1978: At the height of the running boom in the United States, the Cooper River Bridge Run is born, drawing 766 runners, each paying $3 entry fees, for a race that starts at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning at Patriot’s Point, provides no water along the route in 82-degree heat and finishes at White Point Garden.
1979: Organizers tap friend and fellow runner, State Sen. Dewey Wise, after the S.C. Highway Department initially denies a request to use one of the two bridges. Learning from the mistakes of the first year, the race moves to a 9 a.m. Saturday start (due to complaints from churches), water is provided and the finish line is moved to George Street near the Cistern.
1980: Because the now-extinct Grace Memorial Bridge, built in 1929, is deemed unsafe for truck traffic and trucks can only use the Silas N. Pearman Bridge, the course moves from the Pearman to the Grace for the first time and presents runners with steeper “hills.”
1981: Marc Embler becomes the only local to win the male overall division, to date, with a time of 30:52, as the race grows to 1,338 finishers, including 292 females.
1982: Sallie Driggers becomes the only local to win the female overall division, to date, with a time of 37:21, in a race where runners are charged $5 if they want a T-shirt and $2 if they don't.
1983: Frank Shorter, Olympic marathon gold medalist in 1972 and silver medalist in 1976, who helped launched the American running boom, comes to the Bridge Run as the No. 1 seed and vows to break 30 minutes. He finishes fifth with a time of 31:10.
1984: For the first time, the Bridge Run moves its starting line from Patriot’s Point to the east side of Shem Creek and offers prize money, $1,500 to both the top male and female finishers.
1985: For the first time, the Bridge Run is broadcast live on local television (WCSC-TV) and the course is officially certified. The race fee increases to $8, but that doesn't deter 4,482 runners, including 999 females, from competing.
1986: Thick fog greets the morning of the ninth Bridge Run and plays a role in a bus hitting a car on the Pearman bridge that ultimately causes race officials to delay the start by 30 minutes. A new award, named for the race founder Marcus Newberry, is presented to the top local male and female finishers.
1987: Early April proves that it can be a wintry and blustery time, even in Charleston, as runners deal with 39-degree temperatures at the start and a 20-mph headwind, gusting to 35 mph, on the bridge, subsequently slowing times for 6,976 finishers.
1988: With timing becoming unwieldy, organizers hire a professional timing company, Burns Computer Services, for the first time. Bob and Benita (Brooks) Schlau, who were married at the time, win the Newberry Award for being the top local male and female finishers.
1989: Running legend Grete Waitz of Norway, a nine-time New York City Marathon winner and 1984 Olympic Marathon silver medalist, is lured to the Bridge Run with a sponsor-provided fee of $3,000 and wins the women’s race with a time of 33:29, garnering her another $2,000.
1990: The 13th Bridge Run brings some unlucky weather as heavy rain and a 20 mph northwest wind greets runners heading to the start, but the weather eases a bit before the gun goes off.
1991: Runners from North Carolina and South Carolina surprise pre-race favorite, the 1988 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials winner Mark Conover, on a warm, muggy morning.
1992: Male Kenyan runners begin their dominance of the Bridge Run, taking five of the eight prize-winning places in the overall division. The Post and Courier’s headline reads, “Kenyans cruise in Bridge Run.”
1993: The “walk” component of the Bridge Run emerges as a force of its own, as an estimated 6,000 participate in an untimed, four-mile walk starting near the entrance of Patriot’s Point. Former local elite Benita Schlau, who is now Benita Shaw, serves as race director.
1994: Oprah Winfrey’s relatively short flirtation with running stops in Charleston. She registers for the Bridge Run under the fake name, Francesca Kincaid, the character from the best-selling book, “The Bridges of Madison County.” She comes in 3,839th out of 7,355 finishers with a time of 55:48. A more lasting highlight occurs as Julian Smith takes over as race director.
1995: For the first time since 1979, the race moves back to using the Pearman Bridge and crests above the 10,000 finisher mark for the first time. The Post and Courier publishes every name and finish time – 6,841 males and 3,449 females – in its Sunday editions.
1996: Just weeks before winning the London Marathon, Scottish running legend Liz McColgan tunes up with a win at the Bridge Run, beating another running legend Kenyan Catherine Ndereba by a mere seven seconds.
1997: While comedian Bill Murray steals the show by cracking jokes from the scaffolding deck over the starting line, another female running star, South Africa’s Elana Meyer, puts on a show of her own, finishing in 31:19 (the standing Bridge Run record for women) in a race that has no Americans in the Top 10 of its male and female divisions.
1998: The event is a repeat of 1997 with Murray returning as a race starter and Meyer winning again, though with a slower time on the windiest Bridge Run (25 mph gusting to 35) to date. The estimated number of participants in the 4-mile walk, about 11,000, rivals those in the 10K, at 12,919.
