Nearly a year after the Boston Marathon bombings prompted officials of large races to increase security, the 37th annual Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk had unprecedented protection from local, state and federal law enforcement.
The planning for the security has been in the works for 11 months.
Other than their main goal of preventing and deterring an attack, the "unified command" of law enforcement agencies wanted the increased protection not to interfere with the Bridge Run's fun and festivities.
By the sights, sounds and testimonies of participants on Saturday morning, they succeeded.
A better race?
"I noticed it (the tight security), but I think it's important . I felt safe," said Ana Guarino, 30, of Mount Pleasant, who wore a banana costume and was running in her first Bridge Run.
Many veteran Bridge Run participants said they noticed more security, particularly at the starting line corrals, where police officers and members of the S.C. State Guard replaced volunteers from charities at each of the 30 corral gates along Coleman Boulevard.
Former assistant race director Howie Schomer says the result of more security and planning turned the start of the race "into the smoothest I've ever seen."
Last year's Bridge Run board chairman Larry Schrecker said he thought the added security made participants "pay attention to the rules more," such as proceeding from the finish line on Meeting Street to Marion Square, thereby not clogging the roadway.
None of the 40-plus runners interviewed by Cedric Jaggers, author of "Charleston's Cooper River Bridge Run: A Complete History in Words and Photos," after the race complained about any issues with police or security. For 37 years, Jaggers has asked people to "Tell me about your Bridge Run," for his ongoing documentation of the race.
The most common comments on Saturday, Jaggers said, pertained to the array of musical performances along the route and the headwind, coming out of the west, on the bridge. He added some runners who were less heat tolerant complained about the temperature and humidity.
At the 8 a.m. start, it was 64 degrees with 75 percent humidity. Jaggers says the headwind on the bridge may have helped cool runners who might have otherwise succumbed to the balmy conditions.
Same old fun
But the warm morning and sunshine, not to mention performances by Edwin McCain and the Blue Dogs, made it conducive for hanging around Marion Square, savoring Charleston's greatest rite of early spring.
And the people-watching was as world class as Holy City is itself.
Dressed as Elvis, Richard Wendt, 60, of Daytona Beach, Fla., was being stopped by people wanting to pose with him for photographs. For Wendt, coming to the Bridge Run with friends from North Carolina, Georgia and Florida is becoming a tradition.
A group of nine runners from Spartanburg - who ran as the Jamaican bobsled team, complete with sled made out of Duct Tape - also spent much of the morning posing with total strangers for photographs.
Sammy Goode, 51, of Spartanburg, says it was the group's first attempt running in costume, but that it might not be last. The friends often travel to Jamaica together and Goode was inspired by the fact that Jamaica returned to the Olympics this year with a bobsled team.
Will you marry me?
Almost every Bridge Run has a wedding proposal or two, but few do it in front of thousands of people at Marion Square.
On Saturday, Richard Handy's well-orchestrated proposal ended with a tearful acceptance by Megan Luzander. Handy, 25, of Huntersville, N.C., enlisted Luzander's twin sister, Molly Jones, and other members of their families in the top-secret endeavor. They managed to get the ring and flowers to Marion Square safely in all the chaos.
Reach David Quick at 937-5516.
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