The 35th Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk sold out faster than it ever has — 23 days before the race this year — and if the trend holds, it will continue to sell out earlier and earlier.

Don’t believe me? A year ago, the Bridge Run sold out 10 days before the race. Two years ago, it sold out three days before the race. Gone are the days when you can show up on Friday night and sign up.

Race officials had predicted a sellout by the first week of March. They also spread the word that the only option after that would be $150 charity bibs, also limited to 1,200.

This, by the way, comes in conjunction with the Bridge Run increasing its cap for regular entries from 40,000 to 43,000.

Regardless, this hasn’t sat well with procrastinators, some of whom claim the $150 bib charge is “gouging.” But it is worth noting that the money is for charity. And this happens in popular races across the country, notably the Peachtree Road Race and the Chicago and New York City marathons.

Long-time local race manager Chuck Magera, who helps with the Bridge Run, knows this saga too well.

“That (selling out of bibs) is a part of life for good races,” says Magera, adding that he even had to explain to his procrastinating sister that the higher-priced bibs were for good causes.

Hitting Craigslist

Punch “Cooper River Bridge Run” into Craigslist in the past few weeks and you can read the desperation:

“I am interested in purchasing two Cooper River Bridge Run. I promised a dear friend that I would take care of the purchase weeks ago, I forgot to now they are sold out and I am in a bind. Please help if can not attend!!!

“Need 2 Bridge Run entries for a local procrastinating runner and his girlfriend! Will pay transfer fees! Please Help, girlfriend not happy with me!! ... “

“I am looking for 2 cooper river bridge run packets. I will pay you for your packets (bibs, tracking device) if you aren’t planning on running. please contact me at email listed. Thank you!”

And this is just Craigslist. Many locals will trade bibs via word-of-mouth, as they have for years.

The pitfalls

Every year, problems arise from exchanging bibs without alerting the Bridge Run staff of the changes.

The problems range from the potential of an emergency – and races have them – to messing up the age groups.

For example, a man will wear a bib originally registered to a woman and win first place in the age group. Or a 21-year-old track star will don the bib of her 71-year-old grandmother and set a world record for the age group. It goes on-and-on.

Displacing age group winners isn’t a major problem in the greater scheme, but it does upset people who inevitably get mad at the Bridge Run organizers.

OK to transfer

Asking a person to pay $10 to transfer information on a bib may be a hard sell for someone already upset about having to scramble to get in the race, but it’s the right thing to do.

To do so, go to the “Problems and Changes” room during the Bridge Run Expo from noon-8 p.m March 29 or 8 a.m.-8 p.m. March 30 at the Gaillard Auditorium. The room is located at the top of the staircase that goes from the ground floor of the auditorium.

Growing slowly

Ultimately, the issue arises from trying to maintain the quality of the Bridge Run.

If the race were uncapped, it could be pushing the 50,000 mark by now. And certainly, race director Julian Smith would like to see those numbers.

But Smith, the Bridge Run executive board and the staff realize that growing the race in a steady controlled way is the only way to keep people coming back. The staggered wave start was implemented in 2011 to control the flow of runners and walkers. Its success is the primary reason the Bridge Run added 3,000 more spots this year.

As the Bridge Run officials ease their way toward 50,000, bear in mind that the time to start thinking about signing up for the Bridge Run is New Year’s and not the day before the race.