Cooper River Bridge Run (44:40)

On Saturday, I ran the Cooper River Bridge Run, which is Charleston’s largest race, South Carolina’s largest race, and the third largest 10K in the United States.

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While the Cooper River Bridge Run is a competitive event that draws international runners, elites, and tourists from all over the country, it’s also a bucket list item for many runners and walkers.

After crossing the finish, runners and walkers see a large banner that reads “Congratulations! You got over it!”. Many recreational runners and walkers’ only goal is to “get over” the fears of a 10K run involving a bridge. My friend Noah has a saying that fear and limitations are overrated. Maybe after “getting over” the Cooper River Bridge, runners and walkers can tackle other scary situations in life.

The Bridge Run course takes runners and walkers from Mt. Pleasant into Downtown Charleston, over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The new bridge was completed in 2005 and has a pedestrian lane for runners and walkers to train on year-round. It’s one of my favorite places to run.

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The Bridge Run had almost 30,000 participants this year and uses corrals. When I registered, I submitted some race finish times for a white competitive bib (projected finish under 45 minutes). Elites, seeded competitors, and those expecting to finish between 45-50 minutes can also submit times for those corrals. Make sure you register for the proper corral and submit a time so you can actually race and not be stuck behind people.

Race Day

Bridge Run day was a long one and started at 4:30 AM! I got up, dressed, drank some coffee, and left my house at 5:20 to make it to Mt. Pleasant by 6 AM.

I parked at the Sea Island Shopping Center (Harris Teeter grocery store), which was a great decision. If you take I-526 into Mt. Pleasant, it dead-ends at  the shopping center, which is where the walkers begin. The Harris Teeter was open at 6 AM for us runners to go to the bathroom and stay warm/dry. The sweat shuttle is just outside this shopping center, and the walk/jog to the start line is a great warmup.

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Since I got to the race early, I ate a pop tart in my car and played around on my phone. It was drizzling rain and humid, so many of us were sporting trash bags (myself included!). I left the car at about 7:10 to drop my bag off, jog to the corral, and warm up in the Mt. Pleasant Old Village.

The rain stopped and the sun came out for the race, so I was excited to ditch the trash bag and see what I could do! I set a few goals, with my “A” goal being 44:30, my “B” goal of sub-45, and my “C” goal of PRing (under 45:48). My fastest 10K was last year’s Bridge Run and all of my race times have dropped since then, so unless the weather was terrible, I was expecting to at least PR.

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My Race

We started exactly on time (8 AM), with no real delay between the first three corrals. With such a big race, the start was exciting, and that’s not a good thing for me. I was in the 40-45 corral, but I know my finish times are closer to 45 than 40, and others in the corral were starting at a more appropriate pace since some of them were probably closer to 40. I ended up starting too fast (feeling good) and hit the first mile in 6:46– way too close to my 5K pace.

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The first few miles of the race are flat and through Mt. Pleasant, until you hit the bridge near the end of Mile 2. I hit Mile 2 in 7:14, which included a little of the bridge’s uphill. I still felt good and settled into the pace. A lot of runners were ahead of me, so I tried to tuck in behind some bigger guys to block the headwind up the bridge. The bridge always has a headwind, but I wanted to use the crowd to power me up it. I saw a friend, Curtis, and tried to stay close to him since he was encouraging me and telling me I was doing great.

Mile 3 and the 5K split are at the very top of the bridge. I could tell some of the runners around me were gassed from the uphill, so I passed a few people. My Mile 3 was 7:43– slower than my half marathon pace…ouch! Since I started too fast and “banked time”, I paid back those seconds with interest in this mile. The Bridge Run has clocks at each mile, and I was still on track for sub-45 and a big PR, so I didn’t get discouraged.

Mile 4 (6:52) began our downhill trek back into Charleston, and I was thankful for the downhill. A few weeks ago, I ran a 12 mile route that included running over and back on the bridge twice, and I was so thankful I only had to run over it (and not back) on race day. I thought about that training run and mentally assured myself that if I could run the bridge twice in a long run, the race would be the easy part.

Miles 5 and 6 were flat and through downtown. A few medians in the road and water stops in Mile 5 slowed me down a bit, as it wasn’t as smooth as the bridge. The humidity from the rain that didn’t happen hit the runners like bricks, so almost everyone stopped for water. In Mile 5 (7:05) we turned on a side street and onto King Street, where most of the spectators and supporters were. Despite the threat of rain, a lot of people came out to cheer!

Mile 6 (7:16) is an evil trick. First, you run past Marion Square, where the finish is. Then, you run under a photography arch. First-timers *think* this is the finish and veterans *wish* it was the finish.

