When New Yorker and eight-time marathoner Darcy Budworth, 36, organized her first race across the city’s Queensboro Bridge in 2015, she didn’t anticipate that the unsanctioned event would evolve into the full-fledged series it is today: Take the Bridge.
Budworth has since organized two dozen races around the world. They’re not your typical one-milers or 5Ks. Instead, each starts on one side of a bridge and ends on the other, with distances ranging from 1.2 miles (for the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City) to 4.4 miles (for which runners crossed two bridges in Portland, Oregon). Eager runners have flocked to those cities as well as Chicago, Austin, London, and beyond to participate in the races, which often sell out within minutes.
Sure, the views are alluring. But with their inclines, bridges also double as the perfect terrain for interval and speed work, says Diana Katsikaris, a Precision Run coach at Equinox Chestnut Hill in Boston. This makes them a great addition to any fitness program, whether you’re training for a race or trying to build muscle power.
Below, Budworth shares her favorite locations. To help you make the most of every bridge run, Katsikaris created specific interval workouts to match.
Linking Manhattan and Brooklyn across the East River, this was the world’s longest suspension bridge when it opened in 1903. “If you start in Manhattan, the uphill is fairly steep,” Budworth says. She recommends running it before 9 a.m., when fewer pedestrians crowd the path.
Total distance: 2.76 to 5.52 miles
Start on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. After your warm-up, run a half mile at your 10K pace, then pause to complete the following sequence: 10 jumping jacks, 10 burpees, 10 squat jumps, 10 push-ups, and a 1-minute plank. “These HIIT exercises elevate your heart rate and will benefit your running in the long term by improving your form, core strength, and ankle mobility,” Katsikaris says.
Run another half mile at your 10K pace, then sprint for one-tenth of a mile, recover for one-tenth of a mile, sprint for one-tenth of a mile, and recover for the last 0.8 miles to the end of the bridge. Turn around and repeat, starting at 10K pace up the steeper hill. This will strengthen the posterior chain, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, Katsikaris says. Complete 1 or 2 round trips on the bridge.
Dubbed the “Bridge of the People,” this is the largest pedestrian-only offering in the U.S. Its angled cables mirror the shape of Mount Hood, visible in the distance. “Portland is divided east and west by the Willamette River, so it’s a bridge city,” Budworth says. Farther south of downtown than the others, this one sees fewer visitors, making it perfect for running. “Though it’s short, the footpath is wide and there’s a gentle incline that’s great for repeats.”
Total distance: 1.92 miles
After your warm-up, do a three-part progressive sprint across the length of the bridge with each portion lasting about one-tenth of a mile. Start at your 10K pace, speed up over the next tenth of a mile, and run the last portion of the bridge at an all-out sprint. Do an active recovery at the end of the bridge, jogging in place (for 30 seconds) and performing leg swings (holding onto a pole or railing for support, completing 10 leg swings per side).
Perform this run-and-recovery combo 6 times, for 3 total round trips on the bridge. End with these core finishers, doing each for 1 minute: high plank with shoulder taps, forearm plank, Downward Dog push-ups, V-sits, and Russian twists. “Core strength helps you attack hills, maintain efficient form, and ultimately run faster,” Katsikaris says.
Financed in the 1930s by the same family that owns the Guinness brewing company, this suspension bridge connects Vancouver’s city center and Stanley Park. Its design is similar to San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge. With 58 feet of gain, the path leading up to it on the Stanley Park side feels like a workout in and of itself, Budworth says.
Total distance: 4.56 miles
After your warm-up, run for a quarter mile at a moderate speed (about half marathon pace), recover for a quarter mile, and repeat the sequence once more. Sprint for a tenth of a mile, then recover for the last short stretch of the bridge. Perform this sequence 4 times. These repeats will help you run negative splits when you race, Katsikaris says.
This bridge became iconic in part for its International Orange paint, chosen to provide visibility to passing ships and to complement the natural surroundings of the city. “It’s nice to run on when it opens at 5 a.m. before sunrise,” Budworth says. “The path toward the bridge offers an amazing view of the lit-up structure.”
Total distance: 6.8 miles
After your warm-up, run 1 mile at your 10K pace and a half mile at your 5K pace. Recover for one-tenth of a mile, then sprint the last tenth of a mile to the end of the bridge. Turn around and complete this sequence in reverse order, starting with the sprint. Complete 2 round trips. "This is a great workout to incorporate into your half marathon or marathon training cycle," Katsikaris says. "It builds stamina and can lead to faster splits and finish times."