Friedrich, Myers join run's Hall of Fame

Mark Friedrich was a top local runner for years, as evidenced by this photograph in the Charleston Running Club's newsletter.

The newest inductees in the Cooper River Bridge Run Hall of Fame have been out of the local running scene for most of the last decade, but were very much a part of it in the 1980s and 1990s.

Mark Friedrich, 57, of Isle of Palms and Eileen Stellefson Myers, 56, of Nashville, Tenn., were selected for the honor that was started in 2002 as part of the 25th anniversary of the Bridge Run.

They join 46 other organizers, runners, volunteers and public officials who have played a significant role in the Bridge Run and the local running community since 1978.

Friedrich, who works for the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department, was one of the top local runners competing in the Bridge Run. He finished second overall in 1983 and, at the time, was only the second runner to break the 30-minute barrier with a time of 29:58.

Friedrich also won the Marcus Newberry Award twice for being the fastest local runner - in 1991 (32:18) and 1996 (31:59) - and was fifth in a very elite master's (40 years and older) division in 1997 with a time of 32:20.

His running feats extended well beyond the Bridge Run. Long before marathons became mega events, he ran the 1983 Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn., in 2:23:02 (his personal record) and the inaugural Twin Cities Marathon in 1982 in 2:23:59. He also won the first marathon he ran, Rocket City in Huntsville, Ala., in 1980 and finished 198th overall with a time of 2:30:33 at the New York City marathon in 1981.

Not bad for the high school runner who was not highly recruited to run in college.

"I assumed, as many high school athletes, that after my graduation in 1974 my organized athletic days would be over," says Friedrich, who attended the University of Tennessee.

"While still at UT, road races began to pop up across the country as part of the running boom," Friedrich said. "In May of 1978, the first Expo 10K was held in Knoxville and I participated with almost no training. This reignited my interest in distance running and I began training a little. I started running occasional races and very gradually became more serious in my training."

Shortly after becoming a masters runner in 1996, Friedrich suffered severe Achilles tendonitis that thwarted training efforts and ended his run of 10Ks in the 32-minute range.

Family and work responsibilities followed, but he still had some Bridge Run memories after that, including 2004 when he ran his "slowest Bridge Run of all time (37:42)."

During Christmas of 2003, Friedrich came down with bronchitis that later was diagnosed as pneumonia.

"I missed close to a month of work. In early January, I could barely walk 50 feet. As I began to improve, I began to walk outside, less than a block at first. Each day, I walked further.

"Next, I decided I needed a goal to keep motivated. The Bridge Run was 2½ months away. Hopefully, I could walk it, but doubted I would be ready to run it. I gradually increased the length of my walks. By two weeks before the bridge run I was up to 30 miles a week of easy to moderate running."

The following year, Friedrich won his age group division of 45-49 with a 37:24, but recurring calf issues caused him to throw in the towel on competitive running.

"If I had never gotten injured, I'd still be racing seriously," says Friedrich, who is heavily involved with family activities and gets plenty of exercise with yard work and walking his dog three to six miles a day. "I'm happy with what I'm doing now."

Long before the days of the Internet, runners of all levels had few resources to find out about sports nutrition.

In the 1980s and 90s, dietitian Eileen Stellefson Myers was one of the most respected resources for that information for the Charleston running community.

Myers, who moved to Charleston in 1986, quickly became involved in the running community where she not only had a personal love for the activity but a professional interest. In her studies, the areas she focused on was sports, weight management and eating disorders. One of her friends and mentors was Nancy Clark, perhaps one of the two foremost nutritionists in American running in the past 40 years.

Once in Charleston, Myers was often tapped to speak at training camps leading up to the Bridge Run and often fielded questions.

She also loved running the race and can't remember missing one while living in Charleston.

Her move to Nashville, largely to be closer to her husband Gary Myers (who she met while running with a group at Colonial Lake in Charleston), combined with osteoarthritis and a hip replacement have kept her from running many races.

"I don't run like I used to," said Myers, whose fastest Bridge Run time was "43-something." "But I will say that the running community in Charleston was so wonderful to be around . There's nothing like Charleston."

And while she and Gary have lived away from the area for more than a decade, his retirement in 2015 may just give the Myers the chance to return to Charleston and be part of the running community again.