“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”

– Dorrie, Finding Nemo

I felt like Dorrie Saturday morning except I wasn’t swimming. I was running. 

Saturday I ran the Sidney Lanier Bridge Run, or “Death Run” as Jeremy labeled it early on. Crossing that finish line marked the second time I’ve competed in a 5K, the first time I’ve run an event since I turned 30 and, most remarkably, the first time I’ve ever placed in any kind of sporting event. Athletics have never been my forte. 

As Ashley (the person who talked me into this) and I approached the bridge Saturday morning to check in for the run, she tried to snap a photo. We craned our necks. Sidney appeared a lot taller than we recalled.

We instantly felt nervous.

The gun fired. We were near the back of the crowd and trudged toward the starting line, picking up pace gradually. I turned on my music and began weaving around folks as everyone settled into their own running rhythm … and then I lost Ashley. No worries though. She conquered the Bridge Run, too.

A live band played at the top, heralding the arrival of each runner as we crested the peak. They cheered. Runners smiled and waved then picked up pace for the easier sprint down the other side. We waved on the way back over too, but not nearly with as much gusto.

The fastest runners were heading up again as most of us neared the bottom of the bridge. I observed their labored breathing and sweat beading up on their foreheads with butterflies in my stomach. I’d be grinding my way back up soon too, my shins and thighs burning with the effort. Would I make it?

I trained for that incline at the gym, hoping I was estimating the steepness well enough, and even ran the night before Saturday’s event. Yeah, I’m an overachiever. What I didn’t account for was the lower back strength I’d need for maintaining posture on those downhill sprints, especially the last one when my legs felt like silly string. 

I’ve always been a critic of participation trophies, but I grabbed the Bridge Run medal proudly when I crossed the finish line. It represents much more than participation in this instance. I’ve been running regularly for months, hitting the gym when I’d much rather go to bed and munching on salads when a burger is what I really craved.

I made up for the loss of several burgers after the run though when we celebrated at Sal’s Pizzeria with friends and topped the day off with caramel cake.

Monday my muscles hurt  — even some I didn’t know I had yelped in protest. But, I made a startling discovery as I recollected on the run while writing this column.

I think I know what my grandparents – and yours too most likely – were describing when they claimed to walk “five miles to school uphill both ways.” They must’ve had to cross the Sidney Lanier bridge or a similar sky-scraping, cabled causeway on their way to and from school! 

Somebody’s grandparents are still making that trek. 

Men in their 80s and women in their 70s also competed in the bridge run Saturday. Maybe if I maintain Dorrie’s motto I’ll still be running over the bridge four decades from now. You can be sure there’ll be another column about that, too, if it happens.

• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Times. Email her at sgove@theblacksheartimes.com.