For the first time in three years, a full field of 1,500 runners pounded the pavement before sunrise in Marathon’s 41st annual Seven Mile Bridge Race on April 2. An early start and overcast skies for the first 40 minutes of the race provided temporary relief for runners. battling otherwise hot and humid conditions to cross the longest overseas stretch of the Keys.

For the second year in a row, the race started at the west end of the bridge, challenging runners to run into the rising sun and conserve their energy to conquer the 65-foot-tall half-mile hill of the bridge later in the race.

The overall standings saw both familiar faces and new faces as the local athletes put on a strong showing. Collin Wainwright, 26, a resident of Springfield, Pa., was the first to break the tape as he won his second consecutive overall title in 38 minutes, 6 seconds, followed by Derek Morgan of Davie, Fla. (39:51 ) and Marathon High School. student Vaclav Bursa (41:29).

On the women’s side, marathon triathlete Holly Smith, 37, crossed the line in 43 minutes and 23 seconds, followed by Anne DenOtter of Tavernier (43:29) and Alice Henley of Fort Lauderdale (43:34) .

“The race always turns out to be a fantastic event,” said former race director and current registration coordinator Bobbie Bayles, noting that this year’s race overcame logistical challenges to run a full field of competitors in a new management and move the race afterparty from its former location to the 33rd Street boat launch in Marathon. “It doesn’t matter how many walls we come across. One way or another, there is always a little hole we go through. The race was great. »

Photos by Barry Gaukel and Andy Newman

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MEET THE CHAMPIONS

COLLIN WAINWRIGHT

Collin Wainwright breaks the tape to win the overall title. BARRY GAUCEL / Weekly Keys

Collin Wainwright, 26, from Springfield, Pennsylvania, knew there was a target on his back after earning his first overall victory in the 2021 bridge race. With intimidating heat and humidity that challenged the front runners, he knew the key to this year’s victory was to stick to his game plan, regardless of others who got ahead of him in the early stages of the race.

“I’ve already put in a lot of effort and exploded in the last two miles or so, so I knew I didn’t want to do that,” he said. Staying close to the other members of the leading pack, Wainwright took the lead on the bridge hill course and never looked back.

How does this year’s win compare to last year’s?

“This year has been much wetter. It was brutal. The last run I did before coming here was around 20 degrees, so it was really a shock to the system. Last year I felt a lot more comfortable a lot further into the race. This year I felt that everything after the first kilometer was very laborious.

What are your pre-race rituals?

“Every year before the race my family has a huge spaghetti dinner and I eat as much spaghetti as I can. We do this with my aunt and uncle (from Marathon), Trich and Pete Worthington.

What’s on your running playlist?

“I listen to Eric Thomas motivational videos. The theme of ‘Requiem for a Dream’, which is all orchestra. “Eye of the Tiger” from “Rocky”, because I have to represent Philly. And then Eminem.

HOLLY SMITH

Holly Smith wins the Women’s Division title in 43:23. BARRY GAUCEL / Weekly Keys

Holly Smith is the 2022 Women’s Seven Mile Bridge Run Champion. But for her, this run was just a tune-up. The 37-year-old marathon triathlete has her sights set on an Ironman in May, and although she initially entered the race as a practice run, she realized with a mile to go she had a shot at winning the first price.

“I was planning on running a little faster than my half marathon pace, and I saw a few girls who looked like they wanted to get out pretty quickly, so I thought if I could keep them in my sights, it would be be a really good day,” Smith said. “I was second for most of the race, and I thought that was where I was going to stay. But I saw the first place in front of me and I caught it a little more. I was running my own race, but once I realized I had a chance to win, I said, “Well, time to step it up a bit.”

What are your pre-race rituals?

“I probably queue for the bathroom four different times, because I’m always nervous.”

Was it child’s play after training for an Ironman?

“It was really weird for me to just run, because I’m so used to getting off a bike. At the start of the race, I felt like my legs weren’t working. It took me about half a mile to realize, ‘Okay, now I’m running.’

What’s the funniest thing on your running playlist?

“Without looking, I think I probably have Disney songs on it.”