Second annual Fort Hamer Bridge Run expects to draw 2,000 participants.
For most runs, losing 600 competitors in a year's time would signal problems.
Not so for the second annual Fort Hamer Bridge Run Aug. 25.
The unique experience of running across a bridge about to open to traffic for the first time drew approximately 2,600 runners in 2017. This year's run is expected to draw about 2,000 runners, a healthy number for such a young event being held in the summer.
“Yes, it is a bridge race, which is a novelty," said race organizer Doug Schiller. "The views are spectacular. But this year, it will be almost entirely local people."
Schiller expects the race to set a record for number of participants next year when the race moves to a yet-to-be-determined date in March, escaping the summer heat. He expects more than 3,000 runners for the 2019 event.
A children's race kicks off this year's festivities at 6:45 a.m. followed by a 5K, a 10K and a 1-mile walk. The Fort Hamer Bridge will close from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. to accommodate the event.
The 10K race begins on the Parrish side of the bridge at Ft. Hamer Park, heads south, and eventually goes through the Waterlefe Golf and Country Club before turning around and going north back over the bridge. On the Parrish side, the runners will proceed through the River Wilderness neighborhood before returning to Fort Hamer Park. The 5K runners follow the same route, but head back to Fort Hamer Park after crossing the bridge for the second time.
The race will benefit the Parrish YMCA, the Parrish Foundation and Manatee County Youth Rowing.
Schiller said the fun just begins after the race ends. There will be 14 restaurants hosting booths at the after-party.
He said the best spots to cheer for the runners will be on either end of the bridge.
“Last year, we couldn’t even get on the bridge until 5 a.m. because it was still privately owned by the builder and the bridge wasn’t open yet,” Schiller said. “This year, we’ll be able to set up viewing areas and have a little bit more organization because the county owns the bridge.”