01 April 2007

Cooper River Bridge Run

On Saturday, the 30th Annual Cooper River Bridge Run—a 10 km foot race—took place in Charleston, South Carolina. I had heard about this event for many years, but never considered it because I am not a runner. This year, my father decided to participate. He instructed his daughter-in-law to register him for the event, but then registered himself on the website as well. This meant that there were two runner’s packets available, and I felt had no choice but to participate despite having not trained at all—outside a few Hash House Harrier runs every other week.

We left Columbia at 5:00am in order to arrive in Charleston with plenty of time to get prepared—which was a good thing, because getting the runner’s packets from the friend who picked them up turned out to be quite challenging. Despite this hitch, we were ready an hour before the start time, and made our way to the start line in Mount Pleasant to join over 40,000 other runners and walkers who were lining up for the event. Understandably, I was anxious knowing that, despite the legitimate option of walking the course, I would get caught up in the spirit and competition of the event and run 6.2 miles with absolutely no training—and suffer the consequences afterwards (which I am, as I write this on Sunday.)

The magnitude of this event is difficult to fully convey; with 40,000+ competitors, there seems to be an endless line of people ahead and behind you. When the official start time came, and the clock began ticking away, I was not able to get over the start line for another three and a half minutes. Throughout most of the event, competitors spanned all 4 lanes of the road—we were racing 20+ wide!

I felt amazingly good for the first 3 miles; I ran 10-minute miles up to this halfway point (which also coincided with the peak of the namesake Cooper River Bridge.) However, on coming down the bridge into Charleston, my knees started hurting, and I was forced to walk. Despite the pain, I couldn’t stand watch hundreds of people go by me, so I would alternately run and walk for the rest of the race.

Some people take this 10K less serious than others; I saw all kinds of whimsical costumes. The following all participated in this event: some girls in hoop skirts, a group of people in banana costumes and in bowling pin costumes. I saw two brides, one of which actually was wearing a short wedding gown and carrying a bouquet; her husband (or fiancĂ©) was running beside her in a tuxedo t-shirt. At least two marines in BDUs, combat boots, and carrying 55 lbs of weight in a backpack. However, my favorite was a group of guys dressed as bulls followed by a group of girls in white (al la “running of the bulls” in Pamplona, Spain—expect they should have been in front of the bulls.)

I crossed the finish line at 1:08:38, making me the 12,540th finisher (out of 28,641.) My father (middle) was 13.5 minutes faster, and placed 14th in his age group. My niece (right) was 25 seconds faster than him with an official time of 54:38.
Joel, Arno, and Dana Lee
We had lunch in the beautiful, historic district of Charleston, and then spent the afternoon on Folly Beach. The water was a bit too cold, but the weather felt almost summer-like. All in all, it turned out to be a wonderful day; even the pain is a “good hurt”; I know this makes me stronger!
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