Cooper River Bridge Run (45:48)

The Cooper River Bridge Run is Charleston’s largest race, South Carolina’s largest race, and one of the largest 10Ks in the United States. While it’s a competitive event that draws international runners, elites, and people from all over the country, it’s also a bucket list item for many in South Carolina.

The Bridge Run is the only organized running event that many locals partake in each year, as it attracts up to 40,000 people, most of whom register to have fun and run without a time goal.

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Long before I started running and moved here, I knew the Cooper River Bridge Run was *the* Charleston race, and the bridge itself represents Charleston running. After I’d lived here a week (in 2012), someone asked me if I’d run on the bridge yet. I hadn’t even drove over it at that time.

This was my first Bridge Run, even though I run the bridge’s pedestrian path a few times a month for my own training- after all, it’s the only real hill in Charleston. The course takes runners and walkers from Mt. Pleasant into Downtown Charleston, over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.

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I always heard stories about how  the Cooper River Bridge Run is crowded and a logistical nightmare, but this year, I received a bib number for the competitive corral, which means a projected 45 minute or faster finish. Speedsters can also apply for the seeded corral, which is a projected finish under 40 minutes, and both of these require proof from a previous race result. I submitted my 5K PR in December, received confirmation, and registered ($45 at the time).

My Bridge Run started at the race expo and packet pick up at the North Charleston Convention Center. I’ve only been to a handful of race expos, but if you like race expos, this is one to check out. You don’t have to run the race to go to the expo, and if you’re local , you can pick up your packet in the weeks before the race from the Bridge Run’s store on Shelmore Boulevard in Mt. Pleasant. I met up with friends at the expo.

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I was excited to get my bag and race number. I got a shirt (cotton, white, men’s cut), a hand/gym towel, and a lot of free samples.

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On Friday, I enjoyed a nice dinner at Parson Jack’s Café, one of my favorite local restaurants, with a group of friends from Fitness World Run Club. That’s the run club I was a part of when I lived in Florence (Fitness World Gyms is there and hosts the club), so it was fun hanging out with old friends and meeting people who started running with the group since I left Florence.

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Saturday morning, I left the house at 5:15 to drive to Mt. Pleasant to park at the start (the race started at 8 AM). Hearing about the crowds, I wanted an early start, but when I got there, I realized I could have slept in a little more.

My friend Cindy invited me to park at her workplace, which is at the end of the last corrals. A big group of us drank coffee, ate breakfast, stretched, and watched the Bridge Run TV coverage in the board room at Cindy’s company. It was a great way to relax before such a big race. At around 7:15, I grabbed my gear bag and jogged to my corral.

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The Bridge Run offered two gear checks, one at the back of the corrals and one at the start line, and the gear check was the only issue I had at the race. I jogged to my corral to put my gear in the bag check near the start only to learn it filled up at 7 AM. I had to jog back to the end of the corrals, drop my gear off, go to the potty, and get back to my corral before the start. I made it with about 3 minutes to spare and am thankful for those nice people in Corral B who let me ahead of them in the potty line.

Since the race course had bands and tons of people, I ran without music/ipod. The spectators were great, but most bands were warming up when I was running, which makes sense because they want to play for the people in the general corrals. That’s when more people are on the course/bridge itself, and with all the corrals and walkers, the event itself takes over three hours. I heard Taylor Hicks from American Idol was the featured performer, but I’m not sure where he was on the course.

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I started out a bit fast but controlled, but my pace slowed on the bridge due to a headwind and the obvious uphill. I didn’t pay much attention to the clocks at each mile marker, but once I reached the top of the bridge, I knew it was all downhill (literally) and flat from that point. My favorite musical act was the reggae band at the base of the bridge (Mile 4) before we ran down King Street, where most of the spectators were.

Since I raced without an ipod, I heard some spectators and friends cheering for me personally, and my friend from the Sunday OnShore group runs, Larry, took this awesome picture. It shows how Tiny Terror-esque I am compared to guys.

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Seeing the Mile 6 clock, I realized this race would be a PR unless I slowed considerably. I stayed strong, circled the city block to finish on Meeting Street, and ran through the chute.

When I saw a finish time starting with a 45, I realized that final soul-crushing, pain train, bridge repeat from last Tuesday’s practice was well worth it.

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I got some refreshments (watermelon!) and congratulated my friends on their finishes. Many of us started together in the competitive corral and finished within minutes or seconds of each other. Even though we all run distances longer than 10Ks frequently and race often, finishing it in that atmosphere was special- we were all hugging and high-fiving and celebrating.

