Another year has gone by, and I’ve participated in my second Cooper River Bridge Run. This year was much nicer for me than last year, and the weather was rather cooperative as well.
First of all, I didn’t take the bus from the finish line to the start. Apparently I complained so much about the busses last year and used such colorful language that one of the guys at work offered to give me a ride. Ray offered to meet me at the Dairy at 4:30am. (I’m the night computer operator there, he’s a night supervisor in that giant cooler where all the milk is kept, trucks loaded, etc.) From the Dairy we would go downtown to the Aquarium parking garage, I would leave my car there, and then we’d go to the starting line.
Things were going well at first. I was going to leave work early on Friday night so I could actually get some sleep before the race. Unfortunately, the City of Charleston had other plans. At about 8:30pm on Friday, March 31st, a 48″ water main broke, taking out the water supply for a big chunk of the Charleston area. Even if you had water, you were supposed to boil it. I would have to drop by the store on the way home for some bottled water.
Of course the Wal-Mart was busy at 11pm. No one panics in a tight spot and buys up all the perishables quite like us Southerners. I was a little worried to see that most of the people in there were buying individual servings of water by the case. This is bad, because no one would buy something that expensive unless all of the cheap gallon jugs were sold out. Once I got to the back, however, I saw that there were plenty of gallon jugs. The shelves were empty, but the stockers had brought out a few big cases and were letting us just grab them out of the box. I guess those other people I saw were just stupid. Anyway, I bought a few gallons and did some grocery shopping while I was there. It cost me a little over an hour. As I was paying for my things I looked around at all the people buying water, and I began to wonder if Wal-Mart had sent a covert-ops team to blow up the water main so that they could make a quick buck.
Finally, the next morning came. Ray was a little more familiar with the area and he got us there just ahead of the crowds. We dropped my car off as planned and zipped off to the Starbucks in Mount Pleasant.
Ray suggested that I should buy him a hot chocolate in exchange for the ride, so I bought one for each of us. The line was pretty normal, but by the time we got our drinks it was already stretching out the door. (Kudos again for Ray’s timing.) While I was there we took some photos of my new custom-made bridge t-shirt. This isn’t the official shirt, of course. I was proud of my training and very glad to be a part of the running community here in Charleston. There are lots of folks who wear costumes and funny shirts, so I wanted to have one of my own. Fifteen minutes of design work and a trip to Creations in Northwoods Mall, and I was good to go, provided that I could avoid spilling hot cocoa all over it.
We wound up in the back at an empty table. Moments later a few women showed up and the conversation started. The primary subject was this gentleman on the left. This photo was taken at 7:00am, and it is my absolute favorite. I am quite sad to report that one of the ladies we had just met was quicker than I in taking a photo of him. I had to line up behind her and settle for the title of Second-Most-Evil-Person-Present.
But have no fear for the Sleeping Man, because he woke up in time to participate in the race. From the number on his shirt I was able to find out that our hero’s name is Raymond, and he ran the race in 1 hour, 22 minutes. That’s not too bad for a man in the 50-59 age group. Raymond’s percentile score was 39.1%, which is better than my 45.9% for males 30-34. I laughed at him on Saturday, but after seeing his numbers I wonder if I should have taken a pre-race nap as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself. After a few minutes, Ray (the one from work) took his leave and wished me luck. I thanked him for the ride and promised a full report come Monday.
Before the Race
Here’s the starting line at 7:21am. The people are pretty spread out at this point, and you can see the Sweat Shuttles pulling in. “The Sweat Shuttles” are basically a bunch of Budget rental trucks which carry your warm-up clothing from the starting line to the finish line. It’s intended for anything you might wear to combat the morning chill or possibly the rain, but many people use it to get their cell phones to the finish line without having to carry them during the race. (Next year my bag will contain a large Gatorade.)
