Last night, my running group had its regular speed work session at Centennial Park, which is on the Caloosahatchee River Front. Now, I meant to do the drills, but the call of the river was too strong. Not for the first time, I just took off and headed for the bridge spanning the river. Having parked about a mile from the bridge, I figured I could get in two bridge round trips and back to the car for a solid 6 mile run. And that’s what I did.
Here in Florida, running bridges is how we do hill work, as natural hills are hard to find. There are usually a few other runners sharing the bike lane as the cars wing past. The Caloosahatchee Bridge is one of a pair with the Edison, the two bridges close together as each is one-way for traffic. If you look on a map, they form a right triangle, separated by a few blocks on the Park side and meeting over on the north side.
That positioning is superb. Whether you run at dawn or at sunset, you see the sun rising or retiring into the water alongside of you. Last night was a little cloudy, so no spectacular sunset, just the gradual deepening of the sky. Think of using all the blues in the big box of crayons in light to dark order: like that.
When you run north on the bridge in the evening, the sun is to your left and Ft. Myers is at your back. Coming back, the lights of the city are visible, as the clubs and high rises come to life. Tourists checking out the historic downtown mix with residents heading home after work. As you near the end of the span, the sound of boats rocking in their locks and the tang of the river greet you.
Even though it’s tougher than running on flat terrain, and acknowledging the roar of the cars rushing to get home or to work or on with festivities, I almost always run a fairly swift tempo out there on the bridge. I find it is when I’m most ‘in the moment’ when running. Part of it is needing to focus: first on the uphills and then gleefully taking advantage of gravity when you hit the downs.
Another part of it is the river itself. Here in this city known for its warm sandy beaches, shallow waters and barrier islands, I find I am increasingly drawn to the river. Maybe it’s because I’m from a river city, Detroit. While the Detroit River isn’t all that long, it’s an integral part of Detroit. The only two automobile traffic routes that completely cross the river are the Ambassador Bridge and the Tunnel, both of which connect Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Ontario.
In 262 days (o, the symbolism!), I’ll be running the Ambassador Bridge in the Detroit Marathon. Training is not an issue. I will be ready for this. I’m going home. Because I believe in Detroit. In the face of the reality of what Detroit was and is and is becoming, I am looking to tomorrow with hope, all the while cherishing how Detroit made me who I am, i.e., someone who knows how to dance no matter what life hands me, who shows up for work when expected, and who hears the music humming in the streets and along the river.