Take the Bridge - Run Different
An unsanctioned race, invitation only, founded by lululemon NYC Ambassador Darcy Budworth in 2015 - Take the Bridge, redefines how you race. Finding the balance between community and racing, the underground pop up race connects runners from different crews, different run clubs, different cities around the world.
Hosted by AM:PM run crew, 16 runners took to the streets of Melbourne in the dark at 9pm on Sunday 7th March to battle it out from bridge to bridge. Hours before the race, the location and racing checkpoints were revealed to the runners, who then went away and mapped out their run, taking away their sense of control with all the knowns removed until the last minute.
We spoke to Darcy Budworth, founder of Take the Bridge & lululemon NYC Ambassador, Ben Clement, AM:PM Run Crew Founder & lululemon Emporium Ambassador and Sean Marshall, Take the Bridge Melbourne Race Director, about the unique, grassroots race that celebrates a pure and common love of running.
lululemon: Take the Bridge offers so much more than the average road 5K - tell us about the concept behind the race what you wanted to emulate?
Darcy Budworth: I created Take The Bridge 6 years ago to give runners another option for racing. TTB is based on the concept of stripping down all the typical metrics of racing and instead focusing on the pure element of racing dynamically with the person next to you. With no set course, there are no mile markers. The distance is determined by whatever route you take. So instead of trying to hit your known 5k or 10k pace, you are more focused on racing with the person next to you. As a result, you are more present in your race, and you experience "racing" in a whole new light.
lululemon: This is the first time Melbourne has been a part of Take The Bridge - what attracted you to Melbourne & AM:PM run crew?
Darcy Budworth: I've been watching AM:PM for a while now on Instagram, and have been drawn to the crew for its ability to create community in a competitive running environment. From what I've seen, there is a healthy amount of challenging one another to run fast, mixed with connecting with the collective to form a family that supports one another. These are the two main things I look for when selecting crews to partner with. So as I have watched AM:PM throughout the years, it has always been a dream crew to work with. And of course, Melbourne is Melbourne - it’s a dream vacation destination, so why not have a race there?!
lululemon: Running is typically considered an individual sport but a race like TTB bridges the gap by celebrating community connection with running. How can an everyday runner tap into the same energy?
Darcy Budworth: TTB is about two things, running fast (or finding your fast) and community. Sometimes when you are solo, you can get in your own head and put limitations on yourself. I see this particularly in training, or racing set distances, thinking "I must hit this time". But what I have experienced through TTB is that through community, and getting rid of those metrics, you can actually surprise yourself with what you are capable of. Community is so important, because it gets you out of your head, and instead of thinking about you as an individual, you think of the collective. During the pandemic I have seen community come together for virtual races. that in a way reminds of TTB. Runners create courses for their own virtual race, with planned areas for cheering and friends pacing. I've seen small races created within a virtual race via a 5k on the track or a small group all doing a race together. And through each of these, you see runners coming together to support one another in their own goals.
lululemon: What stood out to you about Take the Bridge & inspired you to bring the event to life with AM:PM in Melbourne?
Sean: From the moment Take the Bridge was brought to my attention, I was fascinated with the concept of an unsanctioned, no holds barred foot race through the streets. Coming from a musical promotion background (mainly punk music) this format really spoke to me in terms of how raw and off the cuff the race format can be. The whole idea of the race being best run by not only the fastest, but the geographically smartest person was a unique twist on something already as high octane as street racing. After living in the city for around seven years now, my brain instantly lit up with ideas of where the course could potentially be mapped out. I knew as a community, and from our Thursday mornings on the track AM:PM not only had people passionate about racing, but were also super keen on reaching out to runners from around Melbourne to take part in the event. With myself acting as the logistical head alongside a crew including talented artists, photographers and creators it was an exciting challenge that I couldn’t wait to get started on.
lululemon: As race director, what were the considerations you had to make TTB unique in Australia, compared to other races?
Sean: As a city, the grid layout of Melbourne's CBD makes it one of the easiest places in the world to get around. However, there are a wealth of laneways, shortcuts and thoroughfares that only the locals would know how to navigate. The checkpoints I set out for the racers could be as straight forward or complicated as they wanted it to be. But I think the thing that made the race so unique in the end was the foot traffic racers experienced along the busier parts of their routes. NYC hosted an event the night before and due to the freezing temperatures and harsh wind chill the course was void of too many bystanders. By comparison, a Melbourne long weekend towards the end of summertime prompted an additional challenge for racers that surprisingly everyone fully embraced. Many coming across the finish line explaining how exhilarating it was to be dodging bodies through the crowds past the bright lights of the casino along the river. This was captured fantastically by photographers against the juxtaposition of the quieter parts of the course.
lululemon: The race was only one night but the impression continues on - what kind of impact do you hope Take The Bridge had on runners?
Sean: In a year that has brought so much isolation to people, I’m glad that everyone got together to embrace the experience of racing. To see everyone’s nervous energy before the race was super inspiring. From the outside looking in as an organiser, it gave me such a different insight into how people deal with those situations. But to see everyone’s elation at the finish line was a great sight. Everybody had a different story and outlook on their race experience and seeing different people from different crews sharing their viewpoints and giving each other props was an awesome thing to see and hear. I hope that runners were impacted in the same way and to keep connecting and sharing.
lululemon: One of the unique things about the race is the degree of uncertainty - what stood out to you in the way that each runner attacked the race differently?
Ben Clement: As part of the race organizing team, we'd done a lot of planning around the route, we all knew or thought we knew somewhat how things would play out. But even when we had the knowledge of the night, so many unexpected things happened and even us not racing we really had to think super quickly and make very fast diverting decisions. So if it was that electric for us, it was even more so for the runners. The unexpected amount of foot traffic, not being used to running at night. It was interesting to chat with everyone, there's a balance between those whose competitive edge shines bright and those whose motivation is purely participation. And that balance is beautiful.
lululemon: What is your interpretation for ‘Run Different’ in relation to Take The Bridge?
Ben Clement: When I think of Run Different, I break the two words up. Run is what we do naturally, it's the basis of what we do. Different is where we start to play and experiment. TtB is exactly this, Yes, we are running, but the different, the different is open to be molded, shaped, torn apart, and re-built every time.
lululemon: Tell us about your key takeaways from the event and your most memorable moment of the race?
Ben Clement: Two things come to mind: Firstly when I'd just finished chasing the lead guys with my camera I thought I would make my way back to a spot to catch the lead women on their way back to the finish. I thought I had a good 5min up my sleeve, and then I saw over the river a flashing bike light and a runner really moving it. I realized it was Sophie Elliot who won the women's heat. From that moment I realized how electric this race was. Secondly, getting back to the finish line, and seeing how truly tired and dripping with sweat everyone was. But smiles were beaming. There was an energy in the air that a lot of us were talking about and feeling for days after the event.