James Island Connector Run Review (49:52)

Hey everyone! I hope you guys had a great Halloween and a great weekend if you were off. Our was pretty good- we got tons of trick-or-treaters and ran out of candy early (partially my fault for giving the multiple pieces) and watched SNL.

I was off work Friday and headed downtown to eat lunch with Nadine; we had a great time eating lunch at a new-to-us deli and dessert at Kaminsky’s, an old-to-us but still delicious dessert bar before picking up my race number for the James Island Connector Run.

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Dessert *is* the perfect way to “carb load” before a race and celebrate your birthday late (my company gives us a day off for our birthday and you can take it at any time during the month of your birthday or shortly after, so that’s why I was off work- pretty awesome policy if you ask me!). After the deliciousness, I settled in at home to rest up for the race.


Held each November, the James Island Connector Run is your only chance to (legally) run, walk, or bike over the Charleston/James Island Connector, crossing the Ashley River. The race is a pretty big event here (over 1200 participants this year), but of course, it’s overshadowed by the well-known Cooper River Bridge Run in the Spring.

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This year, the Cooper River Bridge Run introduced a corral system that allows you to start in the first corral if you can rock a 10K finishing time of 45:00 or less, and since this race is one of the few 10Ks in the area, the field was pretty stacked with people wanting to run below 45 minutes. If you run this 10K in under 45 minutes, you’re probably Kenyan and *deserve* to be at the very front of the Cooper River Bridge Run.

To celebrate the James Island Connector Run’s 15th anniversary, the race offered finisher’s medals to the first 1,000 participants. Fewer than 1,000 people participated last year, so I don’t know if the organizers expected so many when ordering medals, but some people would not leave with a medal and no one wanted to be one of those people.

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A few people were upset they did not get medals, even though the race clearly stated there were only 1,000, and most 5K and 10K medals give nothing just for finishing. Knowing that you’re not guaranteed a medal means that you’ll give 100% on the course- which is how it should be, especially in a relatively inexpensive 5K or 10K.

On race morning, I got up to hydrate, caffeinate, and eat my Pop Tart (new pre-race food of choice after last weekend’s PR at the Pajama Run 5K), then Clay and I carpooled to the start.

Everyone was advised to arrive early and we did… really early! We ended up standing around a lot, almost an hour, but fortunately didn’t have to wait super long for potties to take some pre-race pictures. Snagging a parking spot on the third level of the MUSC garage was pretty nice too.

The race started right on time at 8:30, with the bikes starting first, then the runners. We took off down Bennett Street, and my one regret is that I didn’t get closer to the front, because I thought we’d have a timing mat at the start. There was no mat, so I could’ve shaved probably a minute off my time if I hadn’t started so far back (I was busy chatting at the start too). The start was a little congested, unavoidable with a race this size in Downtown Charleston where the streets are pretty narrow, but everyone spread out quickly when we could see the connector in the horizon.

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You feel all three inclines (hills?) of the connector, and if you run the 10K, it’s six inclines/declines. The 10K runners ran an out-and-back, and the 5K runners stopped at the halfway mark and were shuttled back to the finish line party at Cannon Park. The course was well marked (mile markers at each mark, and it’s difficult to get lost running over a bridge and back) and had several water stops and porta-potties at the halfway point for 5K runners finishing or 10K runners needing to potty. The setup was obviously well thought out.

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The last hill/incline got everyone in the 10K! By Mile 5, you’re pretty wiped out and all you want to do is speed to the finish, but that’s hard to do when the hardest incline of the course is right there (of course, you didn’t feel so bad going down in when you were at mile 1…). After getting over the hill, I sped up a little then made the right turn close to Mile 6, which is when I turned onto the street to finish the 10K in 49:52. I wasn’t going “PR or ER” (my 10K PR is 47:50 anyway), but I was determined to finish in under 50 minutes.

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I got my coveted medal, then went back to cheer on runners and cool down. I cheered for people by their shirts or by name if I knew them, and cooled down with Krystal and Gary, then we ran in with Noah, Jennifer, Liz, and Carolyn from the TrySports Run Club.

By this time, the 5Kers were back from their finish on the shuttles. Clay also earned the finisher’s medal.

