Posts Tagged ‘Bridge the Gap’

heartland road runners club

The Heartland Roadrunners at Bridge the Gap 2013

You know, I owe my readers a race report for the Bridge the Gap Half Marathon that I ran with my training partner Doug this spring, and I’ve been thinking a little about it.  My summary of the race would go:


Jackie Joyner Kersee and I after Bridge the Gap 2013

– Jackie Joyner Kersee (who gave out the medals) was AWESOME.  If there’s something better than getting a half marathon medal from an 8 time Olympic Gold Medalist, I can’t think of it.

– Crossing the bridges over the Mississippi in the beginning of the race is BEAUTIFUL.

– The support was pretty good, though they were out of water at the first 2 stops and I don’t drink Gatorade because the sweetness gives me a tummy ache during races (And that’s why I love Nuun…!)

… and that’s about it.  Oh, I would probably mention that it was the warmest day Doug and I had run so far for the year and that was a little tough on us.  Despite the heat, I cut 9 minutes off my time from the Allerton Trails Half Marathon a few weeks before.

Now readers, don’t get the wrong idea when I tell you my feedback about this race, because I don’t want you to think it was a negative experience!  The entire staff of Bridge the Gap does a terrific job of putting together a solid run and should be congratulated for raising a lot of money for MedAssist and for growing the sport of running in Quincy each and every year.  The beef I’ve got with BtG as compared to any of the other half marathons I’ve run in the past 2 years is:

Where were all of the spectators?!

I’m not going to lie, when we were hot and exhausted in the endless bottoms of mile 9, I could have really gone for a, “Your feet must hurt from kicking this much butt!” sign.  Or how about a poster reading, “Run Faster! Zombies Don’t Like Fast Food!”  Or my training partner’s favorite sign, “Worst. Parade. Ever.

occupy finish line

“Occupy Finish Line” at the Occupy Little Rock Protests.

You see, I love the crazy spectators.  It’s my favorite thing about a large race.  Without the spectators, it’s just another training run out a long and lonesome road.  I hit low spots. I want to give up.  I want to walk the next 4 miles or perhaps steal a car.  I need the energy of a crowd and the encouragement of an electric race environment to keep my mind off my sore knees and to keep me moving forward.

When I was in Little Rock, AR doing my first half marathon, a random person in mile 11 yelled, “Yeah Laura! Doing Great!” when they read my name off my bib.

the course is strong

My husband can draw Darth Vader. It is the only thing he draws.

When I was in Lexington, KY for Run the Bluegrass half marathon there were bands around every corner and crowds of people chanting, “Go, Stranger, Go!”

For the half marathon in Illinois, there was a spectator with a table full of Dixie cups with a sign that said, “Free Tiny Beer for You and Steve!” (I don’t know who Steve is, but I bet he enjoyed his mid-race tiny beer as much as I did.)

photo 1

Bike rides can use signs too! My friend Jen at the RAIL (Ride Across Illinois) ride

At the Allerton Trail Half Marathon (Decatur, IL) – even on a decidedly quieter trail course – there was a section late in the race where a line of 15 people were lined up giving a row of high-fives to the runners who went past.

I love you, crazy fans. I really, really do.

photo 2

My stick zombies could use some work, but rider Gary Clay still got a smile out of this one!

Here’s my suggestion for BtG 2013: We need to get more spectators and awesome signs on the half marathon course!  I’m not talking about fans at the start/finish (there were a good number of people in that area) but I’m talking about some hard core, awesome, “Pain is temporary, finishing is forever” sign holders sitting out on lonely mile 8.  If at all possible, I’d suggest that said sign holders also dress like 80’s hair bands or perhaps Batman.

Yes. That’s it.  I would like 15 people dressed as Batman at mile 8. 

whoop azz sign

Quincy Sketch Club Members Jamie Green and Charlie Martin helped me make signs for an Ultra Marathon in Vermont.

So next Spring when you’re asking a friend if they want to run Bridge the Gap with you and despite your pleading they turn you down, tell them they can still help with the race. As a matter of fact… don’t wait.  Tell them now.  Maybe they can pick up their Batman costumes at an after Halloween sale! Hook them up with a pack of those huge, smelly magic markers and a pile of neon poster board.  Get them a cowbell and a tambourine and tell them to go nuts.

This one goes out to you, Crazy Marathon Sign Holder Person.  Thank you for all that you do!

