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How Cooper River Bridge Run officials can turn Saturday's delay into a plus for 2013

Not counting life and death situations, or false celebrity sightings, the worst moment in Cooper River Bridge Run history came at 8:55 a.m. Saturday when a race official at the start line very unfortunately cued up Billy Idol's “Dancing with Myself.”

At that point many of the 36,000-plus runners and walkers packing Coleman Boulevard let go with more booing.

Just as they did when misinformed public address announcer Vanessa Hill kept saying the 35th version of one of our nation's great participation events would begin “momentarily.”

“It was a major inconvenience,” said Charles Attaway, a 57-year-old from Easley who ran in his 11th consecutive Bridge Run. “You just have to kind of go with it. But there were some new folks who had never run it, and they were the most vocal about their disappointment.”

Those are the people we should be most concerned about — victims of a rare poor first impression of the Lowcountry in general and the Bridge Run in particular.

No hiding this in a big crowd: Civic pride took a major hit Saturday with an unprecedented glitch.

But we can turn whine into wine with a simple olive branch: Give all 2012 runners and walkers a 2013 entry fee discount.

Bathroom issues
“That sounds great,” Attaway said. “Yeah, give everyone that was delayed a little discount.”

Seeded runner Matthew Morrisette agreed.

“I like that idea,” he said. “I'm all for that.”

Morrisette, 25 and a former runner at First Baptist High School and Presbyterian College, completed his 15th Bridge Run — the first with a lengthy delay.

“It definitely didn't help,” Morrisette said. “We were really tight and didn't have the space to stretch out and get warmed up again.”

Non-elite runners struggled, too.

“All the women around me in the start line went to the bathroom,” Attaway said. “They said, ‘We've got to go' and took off. There was definitely anxiety.”

Anyone can relate. Amy Crist of Charlotte said pre-race bathroom breaks are carefully planned.

“And then the sun came out, and it was a little hotter,” she said. “That was hard, too.”

Chet Chea of Greenville brings his family every year, and is joined by four other Upstate families.

“It got somewhat frustrating just not knowing what was going on,” Chea said. “They would tell you we have a minute to start, and then an hour later, we're still there.”

But Crist added that, “We all survived, and we did it.”

Yes, that was the sweaty Marion Square chorus. Runners and walkers endure, adjust, eat muffins.

‘Stuff happens'
Forgiveness seemed like a strong consensus among Bridge Run veterans.

“Stuff happens,” Morrisette said, “and I don't think you can hold today against the Bridge Run. Once the race got started, it was as smooth as ever.”

Some participants were unfazed. Becky Spanner of Charlotte covered 6.2 miles in full wedding gear.

“I enjoy dressing up, and I feel like every year fewer and fewer people dress up,” said Spanner, a Bridge Run veteran looking forward to a wedding in June at Tybee Island, Ga.

The extra hour gave Spanner time to make new friends.

“I got a lot of ‘When's the wedding?' questions,” she said. “It was fun.”

That's always been the Cooper River Bridge Run spirit and, with a few tweaks and a discount, it will be better than ever next year.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff

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