They are in a special fraternity that has only four members and whose only requirement has been to finish every Cooper River Bridge Run ever held.

On Saturday, Owen Meislin, Bob Schlau, Bob Walton and John Weeks will seek to keep their individual streaks alive – running and finishing every Bridge Run since 1978.

Four men, 160 races between them.

When the Bridge Run celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2002, The Post and Courier started tracking these “ironmen of the Bridge Run.” That year, seven men held the honor.

A decade later, three of them were no longer part in the pack. Billy Davey suffered from atrial fibrillation; Ed Ledford’s Parkinson’s disease progressed too far; and in 2011, Dave Mellard died at age 89.

Each of the remaining four plan to continue their streak, though many acknowledge their ages and a need to take a more conservative approach to the race.

In fact, 75-year-old John Weeks already has a goal to keep his streak alive at least until the 50th Bridge Run in 2027. And after that?

“I’ll keep going,” he said.

The eldest of the bunch is Walton, 83, who is a former competitive age group runner, but he has walked the Bridge Run with family members since suffering a heart attack in 2013.

“That took me out (of running) for a while, but when I recovered the doctor said I can do anything I want except bungee jump," Walton said. "I don’t plan to do that," he added.

“It’s like playing cards. You have to play the hand that you get,” he said. "I used to get concerned about the old ladies and the old guys and little kids starting and stopping, and now I’m one of them. Be careful what you say in this life because it’ll come back and bite you.

"Now I’m just happy to finish.”

Even Schlau, arguably the most accomplished competitive runner in Charleston over the last four decades, is throttling back.

At 69, getting in good runs and staying injury-free is more challenging.

“Even when I was 60 I was still running under 40 minutes,” said Schlau. “But it’s more challenging now. Now, six miles is a long run. It used to be nothing. I still love the competition, but now I just want to participate.”

Like the others, Schlau wants to keep running the Bridge Run “until I can’t do it anymore.”

"In everybody’s life, whether it’s three things or 10 things that are special or that you remember, and this is one of them for me. It’s just fun to be one of the people who have run every single one … One of the ways I define myself is as a runner. And this is a special part of my running career.”

The baby of the group is Meislin, who is 64 and admits, “I’ve slowed down a lot.”

“(Running) is something that I have to do. But it’s more of a psychological need than a physical need. There was a time I ran seven days a week, but now it’s down to four days with other kinds of exercise on those non-running days.”

“As for the Bridge Run, there’s no doubt in my mind. I just do it. There’s no doubt in my mind. If I can make it, I’m going to try."

Each of them realized they had “a streak” at different times.

Schlau said it was sometime between the 15th and 20th that he had a streak, while Meislin didn’t think about it until somewhere in the 20s.

“That’s when it went from a tradition to a streak,” Meislin added.

Similarly, Walton said the Bridge Run was “just programmed into my Saturday” like other races and that he didn’t even think about it being a big deal until The Post and Courier story in 2002.

But after that realization, they made the Bridge Run a priority.

“I’ve cancelled business meetings," Schlau said. "I’ve been invited to play in really great golf tournaments that weekend. I’ve turned down a lot of things to run the Bridge Run. It’s part of who I am.”

Contact David Quick at 843-937-5516. Follow him on Twitter @DavidQuick.

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