Race in one of America’s most unusual 5ks!

For less than 2 hours, one of the world’s longest bridges is a racecourse. Sign up for this year’s Bridge Day 5k and get ready for the run of your life.

3,030 feet of possibilities

Runners take in the view as they cross the New River Gorge bridge

It may be months away, but October 21, 2017 already looms large on the calendar. That’s when Bridge Day— the most extreme sports event in America— unfolds.

Everything revolves around the 3,030-foot steel span. The New River Gorge Bridge stars not only on the state quarter, but also as the launching point for BASE jumpers and rappellers. At 876 feet high, it’s an irresistible spot to skylark.

The elegant structure also makes an alluring sidewalk. After all, with car traffic shut down from dawn to dusk, no pedestrian can resist a crossing. Spectacular views of the canyon and rapids are yours for the day. But there are intangible perks, too.

“The New River Gorge Bridge is the icon of our state that so many relate to their state pride,” notes Melanie Seiler, executive director of Active Southern West Virginia.

Under her guidance, numerous activities have sprouted throughout the region: walking shelter dogs, yoga, tai chi, you name it. Adding a race to the mix made sense— especially since it involves a rare landmark.

“Our mission is to improve the health and quality of life in southern West Virginia,” Seiler explains. “What better way to celebrate that than to have active people running across the ‘Big Bridge?’ ”

On your marks!

Last year marked the first annual Bridge Day 5k, but it’s already a rite of passage. The race starts on the north side of the span in a closed lane. From there, you’ll jog into downtown Fayetteville, loop around a park, and finish at the courthouse.

Runners from the first Bridge Day 5k pose for a photo in front of the Fayette County Courthouse in downtown Fayetteville

Seiler has fond memories of the first 5k.

“The weather was perfect, security procedures went smoothly, and proceeds were generated to support local kids’ run clubs across southern West Virginia!” she said enthusiastically.

Another memory also tugs at her heart. A young lady named Michelle decided to enter the race after her mother died from Type 2 diabetes and her father had open-heart surgery. Determined to maintain her own health, the West Virginia-born gal signed up for Bridge Day 5k. It was especially important to Michelle because her family had taken a lively interest in the bridge’s construction.

“As soon as I saw the post for the first ever Bridge Day 5k, I just knew that I had to be a part of the adventure,” she shares on her blog. “After years of the bridge being part of MY life, now I could be part of its history.”

Two weeks before the race, her father died.

“I decided to run anyway, in his honor, thinking of him and the amazing childhood filled with discovery and adventure that he had afforded for me,” Michelle said.

Other racers encouraged her, including a local who held a sign that read, “Never quit.” That message had a special meaning to Michelle. Her father’s favorite slogan was, “never give up.”

“For the flash of a moment, Daddy was there with me, like he was supposed to be, sharing in this moment,” she reflects.

Moments like that reveal the symbolic importance of the bridge and, by extension, the race. It’s what motivates Seiler and her team.

Sneak peek

This year, 400 folks can sign up for the race— twice the number allowed from 2016. But you’ll have to be quick on your toes; online registration started March 1 and entries fill up quickly. People as far as California and Florida compete, too.

“But the desired audience is West Virginia residents,” Seiler said. “We get really, really excited when this is someone’s first 5k!”

New features for the 2017 race include a “start line dance party,” redesigned race course, and indoor awards ceremony. Kids can also enter a youth essay contest. The prize: 2 race entry tickets.

What’s more, it’s a race anyone can try. While no walking is allowed, you can casually jog with friends. You can also try to earn a trophy. Top male and female runners get prizes, as do winners from various age groups. Everybody gets a special shirt and medal, though. Bridge Day is too special to leave empty handed!

For more information on the race, visit ActiveSWV.

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