Newport, RI – While many Rhode Islanders remained cozy in their beds on Sunday morning, more than 2,600 runners and walkers crossed the Claiborne Pell Bridge on foot during the eight annual Citizens Bank Pell Bridge Run. All of the proceeds from this local-favorite event are donated to non-profits, and participants are encouraged to fundraise on their own as well; this year, the event raised more than $160,000 for charity.

Despite the chilly, wet weather that seems to have become typical in Rhode Island this October, runners and walkers were all smiles as they completed the 4-mile course. The run/walk, which starts in Jamestown and brings participants over the Pell Bridge and into Newport, still boasted its signature, stunning views of Aquidneck Island and Narragansett Bay. The Citizens Bank Pell Bridge Run is the only day of the year pedestrians are permitted on the bridge. The event hosted by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Foundation and is produced by Gray Matter Marketing.

Geoff Nelson, from Providence, Rhode Island, won the 2018 race with a finish time of 21:19. Nelson, a Citizens Bank employee, has run the Citizens Bank Pell Bridge Run for seven consecutive years — and he has won every time. “It was lucky number seven this year,” said Nelson after his win. “This was a tough one, we’ve lucked out each year with weather but this year was challenging. But, there will still so many runners out there and it really is a great event.”

Nelson was more than a minute ahead of the second place finisher in the end, but had some competition on the bridge. “There were a couple of little guys with me for the first few hundred yards,” said Nelson with a smile. “I remember being the little kid that would be the one who would always sprint out to the front. It’s cool that whole families run and walk this event together.”

Graeme Clougher, from Newport, Rhode Island finished in 22:21, followed by Brett Musco from Cambridge, Massachusetts in 22:27.

Megan O’Kelly, a 16-year-old West Warwick High School cross country runner, took the top spot on the women’s podium, blazing across the finish line in just 25:15. “My mom always wanted to do this race, and my whole family is walking it, so I decided to just go for it,” said O’Kelly. “The downhill helped a lot with the tougher conditions. It’s smooth sailing once you get to the top. I hope to come back for another year.”

Courtney Koehler, from Newport, Rhode Island finished second overall for the women at 26:07, and the women’s podium was rounded out by Sutton, Massachusetts’ Jaqueline Shakar in 26:43.

Finishers ranged in age from Liam Hager, a 5-year-old from Newport, Rhode Island, to 82-year-old Gail Healy, from Springfield, Massachusetts. Teams from local and regional non-profits and running clubs came out in force in matching jerseys and costumes.

Members of the Newport Fire Depatment — Lt. Aaron Buehler, FF Evan Katz, FF Eddie Valen, FF Keith Nicodemus, FF Ryan Maloney, FF Mike Marotta, and FF Marcus Cochran — ran the race in full gear,  including oxygen tanks, as members of the International Association of Firefighters and the organization’s support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. “It was a great day,” said Eddie Valen. “There was a great sense of community, great pride in serving Newport, and it was great to continue on in the tradition of helping others in need.”

An event of this scale would not be possible without the support of sponsors, first responders and volunteers. The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority and Gray Matter Marketing would like to extend thanks to the Newport Police Department, Jamestown Police Department, and the Rhode Island State Police for providing key support during the race. Title sponsor Citizens Bank continues to make the Pell Bridge Run a success year after year. Sponsors Run Newport, Keville Enterprises, Polar Seltzer, Newport Shipyard, WSP, Liberty Donuts, Hotel Viking, Kind Snacks, Fagan Door, Onne Van Der Wal, Discover Newport, Hippeas Snacks, Newport & Co. Physical Therapy, Studio Barre Newport, Newport Sock Exchange, Sole Desire and Griff Electric are incredible supporters of the event.

For a full list of supported non-profits, results, and photos, visit A date for the 2019 Citizens Bank Pell Bridge Run will be announced soon.

All Photos Courtesy of Clancy Creative/Gray Matter Marketing

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).