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The last mile was the pain train for me. The spectators are great, and the cheering offers a boost, but I was so ready to be done. No matter how many 5-8 mile easy days I run, a 10K still seems so long when racing. Finally, we made the left turn to cut the block to the finish line on Meeting Street. This is where you see the *real* finish arch and start your kick!

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I “got over it” in 44:40, a 68 second PR and met my “B” goal of a sub-45 finish.

Once I finished, I grabbed my bag from the sweat shuttle (we had to wait for them to unload the bags), grabbed a reusable bag to “shop” and fill with bagels, fruit, and muffins, then headed over to the Charleston Running Club tent for breakfast.

I joined the Charleston Running Club in December, and so far it’s been worth it for the race discounts and the breakfast after this run. The food was delicious and included shrimp and grits, quiche, scrambled eggs, meats, fruit, yogurt, and granola. I raced a 10K but ate like it was a marathon.

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After breakfast, I stood around King Street and cheered for some walkers and runners, then walked around downtown for a bit and went to Bay Street Biergarden to meet up with some friends. Every restaurant downtown hosts an after the bridge party with food and drink specials, so plan to hang around downtown for a few hours and celebrate- after all, you “got over it” and have lots to celebrate!

Once the bridge reopened, I hitched a ride back to Mt. Pleasant (where my car was parked) with my friends Cindy and Ed. The race offers shuttles that take you back to the start or any of the other shuttle locations around town, though.

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Post Race Thoughts

While the 2016 Cooper River Bridge Run wasn’t my best executed race (hello, going out too fast and riding the pain train!), it is still a personal best for a 10K, and I have a lot to be proud of. PRing by over a minute is pretty significant, even if it has been a year since my last 10K.

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I won’t lie that I was a little bummed not to run closer to 44, especially after a few solid 5Ks recently (21:27 at the Charlie Post Classic and 21:34 at the McLeod Sports Medicine). I felt okay the day after the run and recovered well, and while I was happy for that, I wonder if maybe I had more to give on race day and just didn’t tap into that extra gear. My mind wandered a bit in the later miles.

With that said, I *am* extremely proud of my training. I only missed two runs, and both of those were when I was sick with a stomach virus and definitely too sick to run! I ran on some sort of incline each week and strength trained, so training-wise, I was ready for the bridge. I do not think I should have trained harder. If anything, I should’ve run fewer miles two weeks before (50 mile week) to recover a little.

Running and racing are all one big experiment with yourself- and I can’t wait to take what I learned this year and run a sub-44 Bridge Run on April 1, 2017.

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33 Responses to Cooper River Bridge Run (44:40)

  1. Hollie says:

    It’s always interesting when you PR but you feel like you didn’t executed as you would have liked. I’ve definitely run races where I’m gritting to the finish line. It sounds like you did have a good race though Amy and nice work last weekend.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Hollie!

      I haven’t let it get to me, because this is a running and you always have a second chance with another race. Each PR gets a little scarier, though, because it changes your expectations for future races.

  2. Congrats on the PR, even though you didn’t execute as you like. I like the picture after your 6:46 split, you all happen to be in height order – made for a nice looking photo! Post race grub looked good. You know this is on my bucket list 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      The picture was actually taken at the end of the race, in Mile 6, but I put it there because I wanted a picture to break up the wall of text. You’re right- I *never* noticed that about the height!

      This race is on a lot of bucket lists. You already ran the best race in Charleston though, the Charleston Half Marathon, so maybe you should come back for this one.

  3. Elizabeth C. says:

    Amazing! Sounds like you pushed hard and gave it all you had. The 3rd largest 10K in the country? I am going to take a wild guess and say that Peachtree in Georgia and Boulder Boulder are the only two larger? Maybe Monument Ave. is the 4th? Anyway, going sub-45:00 on a 10K is a huge milestone. Really shows that you are training hard and smart!

  4. You also did not reflect on the fact that while you missed your A goal, you were only 10 SECONDS off of it! That is incredible. It sounds like you were feeling good and very aware of how to run the course. Nice job listening to your body and pushing through for an amazing finish! Congrats on the PR, a great race, and an amazing time!

  5. Congratulations on your new PR! I know it wasn’t the best executed, but even with starting too fast you came within 10 seconds of your A goal! That is amazing.

    This fall I am hoping to do a bridge run across the Mackinac bridge in Michigan. I don’t plan on having any time goals though. The bridge is 5 miles long. If I can keep running for the full 2.5 miles uphill, I’ll be happy.

  6. laurenweiner says:

    Congrats on the PR! Oftentimes we wish things could have been different on race day. That sounds like a MASSIVE race, and a lot of fun (well as much fun as a 10k over a bridge can be!). I don’t like races that trick you into thinking you are closer to the finish line than you really are – it plays head games!