And if there comes a day that I’m not running in the race, I’ll still be down there.  Look for me at mile 11.  I’ll be holding the, “I Think Chaffed Nipples are HOT!” sign.  🙂

Also check out this Buzzfeed article of more fun signs!

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Back Where I Started

Bridge the Gap to Health, now in its 12th year, has become a Quincy tradition.  The event features 5K, 10K and Half Marathon distances, and all courses cross both the Bayview and Memorial Bridges over the Mississippi. The proceeds benefit the Med Assist program, which helps needy families afford their prescription medication.

6 Time Olympic Medalist Jackie Joyner Kersee hands me my medal at the BTG2011.

Bridge the Gap holds a special significance for me.  It was the turning point in my approach towards fitness and the beginning of a whole new lifestyle.  I set the goal of completing my first 5K race for Bridge the Gap 2011.  You can (and should!) read all about my run here, but here’s the important take away:  you can do it!  I was 30 pounds heavier at Bridge the Gap than I am now.  I was out of shape, tired all the time and not very happy with my body image.  Crossing the finish line and being handed a medal by a personal hero, Olympian Jackie Joyner Kersee, was pure inspiration.

From that moment on, I literally couldn’t be stopped.  Following the race, I ran, biked, swam and played my way to a healthier me.  I’ve set bigger goals and I’ve believed that I could accomplish them.  Looking back, it wasn’t even a bunch of work to do it; it was a bunch of fun.  This change in attitude has had an immeasurable positive impact on all facets of my life.

This year I won’t be able to attend Bridge the Gap.  I’m going to be in Vermont that weekend, running with a friend in the Green Mountains.  A year ago though, I never would have dreamed of going to Vermont or running anywhere- especially not for fun- and that’s what Bridge the Gap started for me.

If you’re considering running your first 5 or 10K, or you’re wondering about what it might take to complete the Half Marathon course, I highly recommend you attend the Bridge the Gap meeting this Saturday at 1118 Hampshire Street at 9 am.  I’ll always look back on BTG 2011 as a pivotal moment in my life, and I hope that you will look back the same way on BTG 2012.

Click here to read more about the meeting and the 14 week half-marathon program.

Click here for Bridge the Gap’s Facebook Page.

Click here for my original recap of Bridge the Gap 2011.

Click here for another inspiring story of how Bridge the Gap changed another person’s life.

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Tim 115 pounds lighter running the Bridge the Gap Half Marathon.

As I’ve been preparing myself for my first 5K at Bridge the Gap this Saturday, I’ve found myself in need of something to boost my motivation. Let me tell you — I found exactly what I needed.  I’m honored that Tim Cassidy has agreed to share his truly inspirational story with me, and with you, the readers of my blog.  Enjoy this guest blog by Tim Cassidy:


By Tim Cassidy:

Before starting my current career, I grew up working on a ranch and working for the U.S. Forest Service cutting down trees.  So, I was very physically active whether that was wrestling steers, stacking hay, cutting trees, stacking logs, or whatever it may be.  I graduated college and started a career where I sat at a desk.  I went from being able to eat whatever I wanted and keeping somewhat under control, to leading a more sedentary lifestyle.  I won’t kid you: I was never a small guy, but I was a lot more in shape.  So, after three years of sitting at a desk I quickly went to being over 300 lbs.  The company moved me twice so health wasn’t on the top of my list.  I was offered a third position move to Des Moines, IA I decided I had gotten to a point that something needed to be done.  I started hurting all over on joints, pain in my chest, and just plan out unhealthy.

In April 2008, I started to do something about it.  My starting weight was 312 pounds. I didn’t have much of a plan.  Luckily for me, I had a coworker that worked out every morning, so I tag along to get started.  It wasn’t pretty at the beginning; in fact it was plan out ugly and embarrassing.   My first time on a tread mill, I’d covered not even a quarter of a mile, and I was breathing so hard that I sounded like a grizzly bear stuck in a barbed wire fence.

