Fifteen hundred people from around the globe compete in the Middle Keys’ Seven Mile Bridge Run each year. Participants test both speed and stamina as they cross one of the world’s longest segmental bridges, the centerpiece of the Florida Keys’ 113-mile Overseas Highway.
The Cow Key Channel Bridge Run, billed as a “zero k race,” is for those who prefer to compete without breaking a sweat. The bridge stretches about 300 feet between Stock Island and the entrance to Key West.
Now in its 34th year, the Seven Mile Bridge Run is set for 7:30 a.m. April 18. Runners race across the entire span while enjoying panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
The well-known footrace was first staged in 1982 to mark the completion of a project to build 37 new Keys bridges, replacing converted railroad bridges built in the early 1900s by Florida developer Henry Flagler. Now one of the most popular running events in the southeastern United States, it attracts everyone from novices to competitive racers.
The landmark bridge is closed to vehicular traffic throughout the event, and the race benefits Middle Keys youth programs.
In contrast, the Cow Key Channel Bridge Run attracts far less serious athletes. Its competitors — many wearing offbeat costumes or accompanied by their pets — are encouraged to travel the “grueling” distance at their own pace and clock their own time. Scheduled to begin at noon, the race takes place on the Overseas Heritage Trail beside the bridge so vehicular traffic is not disrupted.
The lighthearted challenge doubles as a fundraiser, with a portion of proceeds donated to the Monroe County Sheriff's Animal Farm and other local organizations. Entry is free, although runners can pre-register and pay $5 to ensure a place in the first heats across the bridge and eligibility to win one of the coveted “Golden Calf” awards.
While the 2015 Seven Mile Bridge Run is sold out, “athletes” can still register for the Cow Key Channel Bridge Run.
Seven Mile Bridge Run information: www.7mbrun.com
Cow Key Channel Bridge Run information: www.cowkeybridgerun.com