After the race, I got my gear from the gear check, put on my sweats, and walked around the finish festival- which had multiple vendors, free food, and of course, tons of fun runners. I got to see the fun costumed runners, a lot of friends, and the awards ceremony. Several of my friends won awards or placed, including Rives winning the award for fastest local female, but the spectators and the whole finish line atmosphere really celebrated every runner and walker of all abilities for “getting over it” on the bridge.

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In recent years, many local runners have opted not to participate due to logistics and because you can run the pedestrian path for free at any time. When the Bridge Run was founded, the run was on an older bridge that did not have a pedestrian/bike path, so the Bridge Run was the only time you could safely run on the bridge. Plus, runners have more race options in 2015 than they did in the 90s and even the past few years, so many local runners opt to spend their race budgets elsewhere.

The Bridge Run staff and volunteers did a great job with crowd control, and the corrals, finish, and race itself never felt crowded to me- granted I started toward the front and read where the participant numbers were way down (27,000). The price increased $10 from last year, and it was Spring Break in Charleston County Schools, which also kept a lot of people from running.

So, what was my final verdict as a first-time Bridge Runner? I think it’s a great race to do at least once- just to experience the big race atmosphere, the people, costumes, and bands. I’d run the race again; however, I wouldn’t sweat missing it if my schedule doesn’t allow me to run it next year. All in all, I’m proud of my new PR and completing my first official Bridge Run!

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This entry was posted in 10Ks, Charleston, Charleston Running, Cooper River Bridge Run, Fitness World Run Club, Race Recaps, Race Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Cooper River Bridge Run (45:48)

  1. Found your blog several weeks ago, really enjoyed this write-up. This was my second CRBR outing, and I’ve already registered for 2016. Congratulations on your PR and a great run!

  2. Hollie says:

    It sounds like it was a great race. I said before, but I’m proud of you for finishing the race strong and getting a PR. I know it hasn’t been the best of months for training but it sounds like you are coming back strong.

  3. KrisLawrence says:

    That sounds so fun!! I think anytime they close down a bridge for runners to run should be taken advantage of. Bridge runs are tough but I really enjoy them. Congrats on the PR!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      That was a really fun part of it- the fact that I was running on the closed bridge which is NEVER closed except for this race, and if we have an ice storm or something (rarely but sometimes it happens).

      It’s one thing to run a race on closed roads, because usually those aren’t super busy roads- but the bridge is one of the busiest places to drive in Charleston and the runners take it over once a year!

  4. LilMysNinja says:

    Congrats again on your PR! I’m so glad you ran it this year. I ran this year for time but didn’t PR. I’m curious to see how much speedier I can get with working with my coach this year. Even though we’ll be focused on my half marathon distance, I’m pretty sure the shorter distances will benefit as well. Maybe one day I can jump in the sub-45 corral. Hey, I can dream right?? 😉 Great seeing you this weekend! I felt much better when we got home. I truly believe I didn’t feel well because my sister’s house is drafty. But we still had fun!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      My first 10K was 1:04. I know 45:48 is far from competitive, but I’ve taken almost 20 minutes off in 5 years. Dreams and hard work :).

      My speed over shorter distances improved a lot when I trained for and ran a half marathon. I think it was because I did long runs consistently, I had a stronger base for speedwork. I still do long runs even though I don’t plan to race anything but 5Ks for awhile. The long runs for a half marathon are just long enough without seriously taxing your body like the full marathon length long runs (16-18) did. Pretty sure you’ll recoup your speed quickly too!

  5. Steph says:

    awesome job!! I’m jealous of your seeded time – one of the reasons I never do this race is because I can’t deal with that many people crammed into such a short course. Maybe one of these years… =) Congrats on the PR!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Oh, I wasn’t seeded- I was competitive :). Seeded is sub-40 (which is super hard for a female! Most everyone I know who was seeded are dudes). But, I would not have run the race if I could not have started where I did and completely see your point.

  6. Congrats on the PR! This race sounds like a lot of fun!

  7. Congrats on that PR!! I forgot all about the bands playing!! The year I ran it an awesome band was playing up on the roof of a restaurant maybe right near the finish. Biggest race to date I’ve ever run in, I think.