I made dietary changes.  I stopped drinking all soda and stuck with coffee in the mornings and water the rest of the time, and, except for an occasional alcoholic beverage, that was it.  I quite eating all candy, deserts, snack food, and all other sweets.  I only went out to eat if it was a business function, holiday, or family event (this was probably the hardest part for me because Des Moines has Taco Johns and it is my favorite restaurant ever, and I hadn’t lived around one for 6 years).  I had a small breakfast in the morning, yogurt at 9 am, small lunch of protein/vegetables, an apple at 3pm, and a small dinner.  It took time to get my body used to not over-stuffing at each meal.  I got used to getting up a 4:30 a.m. for my workout, and eating healthy the first year.  I went from 312 pounds from April 2008 to 250 pounds by May 2009 when I ran my first Bridge the Gap to Health.  I ran the 5K with a goal to finish in under 30 minutes.  I finished in 30 minutes and 31 seconds.  My time was a little heart breaking, but motivating.

After finishing the race I decided I would run the half marathon the next year. I don’t really know what I was thinking at that moment, because that is over 13 miles.  My training became more intense.  I ran five days a week, four short runs and one long run.  I gradually worked the distances up as the year went on.  I ran into a few setbacks with an ankle roll, pulled muscle, and dieting issues.  I actually got to a point of exhaustion because I wasn’t taking enough calories for all exercising I was doing.  I learned a lot about taking in the right carbs, sugars, potassium, protein to be a runner, and that became an important part of training for my half marathon.

Three months prior to race I cut all liquids besides water out and stuck to a strict diet.  The day of the race I weighed in at 194 pounds.  That was a total loss of 118 pounds by race day.  My goal going into the race was to finish in 10 minute miles.  After working through the crowd at the beginning and battling my nerves, I finally settled into my pace at about mile three.  The temperature of 37 degrees was in my favor, because I did all of my training outside, even through the winter. From mile 3 to mile 10, it was normal running for me.  I covered the ground quick and easy and had no issues.  At mile 10 the pain started kicking it, starting with the ankle I rolled, pain with every step worsen as the time went on.  The last mile, my pulled muscle from early in the year starting tightening and it made it a struggle to focus.

All of that pain went away as I saw the finish line a half-mile away though.  Finishing the race wasn’t just a relief, it was also extremely emotional.  My 2-year goal of hard work and dedication came to an end and had paid off.  I finished the race ahead of my goal of 10 minute miles. My official time showed an average of 8 minute and 19 second miles.

Training for Bridge the Gap and losing the weight has made an amazing difference in life. I now have the energy to do whatever. It’s great being able to play with my nephews and nieces without breathing heavy.  I can work on the farm and keep up with everyone else.  I feel better all-around.  The confidence factor has come slower though.  A lot of people are amazed how I look, and comment on me looking so much better.  It has taken me almost a year later for me to see that same thing.  I watched myself as a big guy my whole life and it came off slowly over 2 years, so the change was gradual for me.

My advice to people who would like to be more active and get healthy is this: Anyone can do it, it takes time, dedication, hard work, and a mindset of success.

Original Post May 13, 2011

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Angie Frese, left, completes the 5K with her hands held high. Laura Sievert and her husband Justin at the finish line.

It was probably the combination of the cannon blast that started the race, the QHS Marching Band’s drumline beating a cadence, the bagpiper playing along the side of the route, and the cold, steady rain falling from the gray sky, but as I charged up the Hampshire Street Hill with a battalion of nearly 3000 other runners of the Bridge the Gap to Health Race, I felt as if we were going to war.

Completing my first 5K at Bridge the Gap was a challenge that I’d set for myself six short weeks ago. For many runners, 5K (3.2 miles) isn’t very far, but for me, it would be a mental test as much as a physical one.  I never liked to run, and the many years of not liking to run had cemented themselves into a mental barrier that told me that I couldn’t run.  So that was my battle: knock down the “Great Wall of Can’t.”

I wouldn’t say that I got off to an amazing start. Once the dreamy feeling of charging the hill was past me, I turned the corner and promptly stuck my left shoe in a deep puddle of water. Fantastic. Then, not 100 yards onto the Memorial Bridge, a faster runner tripped someone who, in turn, tripped me, and I sort of bounced into the side barrier in an ungainly manner. I was embarrassed, red-faced, wet-socked, and already winded. Quitting didn’t seem far behind.

I credit the British Invasion with saving my run.

Just as I was asking myself why I’d come out in this awful weather to do something I didn’t enjoy, my iPod brought up the song, “I Can See for Miles,” by The Who. The song made me look up and I realized that I could see for miles and miles and miles, and it was really cool to be where I was. I was running across the Mighty Mississippi River, and I wasn’t the only one in this group who thought it was tough. Things that are worth doing are always tough. The wind was whipping and the rain was falling, but I could finish this. I just knew it.

