One of the biggest complaints about the Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk over the past decade has been the human traffic jam once the starting gun went off.
People who wanted to run had to walk, jog and stop, and many took five to 15 minutes to even get to the starting line, though computer timing chips deducted those minutes off finish times.
After years of calls for a staggered, or "wave," start, the Bridge Run's executive committee recently approved it for the 34th annual event, April 2, 2011.
The wave will work like this.
As in recent years, runners and walkers will be arranged in large corrals based on how fast they expect to finish the 6.2-mile run from Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant to Marion Square in Charleston. The fastest runners are in the front. Walkers are in the back.
In all, there will be 12 corrals and each will start in three-minute intervals, or waves. So instead of all 33,000-plus participants starting at one time, waves of 3,000 to 5,000 each will depart one at a time.
Bridge Run Race Director Julian Smith initially resisted the idea of a wave start when it was brought up five years ago because he thought all participants would want to start running at the same time. But representatives from the Charleston Running Club kept raising the point, and Smith made visits to other major 10K road races, namely Atlanta's Peachtree and Colorado's Bolder Boulder, to see how wave starts work there.
Smith warmed up to the idea but said the plan needed to be phased in, as the Bridge Run worked on the corralling system and bought the fencing necessary to make it work.
"I wanted to do it, but I wanted to build up to it. I didn't want to do it in a drastic decision, but we're at this point," Smith said. "I knew it was coming."
He added that several other changes to the race will be announced when the Bridge Run unveils its 2011 T-shirt design on Sept. 9.
Reach David Quick at email@example.com or 937-5516.