Before my very first "big" race — a half-marathon — I found myself at a fitness conference with other editors, many of whom were runners like me. Between talking about all things gear-related, our dream races, our favorite workout classes, and our training schedules, I found myself feeling inspired and a bit overwhelmed. But despite feeling like the new kid on the block, I found myself eagerly drinking up all their advice and wisdom. To this day, one particular piece of advice a fellow editor gave me about training all those years ago still stands out among it all: run bridges.
Initially, her advice went in one ear and out the other. I was still figuring out my preferred running schedule and style; I was far away from adding something as scary as bridges into the mix. You see, that's exactly what they were to me at the time, scary. I call New York City home, so previously, my concept of bridges was simply the way to get from borough to borough, never a training method. Other than walking the Brooklyn Bridge as a tourist once, I had never even come close to NYC's bridges on foot. But after dozens of races and hundreds of training runs since hearing that tidbit of advice, I've completely changed my tune. Running across bridges is now the MVP of my training schedule, and here's precisely why.
There's Only 1 Way to Go
There's nothing like commitment to get this commitment-phobe's heart racing. And when you're running across a long city bridge, commitment is the name of the game. Once you decide to make your way from point A to point B, there's really no turning back unless you're game for an extralong walk. For me, that's part of the thrill of running across a city bridge. It's like a little promise to myself to commit to the four miles over and back on the bridge home. I have an exact end in mind and structure literally built in place not only to visualize my journey but to also give me a defined beginning and end.
They're Race-Day Ready
If you are like me and enjoy taking your running from casual to full-on race status, training on bridges can often mimic some of the more intense portions of the larger race courses out there. For example, prior to my first marathon — the New York City Marathon — I was armed and ready for the bridges on the course because my body was already used to long stretches of quiet, a route without spectators, and the subtle uphill that many bridges sneak in. Which brings me to . . .
They're Secretly Hard
Although I've come to love my daily runs across lengthy NYC bridges, I can say now I truly understand why a fellow runner advised me to train on them all those years ago. They're hard. Not only does a long bridge over a body of water or like those in New York offer a physical distance-based commitment, but they require you to overcome a mental hurdle, too. Bridges can be lonely and sparse and can lend themselves to a lot of welcome — or unwelcome — reflection time.
Not to mention, many bridges have subtle nuances to them. Think: they're deceptively uphill, or if they're over a body of water, they're brutally windy or cold. If you're training on a bridge regularly in all seasons, make sure you're armed with all suitable gear to keep you comfortable and safe while running. Because I know running over my local bridge means I'll be dealing with a lot of open air and wind, I always suit up with a wind-ready layer like the UA Qualifier Weightless Packable Jacket ($120), which is low-light ready and offers up breeze protection.
But They're Also Really Great
No matter how hard my bridge run might be, I look forward to it each and every time. Many times, the reward goes beyond the physical aspect of getting in a solid workout. I fell in love with running bridges when I started seeing the mental rewards went well beyond those I felt in my normal park runs. Amazing views of my city, stunning sunsets, quiet moments to connect with myself during challenging moments — all of those left me feeling inspired to keep going in ways I had not felt before. I think it's safe to say my running BFF might be an unexpected one, but it might be the most valuable one I have.