KEY WEST, Florida Keys — While many runners adhere to a “no pain, no gain” philosophy, that’s not the case for participants in the Florida Keys’ Cow Key Channel Bridge Run. Instead, they follow a 300-foot-long course across the Keys’ shortest bridge in the offbeat challenge dubbed a “zero k race.”
Designed for “athletes” who don’t like to wake up early or break a sweat, the 2018 event is set for noon Sunday, April 15. Participants run, walk or amble across the bridge over the Cow Key Channel that separates the entrance to Key West from neighboring Stock Island.
Many wear quirky costumes and all are encouraged to travel at their own pace, clocking their own time while attempting to beat the course record of 23.1 seconds. Separate heats are planned for racers with pets, relay teams and those vying to cross the bridge in the slowest possible time.
“It’s a pretty grueling bridge crossing — you know, 300 feet — so as a safety precaution, we set up a hydration station right in the middle of the bridge,” quipped event co-host David Sloan. “We make sure everybody gets hydrated so they can make the next 150 feet.”
Beginning at 10 a.m., entrants can gather in the “costumed cow corral” for final registration, race packet pickup and “grazing” with friends. An opening ceremony is scheduled at 11:45 a.m.
At noon, chiming cowbells signal the start of the challenge. Participants race on the Overseas Heritage Trail beside the bridge so vehicular traffic is not disrupted.
A post-race party is planned at the Sunset Green event lawn, located between The Gates Hotel Key West and 24 North Hotel and adjacent to Rum Row, 3824 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
Entry is $10 per person and includes a souvenir race bib. The coveted “Golden Calf” awards await winners in multiple categories. A portion of proceeds is donated to the Monroe County Sheriff's Animal Farm.
The Cow Key Channel event is scheduled the day after the Middle Keys’ annual Seven Mile Bridge Run, which typically draws a sold-out field of 1,500 people to race across one of the world’s longest segmental bridges.
Cow Key Channel Bridge Run information: cowkeybridgerun.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY