The Cooper River Bridge Run has been a fixture in the local community for 33 years. For most of that time, the CRBR was something that I, as a local, had dismissed as just another imposition on the city. Blocked streets, traffic gridlock, and jammed restaurants were consequences that left me mildly irritated, somewhat aloof, and definitely not interested.
So, we signed up for the bridge "walk" this year. And had a blast.
The logistics of participation are daunting because, this year, there were 40,000 participants (more than my wife’s hometown). So we developed a plan for parking and getting to the gathering location, and set our alarm clock for 4:30 AM. The masses streamed into the gathering area from all directions, but we were quickly and efficiently organized into a single line and fed onto a fleet of buses for the shuttle to Mt. Pleasant. After a brief ride, in a bus filled with happy fellow racers, we were deposited about 2 miles from the starting line. Walking in the dark, we moved purposefully to the port-o-lets (plenty of them around) and onto the coffee filling stations.
Hats off to the crew at Dunkin’ Donuts. The place was warm, jumping, and the wait brief. And the coffee was delicious. It has to be their biggest day, in terms of sales, and they were ready! We lingered as long as we politely could in the warmth, but soon it was time to move on closer to the "corral". In the distance, we could see the starting line, and the announcers were revving up the crowd, but we knew we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Ten minutes after the start, our section began to move, in fits and starts, and slowly.
As we crossed the line, our friend from Asheville took the lead. Sandra, a veteran run/walk competitor, led us through the crowd at a brisk pace. After a few minutes, she let on that she had, not too long ago, participated in a race where they walked 26 miles the first day, and 14 miles the second day! My wife and I were both impressed and somewhat concerned at this news, knowing that we risked the possibility of humiliation on our very first walk. But she took mercy on us, and we settled into a steady 17 minute per mile pace.
And finally, the bridge loomed into view. With no noticeable change in pace, we proceeded up the incline. We had practiced, so it wasn’t bad, but I kept a close watch on my heart rate monitor. The ticker never got above 130, and soon we were at the top. At this point, things went downhill. The rest of the walk-run lay below us, and the crowd seemed to heave a collective sigh of relief. Sandra kept us moving smartly, and the miles (kms) flew by. Past water stations, pit stops, and bands, the crowd surged to the finish line. At there it was, the Finish Line. For us, thanks to Sandra, it was 1:45:12 from start to finish. I think we were surprised at how easy, and fun, the entire event was. I admit to a little soreness, and maybe a nap this afternoon, but there is nothing that makes me regret our decision to participate.
Bottom line: 1,021 calories burned, 6.2 miles walked, and great conversation along the way. We’ll do it next year, for sure.