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The after party was also pretty great and worth sticking around for. The race took over Cannon Park with a band, free beer, hot dogs, and refreshments. Best of all, the vendors set up had candy out for us, so I definitely enjoyed a few pieces. A race 2 days after Halloween should definitely have candy for those of us adults who miss out on the holiday (I know I can buy candy, but nothing beats trick-or-treat candy variety).

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The James Island Connector Run 10K was the hardest road course I’ve run. Six very difficult hills on a 6.2 mile course, along with the terrain of the connector, is pretty rough.  None of us who set time goals met our time goals, unfortunately- and while I’m perfectly satisfied with my time on such a hard course, I am a bit sad for some who missed the sub-45 cut off by just a few seconds.

Running the James Island Connector Run 10K is the pain and soreness equivalent of a half marathon on your body. Your legs will feel it the next day. Charleston locals fear running the Cooper River Bridge, but with only one sharp incline (and a nice long decline) in that 10K, this makes the bridge look easy. However- I* highly* recommend this race.

As a seasoned runner, this race was well thought out with the participants in mind. It’s well-organized, has a great after party, and all the volunteers were wonderful. It’s smaller than the Cooper River Bridge Run but still a pretty large race, and it’s a challenge that you can- and should- be proud of.

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Along with thirteen other local runners, I served as an official race ambassador for the James Island Connector Run. I received a free race entry as well as a discount code to share with my friends and readers. I was not paid and all opinions are my own.

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37 Responses to James Island Connector Run Review (49:52)

  1. Stacy Legg says:

    I really did enjoy this race! I will most definitely be back next year and do the 10K. It was great to see you!!!!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It was great seeing you too and I’m glad you came down! Congratulations on such a great time for a difficult course and earning the finisher’s medal (somehow I knew you would get it!!).

      I also really loved this race because it was a fun one but without the crazy crowd and hype of the bridge run. Big, but not huge :).

  2. KrisLawrence says:

    That course sounds tough! Nice work and very nice medal. I think its interesting there was no timing mat at the start with a race of 1000+ runners. Anyway, great job and way to get us all hungry with that pie picture early on a Monday morning 😉

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks- yeah, a very tough course. Hardest road race I’ve done, course wise. I think the final run number was 1200+ (1400 total, but there was a bike ride as well).

      I dunno why I expected a timing mat. I realize probably 95% of runners don’t think like this, but with the huge crowd I didn’t want to dodge a ton so I started in the back thinking that (and how much fun it would be go to out fast and pass people once I got out).

      Guess I should walk to the start and check next time then stay there or walk back if there is a timing mat!

  3. Caitlin says:

    Hi Amy!
    I’m the ‘lurker’ who said “hi” to you at the end of the race. It was fun to meet you in person! Great write-up and great run! I look forward to seeing you at another race in the future!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Caitlin! It’s fun to see you come out of the lurker woodwork, hehe. Congratulations on an awesome time at the race; let me know if you ever want to run sometime or have any races coming up!

  4. Steph says:

    “Hills”

    Haha. I have to make a little bit of fun =) Looks like a fun race, and you had a good one too!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I feel weird calling them hills… I always figure hills are natural, and the connector is obviously man made.

      I’m convinced the speed bumps in my neighborhood display on elevation maps on Garmin. Charleston is the flattest place ever.

  5. I agree — it was an awesome race and the after party is the best I’ve seen for a 5k/10k. And the fact that you get medals; you really can’t beat that for a 10k. I was glad to see you! I’m looking forward to getting back to Saturday long runs on IOP. Hopefully next week (this week I have the Spartan race thanks to you =))

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I miss our long runs too! I can’t wait to hear about your Spartan Race. Let’s go ahead and plan a long endurance run for Nov. 16- which is next Saturday. I really need a good 12-13 miler! My longest since the marathon was 11 a few weeks ago at IOP- I have done so many races lately, it’s crazy! But it’s been fun too- if I wind up racing this Saturday, I am definitely getting a long run in on Thursday, I can’t keep skipping em!

  6. spectacuLAUR says:

    Congrats on finishing the “hilly” run! My half marathon had a SUPER hill at the 12 mile mark and I thought I was going to die afterward. It was bad. I just remember turning the corner and being like, “Son of a… WHY?!” Haha!

    And free candy ALWAYS tastes better than bought candy!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I hate hills at the end of the race! By then you’re already wiped out, bleh. Sometimes it does help to just keep your head down when going up because looking at the hill can psych you out.

