For the 11th year, runners (and walkers) will wake up early on Labor Day and take their marks, ready to traverse the expanse of San Pedro’s iconic green bridge.
Some 4,000 participants are expected to take part in the Conquer the Bridge race this year, with 3,000 having signed up to tackle the 5.3-mile course as of Monday, Aug. 26; the race should get about 1,000 more, officials say, as signups continue through the morning of the race itself.
When Conquer the Bridge began, in 2009, 1,500 people competed.
“It’s kind of at capacity now,” said founder and organizer Michael-Patrick Hogue.
This year’s race — which begins at 7 a.m. Monday, Sept. 2, and will feature fine weather, with highs topping out in the 70s — will include a larger participation by military personnel, who will be in town for LA Fleet Week, Hogue said.
“A lot of the ships have signed up and we have a huge (60 participants) contingent from the El Segundo Air Force base,” he said. “We have a fairly large contingent from the Coast Guard.”
But while the run has hit its stride, that doesn’t mean it won’t see changes in the future.
As participants head out from Harbor Boulevard to go over the Vincent Thomas Bridge — which will be closed to traffic from 3 to 11 a.m. — they’ll travel east, toward what could become a game-changer in the race as yearly as next year: the new Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement.
Hogue has already begun dreaming of a bridge-to-bride run that would sweep the new structure, set to open in early 2020, into the Conquer the Bridge route. The 5.3-mile course on the Vincent Thomas would remain, however, even if a longer course incorporated.
“There’s no reason not to do it,” he said. “I already have huge participation from Long Beach and it would create a huge amount of good will and press” for that city.
“It would be the best bridge run in the world,” he added.
The biggest challenge would be the permits, he said, because they’d have to be in hand within six-to-nine months if the 2020 Conquer the Bridge run is to include the new bridge.
Lee Peterson, spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, said once the bridge is finished, it will be turned over to Caltrans as part of the state highway system.
“It should be similar to the Vincent Thomas,” he said. “The new bridge will be very wide, so that may give Caltrans options in determining whether just closing a lane and a shoulder or so would be enough” to accommodate a bridge run.
That bridge is also being built to include pedestrian and bike paths.
“A lot of people will have to cooperate to do it,” he said.
This year’s Conquer the Bridge Run, meanwhile, will feature two longtime participants: Richard Windishar, 89, of Manhattan Beach, and Sue Reinhardt, 73, who lives on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
They will receive the Dr. Mike Award, which Hogue introduced last year to honor the memory of Mike Zareski, a popular South Bay veterinarian who was killed in a small airplane crash in December 2017. He was a regular participant in the race.
If you go
When: 7 a.m. Monday, Sept. 2.
Where: Habor Boulevard, near the entrance to the Vincent Thomas Bridge.
Cost: Free to attend; $55 to compete, if you register early; $65 to register on race day.