    And I’d say that food afterward that you get for being part of the running club is so worth it! YUM. I eat like its a marathon after almost every race…

  7. 10 seconds from your A goal is pretty awesome,(even though its probably frustrating at the same time) I love your outlook though!!!!
    So glad you were able to enjoy the day and your PR!!!
    Next year you will totally go sub 44 if not sub 43!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thank you! I really can’t complain about my PR or time, it was a rough day for many. We missed you last night but I hope things go well for you at the Chocolate run this weekend :).

      • Melissa cunningham says:

        I missed y’all too but my daughters Monday practices got moved to Wednesdays and terry had a late meeting so I want able to run. I did get in 4×1200 in my neighborhood today and a few extra miles in with the puppy. ill let you know how the race goes. It will be on trails and there will be chocolate so it should be fun!!

      • Amy Lauren says:

        I’m glad you got some speedy running in before Saturday- I’m sure you will do great and you can’t beat chocolate (hopefully chocolate will be involved in the prize somewhere). I signed up for the RTL series and am still working out the rest of my racing schedule for summer.

  8. Christine says:

    Congrats! I think it’s almost impossible to not slow down up that massive hill, no matter what your pace. It’s a long haul and if you’re pushing yourself at all, like most people do in a race, that hill is a tough! I’m so glad the rain held off for the race. I had visions of myself falling and sliding down the hill on my butt in the rain!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah- I think the wet bridge affected me a bit too, slowing me down. My New Balance Zante shoes aren’t exactly the best gripping shoes out there… not to mention those grated connecting parts of the bridge.

      I knew I’d slow down on the incline a bit and was ready for that, although I really wish I’d started the race a bit slower (like, 7 min/mile) and could have made up those seconds in the last few miles.

      But you never know- if I’d started slower, I could have still rode the pain train home and not PRed as big as I did. I’m glad it’s over for another year, and I said I wouldn’t do it again… but now I think I might sign up for 2017 too.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      We definitely had good weather for it! I saw so many posts this weekend from races in other areas where there were blizzards or 40-50 mph gusts of wind. I’m thankful our only issue was a few sprinkles and of course, the usual relentless humidity of SC…

  9. 10ks are hard I think. They remind me of the 200 distance in swimming- short enough to make you work but not long enough that you have much room to adjust pace a lot. Congrats on a new PR! When I ran my 10k PR last Feb, I knew I could have gone faster but I wasn’t terribly well prepared for the race. Next time!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      10Ks are hard… I hate race distances wehre the last part isn’t .1. I don’t think I have .2 worth of kick (although apparently I did on Saturday…).

      I’d rather race a half than a 10K. I just don’t like the distance and have no time set to run another 10K.

  10. Sharon says:

    Congrats on your PR! You did awesome! Sounds like a great bridge run!

  11. You did fantastic and shouldn’t be disappointed at all. A minute (plus) off a PR? That’s incredible and something to celebrate without any “if onlys”. There is next year to get closer to 44. And i bet if it was a flat course, you’d have it no problem.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Kindal. I’m sure, but I do think this is a PR course due to the great crowd support. It is always a fun experience and an exciting day in Charleston. It’s not my favorite race in town, but it does get people active and moving (and hopefully some will continue and do other great races here like the Charleston Marathon and JICR).

  12. Congratulations on a solid PR!! You work hard and I always enjoy keeping up with your races and watching your progress. You’re amazing Amy! I do hope to run that race one year. I hear so many good things about it.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It is an exciting race, although I never recommend it to out of towners- Charleston Marathon and James Island Connector Run are *much* better destination races. If you ever decide to run it, be sure to submit your times for the competitive corral so you can actually run during the event!

  13. Angela says:

    You just keep PRing! 🏃🏻

  14. Love reading ” I was expecting to at least PR.” That’s awesome. Congratulations on the PR and a great run! Also, your post-race calories at the Charleston Running Club look awesome. Just finished my blog as well, and registered last night for 2017!

  15. This was huge race! You know trying to figure out what to do and why some races are PR quality and others are not is just puzzeling beyond measure! I think you had a great race and so dang close to your A goal. I love you attitude about running and racing are all and experiment with you.So glad you had a good race and I’m like you I eat like I just ran a marathon after every race lol. 🙂

  16. Wow, I had no idea the Cooper River Bridge Run was such a big race! That’s amazing. Love the picture of the bridge, too. It must have been so cool to finish and see the “You made it!” sign! I’m glad you PR’d!!

  17. supereli23 says:

    Congrats on the PR despite you not getting your “A” goal. I always like to look at how much you PR’d the course as well instead of only beating your PR. A 10K race can be so different dependent upon the course, so I’m sure if you did a flat 10K it would have been a different story. You are rocking it this year, I’m sure you’ll get it at another race!

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