Jefferson Highway from 12-6 p.m. Friday. Last-minute registration can be completed beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday (race day) at the same location.
Cost to register is $35 through Friday and $40 on Saturday. Cost includes entry to the race and festival, an official race T-shirt, a $5 coupon to NOLA Motorsports Park, and an official Huey P. Long Bridge Run pint glass.
Free shuttles will be provided from approximately 9-11 a.m. for participants to make the return trip across the West Bank to their parked vehicles on the East Bank. Parking will be allowed in “legal spaces,” Wattigny said, around the intersection of Clearview and Jefferson.
For information, log on to hueyprun.com.