1. Marcus Newberry
While there were half dozen key players in starting the Cooper River Bridge Run in late 1977, Newberry was the conductor who orchestrated the first few events. While he stepped back from these responsibilities in mid-1980s, he has remained in the background and has served as an adviser and troubleshooter in the past decade.
2. Julian Smith
When Julian Smith took over as race director in 1994, the Bridge Run was about the size of Charleston's largest Turkey Day Run. It had 7,400 finishers. With a knack for getting sponsors, networking with other race directors and adding promotional gimmicks, Smith has been largely responsible for helping to grow the Bridge Run into one of the biggest races in the United States during the past decade.
3. Dewey Wise
Many say without the help of state Sen. Dewey Wise, D-Charleston, in the late 1970s, the S.C. Department of Highways would have never closed the Silas N. Pearman Bridge for a road race. Highway department bureaucrats did not want to cooperate, but Wise, who also happened to be a runner, got a resolution passed allowing for the closure.
4. Cedric Jaggers
Few have spanned the length of the Bridge Run like South Carolina running columnist, archivist and “Bridge Run historian” Cedric Jaggers, who wrote the book “Charleston’s Cooper River Bridge Run: A Complete History in Words and Photos” in 2011 (he continues updating it every year). Jaggers missed the first Bridge Run, due to a broken leg, but then ran the next 35 races. A car accident ended his ability to run.
5. The original Bridge Run committee
Back in the 1970s, few people knew the components of putting on a road race. A dedicated band of volunteers, including Charleston Running Club Founder and President Terry Hamlin, as well as first Race Director Keith Hamilton, Dr. Brian Smith, Gary Wilson and Roy Hills, pooled their talents, knowledge and enthusiasm to pull it off.
6. Joe Riley
In 1978, Joseph P. Riley Jr. was in his first term as mayor of Charleston when he met with Newberry and Police Chief John Conroy, who was a runner, about the idea of a bridge run. Riley not only showed his support then but also remained a strong supporter throughout the rest of his 40-year mayoral career. He also has run or walked in about 30 of the events. To honor his service, the Bridge Run created an award in Riley's name for participants demonstrating courage.
7. The local winners
The only locals to have won the Bridge Run (at least so far) are Marc Embler in 1981 and Sallie Driggers in 1982. Those wins are symbolic of their influence on the local running scene. To this day, Embler remains a competitive runner (running sub-18 minute 5Ks) in masters, grand masters and age group circles. While Driggers doesn’t race anymore, she was a pioneer and role model for competitive female running.
8. Margaret Wright
While Driggers served as a role model for women, Margaret Wright did the same for older women and senior runners. In 1978, the then 56-year-old lab technician and mother of five grown children heard about plans to run over the Cooper River bridge, and she started training for it. She was among the 113 women to finish that first race. The experience would begin a quarter century of running. Due to Parkinson’s Disease and macular degeneration, Wright had to stop racing. She died in July 2015 at the age 94.
9. Benita Baker Shaw
Few people have worn as many hats for the Bridge Run as Benita Baker Shaw, who was a competitive runner in late 1980s, served as race director in 1993 and as assistant race director in 1995. She also has served as the Bridge Run training clinic co-director and most recently as volunteer coordinator.
10. Bob Schlau
Shaw’s ex-husband Bob Schlau also is a key figure in the Bridge Run, but primarily in the role as an elite and enduring runner. Schlau finished second in the 1979 race and won dozens of age groups, masters and grand masters awards ever since. And while he has never won it, Schlau is among only four runners who have run all previous Bridge Runs. In 2014, he leisurely ran the bridge with his former rival, Bill Rodgers, in what he called one of his favorite Bridge Runs.
11. Bill Boulter
The Bridge Run has plenty of loyal volunteers on which it depends. It also has runners that keep coming back year after year, well after many peers have hung up their shoes. But no one is quite like Bill Boulter, who has both volunteered and run.
12. Irv Batten
Local elite runner, former coach and former running shoe store owner has been a regular competitor in the Bridge Run (winning top local twice) for more than two decades. In 2015, he was hired as the deputy director of the Bridge Run and appears to be a key to leading the race into the future.