On Saturday, I ran the Cooper River Bridge Run, Charleston’s largest race, South Carolina’s largest race, and the third largest 10K in the United States. It was the 40th anniversary of the run and my third year running it (you can read about 2015 and 2016).
The Cooper River Bridge represents so much in my city. The bridge represents unity- as it unites Charleston and Mt. Pleasant. After the Emanuel AME shootings, thousands of people linked hands across the bridge to show support for the victims and their families. Each year, this race inspires many to “get over it” and conquer a fear of running or walking across that bridge.
When you finish the Bridge Run, you see a large banner that says “Congratulations – You Got Over It”. Maybe the accomplishment of running or walking and “getting over” this bridge can help everyone face scary things in other parts of life.
I registered for the Cooper River Bridge Run back in November to avoid a price increase. After I got injured, I heavily debated on transferring my entry and volunteering instead.
About a week before, I was up to 5 miles in a run and decided to run, but not race. Anyone with the coveted blue (seeded) or white (competitive) bib knows there’s a difference in “racing” and “running a race”. My finish time would be far from competitive, but the Bridge Run is one of the best weekends of the year in Charleston, and I’d regret missing it.
The Cooper River Bridge pedestrian path is open for running year-round, but I hadn’t run it since I injured my knee in November. I knew I’d have to run it again one day, and I guess race day is as good as any.
How do you set goals after taking six weeks off due to peroneal tendonitis? Conservatively.
|Finish without any *new* injuries||Yes|
|Eat a donut at Mile 4||No|
|Hop on the sag wagon for a ride to the finish, and yell “So long suckers!” to my friends on the course||Thankfully, no.|
Most of all, I wanted to leave the Bridge Run with happy memories, regardless of the finish time.
I hardly got any sleep the night before the race. I was nervous because it would be my longest run post-injury. I woke up that morning and questioned why I was driving all the way to Mt. Pleasant to run in a race I wasn’t prepared for, but I’d already marked that I was “Going” on the Facebook event, so there was no backing out now.
I drove over to Mt. Pleasant at 5:15 AM and parked near the start line on Ben Sawyer Blvd. I went into Harris Teeter to meet up with some friends, use the indoor bathrooms, and noticed the store had water and snacks out for us. I took the crackers and ate them before the run. Most runners preach “nothing new on race day”, but I had nothing to lose, so why not?
Around 7 AM, I walked up to the sub-45 corral. It was relatively empty when I arrived since most runners were warming up. You know, those serious runners who train for these races- the kind of runner I used to be. I talked to all my friends, found everyone’s goals, and positioned myself in the back with the other members of #TeamJanky whose training was de-railed due to illness, injury, or life. We’d get over it together.
The gun went off at 8 AM. Here goes nothing.
I wanted to run comfortably for the first mile, and I did. I ran by quite a few friends and ran with some of them for a little while, just trying to encourage everyone I knew. The best thing about the seeded, competitive, and 45-50 corrals is that many runners know each other and train and race together. I was excited to be with friends on one of my favorite race courses, and the people of Mt. Pleasant embraced us for that first mile and a half along Coleman Blvd.
Soon, it was time to run up the bridge. I was a bit nervous but having so many other runners on the course helped me. Those hours of injured cross training on the Arc Trainer prepared my legs to run up that bridge without slowing. Not that I was running very fast at any point during the race, but I digress…
I didn’t look at my Garmin and focused on running by effort, saying hi to people, and thanking volunteers. I thanked the National Guard members on the bridge. Thank you military- we appreciate your military-ing! I also cheered for Adam Gorlitsky, walking in his exoskeleton to raise money for I GOT LEGS. All runners go through injuries and setbacks, and Adam is a great motivator and inspirational not to let them get us down.
I hit the top of the bridge and knew I had about a mile to go before Mile 4 and the donut stop. Since I wasn’t gunning for a fast time or PR, I decided in advance that I’d take a Krispy Kreme donut. MILE 4 DID NOT HAVE DONUTS. Spectators had chocolate chip cookies and Oreos so I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie. My inner fat kid had to look at the cookie to make sure it had enough chocolate chips, and I was disappointed that it wasn’t a soft baked.
The man told me I was the first runner to grab a cookie.
While the Bridge Run starts on Coleman Blvd, and the incline is in the second and third miles, the race starts on Meeting Street. By now, most people have exhausted their endurance getting over the bridge, but still have two miles to go. The pain train was starting to derail for some runners, but we could all ride the struggle bus together. Thankfully, my peroneal tendon was cooperating!
I decided to rabbit hunt and push the pace in the last mile and a half. People were cheering and I heard someone yell Tiny Terror. Wearing a headband with your nickname helps.
Soon we ran under the scaffold on King Street, the most misleading part of this race. The scaffold *looks* like a finish line. I don’t care how many times you run the Bridge Run and know where the finish line is, when you run under the scaffold, you think you’re done because you want to be done. Nope- photographers are taking your picture, and you still have 1/2 mile to go.
After turning onto Wentworth Street, my watch beeped 6 miles. I saw a sign that said “You run better than the government”. With no training, I *could* surely run better than they do their jobs. Best of all, I could finish the race without any injuries I didn’t start the race with.
I imagined it was my last 400m repeat at track practice, finishing in 48:24.
Splits: 8:04, 8:06, 8:12, 7:19, 7:28, 7:27, 7:02 (Last .27)
After the race, I grabbed a beautiful 40th anniversary participation medal. This medal is better than many half marathon medals I have- and hooray for participation!
I also got a Cinnabon, water, and Chex Mix- the refreshments and swag were awesome! Mercedes Benz Vans gave out reusable bags and sunglasses with their logo on them. You can bet that’s the only thing this professional writer will ever have with a Mercedes logo. I found a lot of friends and training partners. We took some pictures before I headed over to the Charleston Running Club tent to refuel. I also met up with Travis from ARTC and we took a traditional moose picture.
As always, some runners had a great day, and some runners had a bad day- that’s how races go. This was my slowest 10K since 2013, and while I’m not proud of my time, I am proud of my effort and getting back out there. After taking 6 weeks off, not training, and only running a little in the two weeks before the race, many would have opted to sit this race out. I’m thankful I didn’t. My tendonitis didn’t bother me during the race, and I kept moving/walking afterwards which seemed to keep the pain and discomfort away.
I’m proud of everyone who got over it and ran the Bridge Run. No matter how your run went, you earned that medal and you’re a winner. DO NOT beat yourself up. The Cooper River Bridge beats our legs up bad enough- heck, this whole sport of distance running beats us up, from our bodies to our egos.
Here’s to next year, Cooper River Bridge Run!