For the first time since 1982, when a group of local runners who frequently lapped Sombrero Country Club golf course together decided to traverse the landmark Middle Keys bridge to celebrate the structure’s opening, the 31st Annual 7 Mile Bridge Race was cancelled because of inclement weather.
“We wanted to run the race,” explained co-organizer Ginger Sayer. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it was the correct one. We had a responsibility to get our volunteers out of there.”
A front scheduled to sweep across the Florida Keys early Saturday morning brought torrential rain that subsided only slightly as the sun rose. Sayer said co-organizer Bobbie Bayles was in tears when she made the final call just as the runners were scheduled to take off from the east end of the bridge.
Seconds later, a bolt of lighting struck the water in front of Sunset Grille, and runners, well, ran.
Sayer said she’s since heard that conditions on the west end of the bridge were far worse, and many have since contemplated the slipperiness of the roadway for runners when crossing “The Hump.”
The hundreds of volunteers each year who help pull off the run distributed as many t-shirts, medals and commemorative buttons that were so graciously donated by local businesses Publix and Marathon Vacation.com, respectively. Upon request, Sayer said they are mailing memorabilia out to runners upon request.
The $65 entry fee for runners will not be refunded as is stated to applicants during the registration process. Sayer said when the field closed in the first six minutes of registration this year, the invariably began fielding phone calls to refund registration fees for a myriad of reasons.
“People would call a few days later saying they’d broken their leg and wouldn’t be able to run or had a family illness, but our expenses remain the same each year,” Sayer continued. “We still have to close the bridge, have safety people stationed out there…speaking in insurance terms, this was an act of God.”
Last year, the Marathon Runners Club, who’ve organized the event since its inception, doled out $34,000 to Marathon Middle/High School alone. The event’s charitable contributions back to the community each year average $50,000.
After this year’s online registration process filled the field in under six minutes, Sayer said the club is contemplating opening registration for locals a week early for a specific number of slots.
The 32nd Annual 7 Mile Bridge Run is scheduled for Saturday, April 13, 2013.