1999: While Kenyans have increasingly dominated the men’s division since 1996, Eunice Sagero becomes the first Kenyan female to win the overall division on a cold, windy day: 45 degrees with a 10 mph wind.
2000: While women stole the spotlight in the previous three years, Kenyan James Koskei sets a Bridge Run record of 27:40 in arguably the fastest Bridge Run ever (the first four men break 28 minutes and the fifth comes in at 28:03), thanks to a strong tailwind on the bridge. Kenyan great Catherine Ndereba, a four-time Boston Marathon champion, wins her first of three consecutive Bridge Runs.
2001: The adage “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” applies to a race that starts with a warm temperature (for runners), 67 degrees. Humidity and a tailwind, which also has a warming effect, combine to send 81 runners to medical tents for heat-related issues. Top winning times are a minute slower than in 2000.
2002: Officials celebrate the 25th Bridge Run with a commemorative finisher medal and the creation of a new Hall of Fame, but the race is also notable because a lead vehicle hesitates at a turn off the bridge, sending the lead male runners (who were on pace for a new record) temporarily down the wrong ramp.
Genie Wellons becomes the first wheelchair athlete to participate in the race after he appeals the Bridge Run board to allow him to compete.
2003: Another warm Bridge Run (67 degrees, high humidity, bright sunshine) sends 200 runners to medical tents with six ending up in the hospital. The race also provides some of the first glimpses of the foundations of the new Cooper River bridge, now under construction.
2004: As ordinary and uneventful as the 27th Bridge Run is, it marks a transition from the old school races to a new era of larger crowds and all that eventual comes with them: corrals, heightened security and entertainment.
2005: Billed as the last Bridge Run over the Pearman Bridge, the event draws a then-record 24,663 registrants and 18,480 finishers, for a rainy, windy race.
2006: In arguably the most historic race since the first Bridge Run, the inaugural race over the new Cooper River bridge, aka the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, draws a whopping 45,663 registrants and 33,678 finishers. That latter number, however, is boosted by timing walkers, who now must line up behind the runners and walk a 10K. By doing so, the Bridge Run becomes a Top 15 U.S race (in terms of finishers) and females now represent most of the official finishers, 54 percent.
The new bridge also requires a major overhaul of the course and allows for the first open wheelchair race. Adding to all this is the drama of news of a midnight water main break that could’ve caused a water supply crisis for runners. Officials order an extra 70,000 bottles of water to make up the difference.
2007: With the last Bridge Run on the Pearman and the first Bridge Run on the Ravenel over, this year's Bridge Run has another reason to celebrate: its 30th anniversary. Again, it offers commemorative medals and even a timing chip with a logo.
2008: The uneventful 31st year proves one thing: the Bridge Run remains on an upward trajectory in registration (36,838) and participation (29,247).
2009: While Kenyans have dominated the Bridge Run for most of the last decade, this is the year for another East African running dynasty to emerge: Ethiopia. Tilahun Regassa and Amane Gobena lead Ethiopians to take nine of top 20 spots for males and females.
2010: Responding to the need to draw elite runners from the United States, the Bridge Run adds prize money for the top three runners from the United States. It continues to build in registrants (38,413) and finishers (33,057).
2011: After years of considering a corralling system to organize the start and improve the flow of the race, Bridge Run officials move forward with one. And the timing comes as the 34th event surpasses the 2006 event in the number of finishers, 34,789. It remains the race's second largest event, in terms of the number of finishers.
2012: Another watershed event is the 35th Bridge Run when a record number of finishers – 36,756 – combined with bus delays and communications problems add up for an unprecedented 58-minute delay in the start of the race. As a result, registration caps and a reorganization of duties and responsibilities take place.
2013: With a registration cap lowered by 5,000 (from 45,000 to 40,000), finisher numbers at the 36th Bridge Run drop by roughly the same amount to 31,459. But the race starts on time and a new approach to bus transportation is ironed out.
2014: Well before the 37th Bridge Run comes off, plans are in the works to increase security at the race following the April 2013 terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon. The result is not only a more secure race but even better order as corrals are actually policed.
2015: The 38th Bridge Run continues a major drop in finishers, another 4,475, from 2013. Speculation runs from foul weather in the weeks leading up the race to an entry fee of $55 (after Jan. 15, 2015) and timing with spring break. While its 27,389 finishers still makes it a top 8 U.S. race in 2015, the trend causes concern.
2016: Registrations bounces back for the 39th Bridge Run, but forecasts for bad weather, this time, tornadoes at the start of the race, hold back finisher numbers, which drop another 546 to 26,843. Still, most of the attention is focused on two local paraplegics, Marka Danielle Rodgers and Adam Gorlitsky, who use exoskeletons to walk the race.
2017: As part of the 40th running of the Bridge Run, officials start celebrating on President’s Day, 40 days before the race, with daily giveaways, raffles and events. As with other major anniversary runs, a special medal will be presented to all finishers.