About 36 hours ago, I was standing in the middle of the street in Mt Pleasant, SC waiting for the start of The Cooper River Bridge Run. I came, I ran, I got over it – and I can’t wait for 2015!
I just got back home from one of the BEST girl’s weekends ever! About 20 members of our local chapter of Moms Run This Town packed up and headed down to Charleston on Friday to run and cheer each other on at The Cooper River Bridge Run. While Cooper River may only be a 10K, even my marathon running friends will tell you that that big ole bridge is no joke! A 4-6% grade doesn’t sound like much on paper, but in reality, it’s a pretty steep incline and it lasts for nearly a mile. Add to it the two miles you’ll have already run before hitting the incline, and the over 3 miles you still have to cover after making it to the top, and you’ve got one mean 6.2 mile run.
Rise and Shine (Kinda)
Holy early start, Batman! I’m totally an evening runner. I have affirmed that time and time again. The Cooper River Bridge Run is by far the largest race I’ve ever participated in, and while I knew we started early, I had no idea I’d be rolling out of the hotel before 5:30 AM. I’m usually just rolling out of bed at 5:30. It’s a good thing there was no need for me to shower. By 5:15, I had dressed, caffeinated, and sucked down some melon. By 5:30 AM, we were all being herded toward the buses that would take us across the bridge we were about to run and into Mt Pleasant for the start of the race.
Just Hangin’ Out
This is the first race I’ve participated in that used corrals. Even with the 10,000 people who ran The Color Run last Spring, it was an “everyone starts at once” sort of thing. With 40,000 people, I suppose that just won’t work. After being bused across the bridge and herded into our respective corrals (or as I like to call then, our “pens”), there was little left to do except wait. Of course, we stretched, at our bananas, etc… and took a lot of silly pictures. We had to do something to kill some time.
As the sun finally came up and we crept up on the 8 AM start time, we all started to make our finally PortaJon runs and get ourselves stretched out and ready to go. Normally, we wouldn’t gel before a 10K, but with that big bridge looming, hitting a quick Hammer Gel before the start seemed like a solid idea.
Do The Wave
At 8 AM, the first wave started. Each additional wave started about 3 minutes behind the one before it. We were in Corral D, so pretty close to the front. As each corral took off, we were moved closer and closer to the start. That’s when I met my new besties…
Color me impressed. I hope I have their self confidence at some point in my life. And for anyone who’s curious, no – the gentleman on the left did not have on shorts under that skirt – just the built in panties. Let that sink in for a second.
I think there were 11 or 12 corrals total. I was actually assigned Corral C, but moved back (you can move back, but not up) to hang out with friends until we actually started running. I’m slow and they are not. I knew they’d leave me in the dust, but I’m ok with that. Fast or slow, a mile is still a mile!
And We’re Off!
Running with 40,000 of your closest friends can get a little, um, congested – even when you start in waves. The crowd started to spread a lot by about a mile and a half in, so I decided to pull out my phone and snap a selfie.
We were just starting to hit the incline, and I was still smiling. That didn’t last long. The Cooper River Bridge is no joke! Once we hit the bridge proper, you could really see – and feel – the incline. There were a LOT of people, people who are typically runners, taking a breather and walking part of the uphill climb.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I walked a good part of that climb. I was doing walk/run intervals – trying to catch my breath. It was a balmy 70 degrees with 95% humidity, and this asthmatic girl forgot her inhaler. Walking some of the incline was better than falling out with lung spasms. It was beautiful though… very breathtaking. Walking a bit allowed me a chance to take a few decent shots of the bridge and really enjoy the view. It was amazing!
It’s All Down Hill – Kinda
The crest of the bridge marked the half way point of The Cooper River Bridge Run. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see the crest of that bridge. I was really hitting a wall by the time I made it to the top, and I knew coming down hill was a chance to make up some time.
While I didn’t have a hard goal in mind, I did kind of knew where I wanted to be. I also knew I wasn’t going to be mad at myself if I didn’t hit it. I was going to do my best, and that was all I could expect from myself. I caught a break around mile 4 when the crew from The Citadel caught up to me – they gave me some much needed motivation and help me pull it together through mile 4 (which as it happens would end up being my second fastest mile of the 6.2).
I let them pace me for as long as I could keep up with them, but by the time we hit the flat ground coming off the bridge, I was done. There was no keeping up with them after that. Coming off the bridge is a total bottleneck. Not only are TONS of people being funneled of a massive bridge onto a little city street, but there are also lots of surface changes and turns to slow you down through miles 5 and 6.
The Last 2
The last 2 miles of The Cooper River Bridge Run were, by far, the hardest miles for me. I think my gel had worn off and the humidity had started to beat on me. The sun was pounding and we lost all the breeze we’d been enjoying across the bridge. I really, really wanted to just take a break – but I also knew my speedy friends would be waiting on me and I was very close to coming in under my goal. With about a mile to go, I had to stop and tie my shoe. After bobbing and weaving to get to the side and tying my shoe, I knew I wasn’t going to hit my goal. I got a little bummed, but at the same time realized I could still PR my 10K time. I took a second to catch my breath and kicked it into high gear.
I ended up not only PR’ing my fastest mile (which was mile 1 – I came out way too fast), but also my 5K and 10K times. So even though I finished 3 minutes 28 seconds over my goal, it was still an incredible win for me and pretty darn amazing that I PR’d despite that big ole bridge!
After we all finished, we headed out for lunch and a celebratory beverage at Fuel (more on that another day) and some shopping in Downtown Charleston. Everything was packed, of course, but it was SO much fun!
With the dates already announced for The Cooper River Bridge Run 2015, I’m already planning! If you’re a runner, or just a Charleston lover, you should add Cooper River to your calendar too! If you’ve run the bridge, what did you think of it?