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The 36th annual Cooper River Bridge Run plans include beer, plenty of buses — and an on-time start

Runners should have sunny skies as they cross the bridge. Buy this photo

It is the biggest single event on the biggest weekend of every year in Charleston.

And while the Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk marks its 36th year on Saturday, the well-established event continues to morph and grow. New venues, events and features have become routine and rather unusual.

And yet the primary focus this year will be very basic — starting the race on time, at 8 a.m. sharp. That was far from the case last year.

Here are a few facts about the race in general and this year's specifically.

7th -- Ranking of Bridge Run among the largest races in the United States in 2011 (latest statistic available)

36,755 -- Record number of finishers in last year's Bridge Run

43,635 -- Number of registrants in last year's Bridge Run (not a record)

40,000 -- Maximum number of registrants allowed in this year's Bridge Run

766 -- Number of total finishers in the first Bridge Run in 1978

2013 Bridge Run firsts
First expo in North Charleston (Charleston Area Convention Center)

First time for satellite bus stations (the convention center, Mount Pleasant Towne Centre and Daniel Island)

First official Bridge Run beer garden (Hutson Street)

The most obscure award (perhaps) -- The Bridge Run's Dewey Wise Award is given to the oldest finisher who ran the fastest time lower than his or her age.(Example: In 2010, 80-year-old William Boulter finished in 59 minutes, 13 seconds.)

$1,999,109 -- Projected budget for the Bridge Run for fiscal year 2012-2013.

$1 million -- Cash sponsorship commitment to Bridge Run from Boeing for five years ($200,000 per year) starting with the 2012 race

$250,000 -- Budget for tote bags, USB race program and towels.

$100,000 -- Budget for renting nearly 200 buses on race day.

$70,000 -- Total prize money for top finishers in overall, U.S., masters, grandmasters and local divisions.

$80,000 -- Annual pay for Race Director Julian Smith, according to tax documents filed on June 30, 2011, for the 2010 tax year.

“I would rather have to wait an hour on a street for a road race then be stranded five days at sea on a cruise ship with no power. (Last year's Bridge Run) delay was unacceptable to both the staff and the board of directors. I am very confident it will not happen again, (but) I would be a fool to say the 'g-word' (guarantee).”

Bridge Run Board Chairman Larry Schrecker
on last year's delay and efforts to assure an on-time start this year

“I'm real familiar with loading buses and how to move people. ... The last bus to leave Calhoun Street by 6:45 a.m. will be the last bus to go across the (Ravenel) bridge. I will be there to designate that last bus.”

Carl Beckmann, the Bridge Run's logistics manage

Wireless devices get big boost in capacity
Part of last year's problems at the starting line was communications. One of the largest cellphone providers in the area, Verizon Wireless, plans to boost capacity by deploying a “Cell on Wheels” unit to enhance coverage for participants and local residents, in anticipation of a spike in wireless usage.

The COW, a 75-foot telescoping antenna with 13 dedicated voice and high-speed data channels, will boost capacity to guarantee fast 3G and 4G LTE data coverage, reliable text messaging and clear voice calls.

“Many of our customers participate in the Cooper River Bridge Run and rely on our network to stay connected,” said Jerry Fountain, president of Verizon Wireless' Carolinas/Tennessee region.

“Our team is working hard to make sure customers can send and upload pictures, track the run with GPS-enabled apps like MapMyRun and meet up with friends and fellow runners after the race.”

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