  7. allieksmith says:

    I think it’s great that your work gives you a day off for your birthday. Nothing better than that, I bet! I love your use of hills/incline! That’s too funny! I wish the races around Pittsburgh were more flat!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I don’t know what to call it- hill or incline? It’s man made so I hate calling it a hill, I always think of a hill as something on the earth, you know? All our races are flat except this one and the bridge run so if you came here you would run extremely fast without trying as hard, just due to the flatness. But, we do have humidity and that definitely makes a big difference too!

  8. Hills! No good. If you want an awful, terrible incredibly hilly challenge, come to Newfoundland and run the Cape to Cabot 20K. It’s pretty much the hardest race ever, basically one huge hill.

    Awesome job, though! That cheesecake also looks amazing. Waaaant.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I’ve never run a 20K before… I guess the pacing is close to that of a half marathon but a huge hill would slow me down like crazy.

      Every dessert at Kaminsky’s is amazing, although i’m a little bummed the lady ahead of me got the last slice of butterfinger pie. Bleh!

  9. Amy says:

    I love that you get a day off anytime during your birthday month! What a nice perk 🙂 I love practicing on hills, but when they come at the end of the race…not fun! Usually I am mentally prepared for them and can handle them, but it is not my favorite thing. Great job on a tough course!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks! Yeah, the birthday holiday is pretty awesome. It was the last day I could have taken it. It meant more when I worked in the office and used it to stay home and rest or do things at the house. Now it’s like, I’m off work… must leave the house! Hehe.

  10. That was such a hard race!! I remember thinking on that last hill- my butt is falling off. But it didn’t (always good). It was so much fun though. I used it more as a workout than a race- I knew I wasn’t ready to run fast on those hills. I loved the course though just because it was so different from other races in Charleston. I was surprised how fast the crowd is! But the sub-45 for the Bridge Run makes sense.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah, it’s the most difficult race here, but it was fun. I went pretty hard but not all out, I knew I wouldn’t go sub-45 or PR, or win any award, so I figured I’d save the 100% effort for a race I can at least PR, you know?

      It was very fun! As far as the fast crowd, most all the Charleston runners come out for this so it’s always fast. But there was another race going on Saturday, which really surprised me. Usually when there’s only one race in town everyone just goes to it.

  11. ahellams says:

    That stupid not having the start pad at the front killed me to. I lost 50 seconds because not only did they not do it, but they didn’t tell you so I just mosied up there taking my sweet time! Devastating.
    I also didn’t know a sub-45 got you up front for the bridge run. Thank you so much for that bit of knowledge!
    I am super jealous of your kamiski’s trip…I am in love with that place!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      We should go to Kaminsky’s sometime! I want to try the Butterfinger pie that the lady ahead of me got and also the Toll House cookie pie everyone raves about. I’ve only had the sundaes, milkshakes, and coffees, but the flavored coffees there beat Starbucks hands down.

      Yeah, it’s the “competitive” corral. You just have to submit that time when you register for the CRBR and you get a bib that says competitor on it with your name.

      I probably lost a good 50 seconds for the start pad too… silly me for thinking starting at the back would be a good strategy with the crowd! Oh well, at least we both know for next year- you still did amazing even with the 50 second loss!

  12. wow your races are really adding up! great job! How many medals do you have now?!?!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Too many to count.

      I don’t have them all hanging up- I actually just hung this one and the Darlington Marathon medals up on the medal rack today. I removed all the very generic medals I won for things like 5K age group awards and only left the ones for halfs, the full,and really unique ones.

      I’m debating a medal Christmas tree this year.

  13. Nice racy Amy, sounds like a tough one- very surprised there was no start mat…that’s a lot of people!
    Love the medal, add it to your growing collection!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Laura, yeah I do have a crazy large medal collection now. It is a very nice medal just for finishing- I would expect something nice for an age group award but this finisher’s medal was on par with most half and full marathons.

      Oh well on the start mat, I probably would have come a little closer to a PR, maybe a minute closer. Not that big of a deal, I had a lot of fun at the race and there are always more races :).

  14. It’s too bad that Pop Tarts have to be bad for you, because I love them. Particularly… S’mores and frosted blueberry. The double fudge ones, too. Cherry’s good too, I guess… that was the only flavor my parents bought when I was a kid. Ick. I got burnt out on Cherry. Now I’m hungry for PT’s!!! 😀

    Anyways… nice medal. Is that the one you wore to church on Sunday?

