35th Cooper River Bridge Run will be remembered for what went wrong
A record number of runners and walkers waited for an hour or more on a muggy morning before starting the 35th Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk.
A total of 36,652 people crossed the finish line in downtown Charleston, bettering the previous record of 34,789 from last year. But frustration built among participants during the wait as organizers barely hinted at what was causing the delay. Cheerful reminders to “warm up” from Bridge Run emcee Vanessa Hill increasingly drew grumbles from the masses along the mile stretch of Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant.
The delay was due to buses departing from downtown Charleston delivering participants to the starting area. Though officials said the last bus left at 7:55 a.m., Post and Courier photography chief Tom Spain said he saw the last one leave at 8:15 a.m. The start was supposed to be at 8 a.m. and the Bridge Run is usually on time.
According to multiple eyewitnesses, long lines to board buses formed in downtown Charleston between 7:15 and 7:35 a.m., when no buses were available to pick up participants.
At 7:35 a.m., the line for buses went from Gaillard Auditorium, down Calhoun Street to King Street, down King to Market Street, over to Meeting Street almost to Hyman’s Seafood.
Buses carrying those participants had to clear the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge before officials started the wheelchair race, which took place at 8:19 a.m. While the wheelchair racers usually get a 15 minute head start, the elite and seeded runners who start in the first wave, or grouping of runners, didn’t start until 8:57 a.m. Of the 43,635 people who registered for today’s Cooper River Bridge Run, 36,961 of them crossed the start line in Mount Pleasant.
First to cross the finish line was Solomon Deksisa, 21, of Ethiopia, with a time of 29:37. The women’s winner was 33-year-old Janet Cherobon-Bawcom of Rome, Ga., with a time of 33:01.
Alex Dupont of Montreal was the men’s Wheelchair Division winner. Keira-Lyn Frie of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, won the women’s division.
Rives Poe won her third straight Marcus Newberry Award, as the top local female finisher. She has won three straight Newberry Awards and five in the last six years.
Brian Johnson, a 36-year-old Mount Pleasant resident, was the male winner of the Marcus Newberry Award.
Earlier, the lines were long at the portable toilets in Mount Pleasant as more than 40,000 people waited for the race to begin.
At 6:15 a.m., police closed the pedestrian walkway on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, which will be closed to all traffic at 7 a.m.
Though today’s weather forecast had called for thunderstorms, meteorologist Brett Cimbora of the National Weather Service in Charleston said he expected the heavy rain would hold off until after the race was over.
Post and Courier reporters and photographers were covering the Bridge Run via Twitter and Facebook as well as the Web and the newspaper.
The print edition from the Sunday after the run is a traditional Bridge Run keepsake and will this year be packed with photos as well as the names of the top 10,000 male runners and the top 10,000 female runnners.