CRBR's race expo was held the Thursday and Friday before the race, all day, both days at the Charleston Area Convention Center in North Charleston. While I've not found a race expo to top Savannah Rock n' Roll's, the Bridge Run's expo came darn close. Though I've attended the Bridge Run expo before, this is the first I've attended since Justin began his 12 half marathons in 12 months marathon. Having been to so many more expos, I was able to attend this one with experienced eyes and appreciate all that it had to offer... and this one had just about everything!
We spent the remaining 45 minutes before the expo's closing visiting all the vendor booths, enjoying free samples of items, and making a few purchases: a set of ATHLights (http://athlights.com/) and another pair of Thorlo Experia socks (my favorite post-race socks).
When the alarm rang at 5:25 on Saturday morning, I was feeling as perky as I normally do at 9 am! Normally waking up anytime before 6:30 makes me feel vomitously ill, but Bridge Run morning I was ready to go. This may have been due to the fact that nothing great would be expected of me at the Bridge Run. With anywhere between 30,000 and 40,000 runners squeezing over the Ravenel Bridge, unless you have a seeded spot like Justin, there will be no PR'ing at the Bridge Run. It is best to go into this race to enjoy being part of the 9th largest race in the United States. Enjoy the scenery, enjoy the costumes, and enjoy being part of something big... just don't plan on PR'ing!
Since the bridge closes down at 7 am on race morning, we were out the door by 6:30 and over the bridge well before 7. (Score one for the Bullards for being on time!) Heightened security was evident on the bridge, as military personnel were stationed every quarter mile or so along its span. We breezed into Mt. Pleasant, pulled into a nearly empty business parking lot, and began our walk to the starting line, stopping for a quick Port-o-Potty break at one of the thousands available along the route. If you are running this race, we recommend parking closer to the bridge and then walking the mile further into Mt. Pleasant to the starting line. Port-o-Potties have less of a line the further they are from the starting line, and you get a great view of the course you'll be running. The walk is all part of the experience!
From there a friend and I proceeded to corral D, which was many corrals ahead of where I started last year in "H."
If you aren't used to hills, the Cooper River Bridge Run is a great way to ease into one. At mile 2, we began our ascent, and with so many people headed in the same direction, it seems exponentially easier running up the bridge with 30,000 people than it does every Tuesday night when my running partner and I run it by ourselves.
By the time we descended, we reached the second water stop of the race, had passed mile 4, and were cruising through downtown Charleston with thousands of other runners. My running buddy encouraged me to speed ahead since she wasn't feeling as peppy as normal. By mile 5 I decided to see how fast I could run my last mile without frustrating myself, mowing anyone down, or collapsing from exhaustion at the finish line. Starting, from corral D, it appears that the fastest one can go without making herself crazy is 7:49 a mile.
If this is your first Bridge Run, enjoy the post-race experience in Marion Square. Once you fight off the crowds hungry and thirsty for free food and water, you can actually find some personal space in front of the stage. I also recommend staying for the awards ceremony where elite runners are recognized, in addition to top local runners, runners with disabilities, and wheelchair division athletes.
If this is not your first Bridge Run, and you regularly run half marathons or are training for one, I recommend turning around after you get some water in Marion Square and running back over the bridge to your car. It is very rare that a runner has the chance to run the magnificent Ravenel Bridge with no cars. This is your chance. If you can get back over it using the pedestrian lane before 10:30, you will pretty much have the bridge all to yourself, though you will likely get to see the last finisher descending into the streets of Charleston. Bonus, if you parked your car where I recommended earlier, you'll be home before you know it!
Medal Count: 0 (c'mon... we were competing against Kenyans!!!)
Final Verdict: Run this race at least once, making sure you stay for a few days to enjoy everything the Charleston area has to offer.
Tips for a great Cooper River Bridge Run experience:
1. Don't expect to run a PR in this race. Relax, enjoy yourself, run with some friends, check out the costumes, wear one yourself, enjoy the scenery... but DON'T frustrate yourself by trying to run a blistering time.
2. If you have your heart set on running a PR, you'll have to prove to the Bridge Run committee that you've run a 10K in under 45 minutes to be in the 40 to 45 minute corral, or under 40 minutes to be just behind the elites in the under 40 minute corral.
3. Give yourself more than one hour to enjoy the expo. If you are a person that enjoys this sort of thing, there is a lot to see.
For more information on this race visit http://bridgerun.com