  8. Angela says:

    Well Done on the PR and finishing strong, sounds like a great race!!! Xo

  9. Jennifer says:

    Congrats on the PR, Amy! I love reading your recaps. It is nice that they have a competitive corral for you – too bad the gear check was full! I would like to run this race one day (an excuse to come back to Charleston). Did they end up removing the old bridge?

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks- it would be a fun race for you to visit for, I agree. The gear check wasn’t a deal breaker- I still got back in time, but a lot of people did have to just leave their bags in the bushes :(.

      The old bridges were demolished shortly after the new one opened, but before they were, there was a race called “Burn the Bridge” on it for one last time.

  10. Elizabeth C. says:

    All I have to say is that the picture with you and the fruit is SO ADORABLE!!!! Oh, and of course, congrats on a fantastic race!

  11. wowwow! Super race! Congrats on a speedy 10k. The cooper river is on my bucket list of races to run. 🙂 You’re are too cute by the way. In my race pics I’m usually surrounded by taller people everywhere and it’s hard to spot me. lol

  12. Pam says:

    Great race recap Amy. You look so little in the middle of those male runners. You have worked so hard and really earned that shiny new PR so a big congrats on that. By the way, I had won two entries to the race, but unfortunately had to pass them along to someone in my running group. I know Chad had a great time, but did not race it the way you did.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      If Chad had fun with it, that’s what matters :). Running, this race, and really every single race, means something different to everyone.

      A lot of people won entries this year… in fact, many of the people I know who ran it, who are locals, did it because they won entries through Michelob Ultra Brew Run.

  13. Laur says:

    Again, congrats on the huge PR! You work so hard and battled a minor niggle in your hip, so this is a huge race for you! When I ran the Broad Street 10 miler in Philly, I loved all of the bands lining the streets. You mentioning the reggae band reminded me of a band playing entirely of pots and pans on the course. Amazing!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks, yeah the hip issue was odd. I knew that my heart/lungs were strong enough to PR, but my physical body was what was holding me back from it bc I was so scared to pus the pace over the past few weeks. I’m grateful for all the yoga, PT, and massage bc I know that’s what got me through. I’m still having to keep all of that up big time, though, or else I am scared the hip issues will come back. I still feel it when I get up from the car sometimes, but foam rolling does help…

  14. Great job on the PR. Imagine what you’d do on a flat 10K course!
    I did the bridge run 5 years in a row, missed a year for injury, then ran it the year after. Realized I didn’t mind the year I missed with injury. Just something about all the waiting around for a 10K.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I did not have to wait… and I would’ve preferred having to wait a little while. I was scrambling after running back to the back to drop my bag off, then back to my corral. I’m really grateful for those nice people who let me ahead of them in the potty line. I got to my corral with about 3-4 minutes to spare, but plenty of time to take a selfie or two. I’ve heard horror stories of 2012 with the late start, but that didn’t happen this year.

      I kind of agree that missing it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I liked the run, but there were two other big races on Saturday- the Publix Savannah Women’s Half and the Ukrops Monumental Avenue 10K in Richmond, VA. If I had the chance to do either of those races on the same day, I’d run them just for a different experience.

  15. Woooo! Nice work on getting your PR at a crowded event! I’m not a fan of huge races and logistics nightmares, but it can be worth it for a special event. I’m running Cherry Blossom next weekend which is pretty large and involves some careful planning – and an early morning for sure! Congrats on getting over it!

  16. Hey Amy! Happy Easter!
    Glad the bridge run went so well, and congrats on the PR. I like the photo of you with those guys running. It looks like they are on a mission, and they are protecting you along the way. 😀
    Haha. 4:59 a.m. I’m usually clocking in at work at that time, and I’m usually just starting to set up the bakery. Well, except for when I close on Sundays.
    Well, enjoy the rest of your day!

  17. Congratulations on a great job on your race, fantastic PR! I am going to Charleston on vacation for a few days, maybe I need to check out running over the bridge!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      You definitely should! The bridge is open for running all the time, the pedestrian lane begins in Mt. Pleasant and there is free parking underneath the bridge. If you run from the start of the pedestrian lane to the end of the bridge and back, it is 5 miles.

  18. Pingback: Weekly Rundown: March 28-April 3 | The Tiny Terror

  19. BHM says:

    Holy crap! You’re fast! I’m running this year, and I hope to finish in 50 minutes. Thanks for posting this!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thank you! Actually I am not fast, I’ve never been particularly fast at all.

      Right now I’m injured and not running any, so everyone’s faster than me :).

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