MOUNT PLEASANT — Julian Smith arrived for work early Thursday, but as the longtime race director attempted to enter Cooper River Bridge Run headquarters, the office door wouldn't open. Dust from a Shelmore Boulevard construction project clogged the keyhole.
What: 36th Cooper River Bridge Run 10K run and walkWhen: April 6, 8 a.m.Participant cap: 38,500Runner spots: 1,000Walker spots: 4,000Port-o-let toilets ordered: 450Info: www.BridgeRun.com, 856-1949
In other words, a delay.
Good morning, Julian. Can we talk about this year's Bridge Run? And last year's delay?
“It's such a minuscule thing that people keep dwelling on, the delay,” Smith said. “I mean, it's happened at so many races and it happens repeatedly at other races. I don't know why people continue to bring it up. It's a very sore subject.”
A shuttle bus snafu left a Bridge Run record 36,652 runners and walkers standing around in Mount Pleasant almost an hour after the scheduled 8 a.m. start.
That the 10-kilometer model of Lowcountry excellence went off with few hitches from 1978 through 2011 made last year such a big deal. Civic pride suffers when hundreds of agitated people full of pre-run Gatorade scramble behind structures along Coleman Boulevard in search of relief.
“I'm not trying to be defensive,” Smith said, “but how long can you keep talking about a 45-minute delay?”
Just long enough to mention that the best road race in America is better (if not bigger), with some improvements directly tied to our recent unpleasantness.
A giant expo. A Friday night food fest. More bus pick-up locations.
If Bridge Run management cues up Kelly Clarkson screaming “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger” as runners cross the start line on April 6, many participants will get the double-meaning.
Food and beer
Atlanta's Peachtree Road Race and Colorado's BolderBoulder have larger 10K fields.
“Our goal is not to be the biggest, but to be the best,” Smith said. “That's what we're striving to be.”
Six weeks out, the Bridge Run is about 1,000 runners and 4,000 walkers short of a sellout capped at 38,500, Smith said.
Among the cool new Bridge Run things they probably will appreciate:
The Charleston Area Convention Center as the new site for the Cooper River Bridge Run Expo.
“It will be one of the biggest expos of any race in the country,” Smith said. “The Peachtree had the largest expo in the United States and it's a third smaller than ours.”
Complete with 185 vendor booths, up from 110 last year at the Gaillard Auditorium. And no more Friday afternoon peninsula gridlock.
Taste of the Bridge Run. There will be more than a dozen restaurants and lots of beer involved from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, April 5, at three locations, the Maritime Center downtown, HarborSide East in Mount Pleasant and the Charleston Area Convention Center in North Charleston.
Five — count 'em, five — shuttle-bus pick-up/drop-off sites (up from just one in 2012). They are the Gaillard, the South Carolina Aquarium parking garage, Towne Center in Mount Pleasant, the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island and the Convention Center.
'We corrected it'
It's not as if the Bridge Run already wasn't admired, copied and envied around the U.S. and beyond. The Event Directors' College is all set for 2013 in Charleston the week of the Bridge Run.
Subtitle: “A Workshop for Event Directors and Committee Members of Running & Walking Events of All Sizes”
Host: Our own Julian Smith.
He can tell the other race directors how the Bridge Run kept getting more popular. More than 45,000 people signed up last year.
“We just grew too fast,” Smith said.
So, Julian. What about my friend from out of town?
Let's call him Darryl.
First-time Bridge Run participant in 2012.
Plans to return.
What do you say to such a runner or walker?
“I'm sorry it happened,” Smith said, “but it's not the end of the world. We put on a great race. We had great entertainment. It was staged perfectly. It was just a logistics problem and we corrected it.”
It's hard to argue with tastier food and more bus stops and beer, not necessarily in that order.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff