Sunday, November 13, 2011


On a typical Sunday morning at this time (9:25), I'd be sitting in the kitchen flipping through the newspaper while sipping coffee and waiting for the bells to start ringing their weekly mini-concert from Channing Church, on nearby Touro Park.

That IS, in fact, what I'm doing at this precise moment, although the morning has been entirely atypical otherwise. I've been up for hours upon hours ... and I'm no early bird (just ask Mr. Betty). I'm thinking of changing my ways, however, thanks to some inspiring words from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who addressed the 2000 or so runners gathered at the base of the Newport Bridge — the Jamestown side — just before sunrise. According to Whitehouse: "Anything worth doing is worth getting up in the middle of the night for."

Or something like that. I wasn't paying very close attention, and I didn't have a pencil or even a smart phone handy to take notes, because I was getting ready to run – not that I'm a runner, but who could resist the opportunity to take part in the Citizens Bank Inaugural Newport Pell Bridge Run?

Well, in all honesty, I could have resisted, but Mr. Betty made me do it. Scratch that: he strongly suggested. And he was right, of course; it was special. Really special. The public hasn't been allowed/invited to cross that bridge (on foot, en masse) in decades.

So the scene was this: runners took shuttles starting at 5 a.m. from Newport to Jamestown, where they were treated to coffee and snacks and a rousing soundtrack: the theme from "Rocky" and the like in addition to Senator Whitehouse's encouraging words. And coffee leads to, um, certain needs. So there was a long line (even longer than what you see at the Folk Festival) at an impressive row of porta-potties under the nearly full moon and still-illuminated bridge in the distance, i.e., everything about this event was incredibly organized & picturesque. Then the crowd — it was a mob, really: a sea of colorful Ts, black leggings, bobbing ponytails and baseball caps — took off gently/gradually/quietly in quasi-dark conditions around the ramp, through the tolls and on toward those familiar gray trestles (if that's the word for them). It was a long hill up — at the peak, I venture to say everyone experienced a real "top o' the morning" feeling — then a long hill down. To be honest, I thought I'd end up walking, but I didn't. I kept running. Not too fast, admittedly. With much appreciation for the long hill down. I even accepted a cup of water from a volunteer on the sidelines at one point, toward the end — just like you see real runners do on T.V. — but when I tried to drink it while still running/bobbing and dodging pedestrian traffic, I couldn't do so without spilling all down my front, so I just dropped the cup on Farewell Street with all the other cups, even though it felt vaguely awful to the point of unnatural to engage in littering.

The finish line, by comparison, felt fine ...

Suggestion (added later): Check out Tillerman's take on the bridge-crossing and all manner of other stuff including but not limited to Laser sailing. As it turns out, Tillerman & I crossed the finish line four seconds apart. We didn't know it, though, as we haven't met. Yet. Could he be one of those guys right there (<<)??