When the topic of this year’s Pensacola Double Bridge Run originally came up in conversation, I assumed the race was either the same weekend as the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (just like it was last year), or pretty close. Regardless, I went ahead and wrote it off as a “no go” for me, that is, until I found out that it was set to take place two weeks after the NOLA Rock ‘n’ Roll Half, and that my mom was planning to run it.
After these realizations, I was sold. I had no desire to race it. Instead, I decided that more than anything else, I wanted to run it with my mom and pace her. I couldn’t miss this opportunity. And so, I took a quick weekend trip home to do just that. It was everything I could have hoped it would be—and so much more.
Fun Fact: My running story dates back to the stroller. I then eased into running on my own two feet by participating in one-mile fun runs. This photo above is of my mom holding my hand and helping me along during a fun run. I was about four years old, and she was in her early 40s. Until the Double Bridge Run, the longest race my mom and I had ever run together is a 5K.
Maureen’s Memories (Written By My Mom)
Rewind, more than 15 years ago. Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Event: Junior Olympics National AAU Track Meet. Four little girls running the 4 x 400 relay. Me cheering, “Go, Sarah, go! You can do anything you decide you want to do!” I was mama coach and cheerleader for Sarah.
“Sometimes the seemingly impossible and insurmountable challenges lead to amazing results.” – Mom
Last fall, when Sarah convinced me to run a 10K again, after many years of nothing more than an occasional 5K race, I doubted myself, but was willing to give it a try, so I did the St. Augustine 10K, finished strong and felt great. That motivated me to go for another 10K, the Pensacola Beach Run in January, which of course was the coldest, windiest day ever, but I did it. I then decided, if I could do those, I could push myself just a little more and go for the Double Bridge 15K, which I had only completed once, many years ago. Then Sarah decided she wanted to do it with me—literally step by step with me—to help me accomplish my goal.
Running the Double Bridge 15K with Sarah was a total role reversal. Sarah was now the encourager, the coach, the supporter, the storyteller. She made me laugh, even when I was attempting to run (jog) up the beach bridge, reminding me of the New Orleans marathon I ran with a broken rib and in horrible weather conditions across the neverending Lake Pontchartrain Bridge, and reminiscing about all the races when I pushed her up hills in the jogging stroller and she chanted, “Go, mommy, go! Faster, faster!” Saturday, it was all about the journey together, not the destination; and what an amazing journey it was. Etched in my head and heart forever. My daughter, my best friend.
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about my mom’s running or vegan journeys, check out this guest post she wrote last spring, titled, “65 is the New Whatever.”
I’ve run the Double Bridge the past two years, and while both were memorable experiences, nothing compares to this year’s opportunity of running with my mom. Unlike New Orleans just two weeks prior, there was no unnecessary pressure this time. My only intentions were to run strong, keep us going steady and enjoy every step.
We met my mom’s goal of running around a 10-10:30 minute mile, and were able to talk the majority of the 9.3 miles. Although we were happy with how we finished, this race was truly about nothing else other than the love of running and the joy of experiencing together something we are both eternally grateful our legs and hearts allow us to do. Then again, shouldn’t this be the overwhelming focus of every race?
The Double Bridge Run has become a destination race, and it’s no wonder why—Pensacola Beach is beautiful and the race takes you from downtown Pensacola, all the way there. As the sun is rising up above Pensacola Bay, the masses line up at the start line and pile into the corrals. We parked, dropped our bags at the gear check and jogged over to the start line just in time to squeeze in the crowd that has grown to include several thousand participants.
After weaving through familiar downtown territory for the first two miles, the race takes runners over Pensacola Bay via the Three-Mile Bridge. I took the following photo as we began the incline midway across the bridge. Rarely do race photos capture the joy of the experience. This haphazard “run-fie” (running selfie) nails it.
Below is a view looking up the hill. Not only were there no clouds in the sky, there was zero wind, meaning a smooth, reflective run and even smoother, reflective water.
By the time you make it over the first bridge, you’ve nearly reached the 10K mark. However, the hardest part is yet to come—the second bridge. Although much shorter in distance, it’s literally straight up, straight down. We chugged along while I brought up memories from our running past to make my mom laugh. You know, things like, “Imagine you were pushing me in the stroller right now, except at my current weight.”
After surviving the second bridge, it was all downhill, all the way to the finish line. We pushed it in strong and crossed the finish line together, with hands clasped.
Once we exited the finish area, grabbed some water and stretched out our legs, I crossed paths with my former running group. I used to spend summer afternoons running along the bayou hillside with this crew, and have run eventful trail races with Elise (pictured far left). Kudos to Elise for making this Double Bridge Run her first race back since having a beautiful baby boy just a few months ago!
The post-race party backed up to the sand and water of the sound (Intracoastal Waterway). Here we reunited with Laura, one of my mom’s Phat Girlz running buddies, and someone I had the privilege of finally meeting in New Orleans a few weeks ago.
Phat Girlz = badass group of Phat and Phabulous Pensacola/Northwest Florida area women warriors (runners).
After checking the official race results, we learned my mom won second place in her age group, so we stayed through the ceremony for her to claim her award. We then took advantage of sitting and soaking up more time in the sun.
Did I mention I grew up in paradise? This beach is where I learned to swim. It’s where I’ve celebrated numerous birthdays. It’s where I’ve spent countless summer days.
Sluggo’s Treats and Eats
Since I didn’t make it into town Friday night in time for a pre-race meal at Sluggo’s—my all-time favorite vegan eatery—my mom and I made a point to fill our bellies here Saturday afternoon, after some iced coffee, showers and a wardrobe change. We each ordered our go-to favorites, starting with zucchini cakes to share as an appetizer. For my entrée, I ordered my usual Popeye Bowl, tofu drenched in peanut sauce, served with raw and steamed cabbage over brown rice. My mom opted for the Berliner Plate, a veganized Reuben sandwich served with garlic mashed potatoes, and a salad loaded with goddess dressing.
It’s difficult to communicate the full glory of Sluggo’s to those on the outside, but for me, it holds so many memories of my youth. It was where I first ate “vegan food.” It’s where I spent an entire summer eating $2 burritos. It’s where I went to my first hardcore show. It’s where I drank my first PBR. Since all of these firsts, it’s moved from the west side of town into the heart of downtown.
Over the past five years following this move, I’ve had the privilege of watching Sluggo’s transform from a bar and venue attracting a more limited clientele, into a flourishing bar and eatery catering to all. On any given day at Sluggo’s you’ll see a mix of regulars, friends, first-timers, downtown business folks, and families. Beyond the dining space, there remains a back room that has played host to countless musical acts, poetry nights and karaoke. This room is also where I danced my heart out in a sea of fog and lights during my 25th birthday “Quarter Life Crisis // Dance Party Celebration” a few years ago. True story.
Staying Put & Saying No
While our Saturday was dedicated to our shared Double Bridge Run experience, our Sunday was reserved solely for uninterrupted relaxation time together. This included a downtown dog walk with our Sammy pup, coffee date, backyard writing time, life talks, a yoga class, and HGTV. Staying put was the theme of our day. It is also the theme of my intentions now that I am back in St. Augustine. Life talks with my mom over coffee Sunday afternoon (dreaming and scheming) helped me dig up and iron out what I long for most this year, and what waves I’m willing to make to see my vision bloom. Our talk helped me realize it’s going to take sacrifices, selectivity, and demand staying put and saying no. I’m ready.
As always Mom, thanks for the runspiration and inspiration that you offer me, just by being you. It’s true, I am a spoiled only child when it comes to having a winning mother—one I’m forever proud of and constantly humbled by. I wouldn’t change it for the world.