    That’s cool that you get any day off for your birthday. I’m debating if I want to request for my birthday off this year. It falls on a Sunday, and I either work on Sun. nights or Mondays… maybe to be on the safe side, I’ll request off. Heh… someone once told me to request the day AFTER my birthday off… and of course, me not figuring out why, they told me so I can “party”, but I’m like, “Oh, I don’t do the heavy partying.” lol.

    Does Clay race very often?

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Clay races occasionally- not as much as me, but I do a lot of these to represent the race and TrySports too. He did the Dirt Dash 5K in September, then this one. I guess he does a couple each year. He’s been running very consistently lately and seeing results- I’m super proud of him.

      Pop tarts aren’t all bad for you :). Obviously they’re not a healthy food, but “white carbs” are actually good before endurance events because they’re easier to digest and low fiber (trust me, you don’t want a lot of fiber before a run… for obviously reasons!). Everything in moderation anyway- no need to cut out specific foods :). Frosted blueberry poptarts and the oatmeal ones are the best.

  15. Liz DeLoach says:

    So help me out here. If no timing mat at the start, then your time was determined from starting gun or horn? I was pretty darn far back from the Start line! So if I understand this correctly, my time from the actual start line was better than I thought. I felt like my overall pace was faster than indicated. I have got to start wearing my running watch to these now that I have one. It was a great 10k and I enjoyed it. But my legs were a bit sore.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Typically during chip timed races, you have the gun time and the chip time. Awards are almost always gun time, which is your time from the gun or horn to when your bib/chip crosses the finish. Chip time is usually from when your foot crosses the start (assuming there is a mat) to when your foot crosses the finish.

      I probably lost a minute or so due to starting in the back too. A lot of us did because it was a race with over 1000 people- so not everyone can be at the front.

      Racing companies charge per mat, and chances are this was done to keep costs down (remember, they also had to have 2 finish line setups due to the 5K and 10k- since the 5K was point to point).

  16. Erin says:

    I may have driven over that bridge before? I go to Kiawah Island a lot and we go into Charleston sometimes… that’s so cool that there’s a race over it! I’ve heard of the Cooper River Bridge Run but not the James Island one. And funnily enough, as you know I just did a bridge run here in Philadelphia 😉 Haha. Running on bridges is pretty popular, it seems. Great time on such a hard course, too!

    Also, completely agree about the candy, haha.

  17. Liz DeLoach says:

    Selfishly I really don’t want to see this race become another Bridge Run. The CRBR is a great event, but it’s just gotten too big IMO. So many people I talk to that have done it in the last couple of years are exhausted from the process of getting over to Mt P before they even start running. I shall stick with smaller races.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      The Cooper River Bridge Run isn’t a race unless you’re able to run it in less than 40 minutes.

      It is a tourist attraction.

      I’ve done tons of races- decent times, lots of half marathons even. When non-runners hear I’m from Charleston and run, their FIRST QUESTION is if I’ve done the Bridge Run.

      Well… no I haven’t done it. No real desire to.

      The look on their face says it all, apparently because I haven’t taken part in this particular race, I don’t really qualify as a runner…

  18. LilMysNinja says:

    Wow…and you wanted ME to run this the weekend before my first half?!? Lol, j/k! 😉

    What a race though! That’s a lot of inclines in 6.2 mile. But I’m not scared…I’ll do this one year. 🙂 Maybe next? We shall see! I love bridges, so I’m gonna put it on my race bucket list.

    Congrats! That’s a pretty sweet medal too! I like the design they had for the race & medal.

    Oh, and I’m pretty jealous of your day off for your birthday. That’s pretty awesome that your job does that for you!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      You could’ve easily done this the weekend before your first half! I probably wouldn’t have done the 10K if I were doing a half the next weekend, but you would have been okay with the 5K. You live in Columbia and are probably way more used to the inclines than I am.

      I think you would like it next year. It was a lot of fun. Not as big as the Cooper River Bridge Run but big enough!

      • LilMysNinja says:

        Good point. 🙂 My Saturday runs (which are also my long runs) are done on Quail Valley…which has some pretty good hills. 🙂 I definitely make it a point to do that neighborhood at least once a week to maintain my hills training. I’ll definitely look at this one next year.

  19. Pingback: Five Reasons to Run the James Island Connector Run (and Discount Code) | The Tiny Terror

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