KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The Cow Key Channel Bridge, stretching about 300 feet between Key West and neighboring Stock Island, is among the shortest of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway's 42 bridges. It's also the site of a wacky "zero k race" set for Sunday, April 2, for people who want to compete in an "athletic" challenge without breaking a sweat.
Hundreds of entrants typically take part in annual race, including many wearing cow or bull costumes inspired by the name of the bridge. Some bring their dogs or other domestic animals, though actual bovines are not allowed.
Participants are encouraged to move at their own pace and clock their own times as they travel the "grueling" distance. Separate heats are staged for competitors with pets, relay teams and people vying to post the slowest possible time.
In the 2016 race, Key West's Blake Steinke blazed across the 300-foot course ahead of all rivals, earning a coveted "Golden Calf" award. Other entrants wore bovine accessories and bright-colored tutus, and one "herd" carried signs reading, "Give Cheese a Chance." Even canines sported black-and-white cow costumes.
"A lot of people say we're 'milking it' with the Cow Key Channel Bridge Run, but it's 'udderly' awesome," quipped race co-producer David Sloan.
Entrants in the 2017 race are to gather beginning at 10 a.m. in the "costumed cow corral" at the entrance to Key West for "grazing," final registration, race packet pickup and costume judging.
The opening ceremony is scheduled for 11:45 a.m., following at noon by the ringing of cowbells to start the stampede across the bridge.
Participants race on the Overseas Heritage Trail beside the bridge so vehicular traffic is not disrupted. A water station at the halfway point encourages "athletes" to stay hydrated.
A post-race party is planned at the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden, 5210 College Road. Attractions include live music, food trucks, libations and awards presentations in multiple categories.
Entry is $10 per person and includes a souvenir race bib. 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
Entrants in past events wore bovine accessories and bright-colored tutus, and one "herd" carried signs reading, "Give Cheese a Chance."
Cow Key Channel Bridge, stretching about 300 feet between Key West and neighboring Stock Island, is among the shortest of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway's 42 bridges.