The Who and then Queen carried me across the first bridge in no time. (The Queen song, if you’re curious, was “Bicycle Race.” A friend thought it would be ironic if I put songs on my playlist about driving or biking.  I also included “Drive My Car” by the Beatles.) The wind really picked up when I turned the corner in West Quincy.  I was slowing down considerably on the Bayview Bridge, so I picked points out in front of myself that I knew I could make it to, and broke the run into pieces.  If I had to walk, I only walked to the next lamppost, then I ran to the next.  The course volunteers clapped as we ran past, and their support really made me smile and put a spring in my step.

Sievert and Freese pose before the race with Olympian Jackie Joyner Kersee.

It wasn’t long before I was back on Illinois soil headed down the hill to Bonasinga Drive with the finish line in sight. The song “Sweet Inspiration” by the Derek Trucks Band, propelled me toward the end of the race.  I was smiling ear-to-ear and raising a fist in the air as I crossed the line. Jackie Joyner Kersee, eight-time Olympic Medalist and Sports Illustrated’s Greatest Female Athlete of the Century, placed a medal around my neck, and I jumped up and down, giddy with the thrill of crossing the line. My husband, who also ran the race, was waiting at the line and we shared a victory hug.  My friends Angie and Sara crossed the finish not far behind me, and the atmosphere was just electric.

My finishing time was 37:44. The time put me a little more than half-way down the list of finishers, but I wasn’t really trying to beat anyone or anything except my own expectations. My friend Jeremy talks about “a runner’s high.”  It’s when you forget about how hard it was to get to the finish line, and just enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.  I don’t think I’ve turned into a great lover of running from this experience, but I did feel wonderful about accomplishing something I didn’t know I could do, and I got a small taste of that runner’s high. I’d encourage everyone to give Bridge the Gap or another run a try.  It was something I’ll certainly never forget.  I’m already looking forward to next year, where I’ll be charging along with my fellow warriors past the ruins of the Great Wall of Can’t.

Original Post May 17, 2011

Here’s the post that proceeded this one- when I decided to run for the first time.

Deep Breath… Ok, I’ll Do It.

People who know me know I love to be active. I don’t blink twice when someone suggests we go hike 10 miles, bike all over town, or climb an active volcano.  But running? Running is a different story.  I’ve never been quick, and I’ve never found my “groove” enough to keep a good pace up over long distances.  However, in the spirit of setting goals and achieving something I can be proud of, I’ve decided to run the 5k in this year’s Bridge the Gap to Health Race on May 14th.  Once I made the decision, I put out the word, and quickly a half dozen friends and my husband were on board too.

And we’ve all got good reason to be excited! The event itself is beautiful. The courses cross both bridges over the mighty Mississippi, and it’s not every day you have the chance to take a jog with a view like that.  It’s a great opportunity to get in shape, achieve a goal, and help people all at once.

Bridge the Gap to Health is now in its 11th year in Quincy.  The event consists of 5K (3.1 miles), 10K (6.2 miles), and half marathon (13.1 miles) certified courses, a 5K walk (with competitive or leisure categories) and a walking half marathon. The event draws over 2,500 participants, making it one of the premiere runs in Illinois.

The best part of Bridge the Gap is how much it helps our community.  All of the registration fees and proceeds from the event benefit the Quincy Catholic Charities MedAssist Program.  According to their website, MedAssist has helped over 3000 patients obtain around 30,000 prescription medications at a value of over $8 million in the last eleven years.   That money all stays local and helps Quincy area families (regardless of their religion).

If you’re not ready to commit to the run but still would like to experience the event, there are ample opportunities to volunteer. The race requires course guides, people to distribute water to runners, safety volunteers and much more.  If you’re interested in volunteering for the race, email btg@quincymedgroup.com for more information.So here’s my challenge to you, Quincy. Get out and run (or walk) with me.  We’ve got a month and a half to get ready, and the pride we’ll have from completing a challenge, helping needy folks get assistance to afford their prescription medication, and from our healthier hearts is immeasurable. I know we can do this!

To register for the Bridge The Gap to Health Race or for more information, visit http://www.bridgethegaptohealth.com They’re also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BridgeTheGapToHealth All donations to the QCC MedAssist program are tax-deductible.  Visit the Quincy Medical Group website to find sponsor information, past winners, training tips, photos and much more: http://www.quincymedgroup.com/bridgethegap/index.html

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