The Race Itself
I was pretty social during the race. Yeah, I know, big surprise. I never found anyone to pace with, so I was passing or being passed most of the time. One thing I was disappointed in was the incline of the bridge. Everyone had told me how horrible it was, but it was less difficult than the old bridge last year and there was only one incline this time. Plus, the down slope was just as long as advertised, and lent some extra speed. I could have gone faster on the way up, but a guy next to me was having some trouble so I paced with him and encouraged him until we reached the top. He was young and fit, but he looked like he had done mostly weights with not much cardiovascular exercise. I went ahead after we crested the hill, but he seemed okay.
Gray-haired men, middle-aged women, college students and even children were to be seen. Really, I saw two boys running with their Dad… maybe 9 and 11 years old, and keeping up with us in spite of their short legs. It was pretty cool. My only complaint was that people still brought baby strollers to the race even though it was against the rules this year. It’s extremely dangerous and very irresponsible to push a baby down the middle of the bridge when people are running by, but parents in this town are so self-centered that they just don’t care. I don’t think it will stop until someone’s baby gets hurt. No one cares if a runner takes the fall to avoid hurting the child. The parent will simply push along and blend into the crowd, leaving him there to bleed. Come to think of it, this has probably happened already. Lucky for me I was far enough front to avoid them this year.
This article is way too long already, but I still have a few more photos so bear with me. This is my proof for the finish. I won’t be ordering it because I don’t look cool in it. See that lady in the lower left? She looks cool. The bald guy on the right? Very cool. Hell, even the dude in the yellow shirt looks better while playing with his watch than I do in mid-stride. My only consolation is that I look better than that guy behind me in the gray shirt. It’s the luck of the lens, though. Unless you know when the photo is being taken, you run the risk of blinking or sneezing or just looking dead tired. On the bright side, I achieved my goal of finishing in under an hour. From start to finish, my time was 58 minutes, 45 seconds. That’s 45.9% for males 30-34, with an average pace of ten minutes per mile. That’s exactly what I trained for, so I’m pretty happy with it.
After the Race
The Kenyans won, as usual. They’re professional runners and their times are amazing every year. They’re sort of like rock stars, really. You would think that the Rolling Stones had shown up for a concert. I actually had a chance to speak to one of them, but I’m not sure if he was from Kenya or somewhere else. He had a French accent so I practiced with him a little, but I found out later that Kenya isn’t a French-speaking country. Oh well. It’s a big world, I guess.The African accent threw me a bit, but I was happy for the chance to speak a little French with someone. Plus, he directed me to the Fruit Tables.
Below are some photos from the post-race festival. Mainly it’s just people resting or looking for water. You see, our little run on water had done more than just inconvenience residents and tourists from all over the country. It also shortened the supply at the festival. There was plenty of water before the race, but afterwards they ran out early. Later I found out that there was a truck near Millennium Music, but you had to stumble across it. According to everyone I spoke to, there was no water available. We were getting our fluids from the fruit tables and from free popsicles, but some of us were getting a little dehydrated.
New Year, Same Band
The band was the same as last year. I don’t know what they’re called. They lean towards funk, but they’ll play almost anything. At one point they went into some beach music and people started shagging around the park. That’s a dance, by the way. In South Carolina, Shagging is just a dance that you do when beach music plays. For any British readers I may have, I apologize for getting your hopes up like that.
This photo is just the photographer in me coming out. This guy looked so much like the quintessential runner. He was resting, but he didn’t seem as tired as the rest of us. It was almost as if he was waiting for another race to start. I had to get a photo of him.
Photos Blocked by Passers-by
Here you can see one of the many people who enjoy walking directly past any available camera at the slowest speed possible. Ordinarily these people would be blocking my path at the grocery store, but today they were content block photographers for as long as possible. In their defense, everybody had just done a 10K and nobody was really in a hurry. It’s still a bit frustrating, though.
In the end, it was a lovely race and a decent festival aside from the lack of water. I had a wonderful time, and I’m now planning to participate in some of the other running events in the area. As lifestyles go, it’s not a bad choice.