For people like Donell Allen and her friends, participating in the Cooper River Bridge Run is all about a chance to make spectators laugh.
They get creative every year for 10K race over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, in the past dressing as pirates and Three Blind Mice. Saturday's theme? Cops and robbers.
Holding handcuffs and wearing a ball cap that said "police," Allen of West Columbia snacked on a Krispy Kreme donut near Marion Square after the race. Three friends, who donned striped shirts and fitted black caps, joked that they'd been running from Allen with their loot since the start of the race in Mount Pleasant.
"I’m the mouth of the group, so I can yell, 'Stop! Thieves! They’re getting away!'" Allen said.
Among the others who crossed the finish line were a nun who raced in her habit for charity, people who celebrated their birthdays, a family of "unicorns" and racers wearing bright pink tutus. In total, 27,414 people participated in the 41st annual race.
Runners this year were again greeted by a smiling Henry Middleton, the bellman at the Historic Charleston Hampton Inn. Middleton — dubbed "Happy Henry" by hotel staff for his upbeat demeanor — shimmied, bounced and offered high-fives on King Street near Hall's Chophouse.
Outside Mellow Mushroom on King Street, runners could grab a piece of bacon from bartender and server Jes Edwards, who wore an orange lei and offered the strips of meat on a tray. The pizza joint gives out bacon every year as an incentive for runners to come back and dine after the race, she said.
"Bacon!" she called out with a smile.
While many focused runners breezed past, some slowed their pace for the snack.
"Toward the end of the race, I think they’re thinking, 'I really wanna eat this piece of bacon and then I want a margarita,'" Edwards said. "Happy people eating is the best thing in the world, I think."
Nearby on King Street, several men leaned out the windows of a second-story apartment and clapped for runners below.
"Want a beer? I got a beer," one of the men hollered as he clanked a wooden spoon on the lid of a kitchen pot.
A cold drink was on one woman's mind as she turned to a fellow racer shortly after crossing the finish line and asked, "All right, where's the beer?"
After it was all over, hundreds of exhausted racers plopped onto the grass in Marion Square and sank their teeth into large chunks of watermelon. Others headed straight to the bars on Calhoun Street, where pop music blared.
For Iowa resident Melissa Riegel, the Bridge Run is a reason to come home to Saluda, S.C., to run with her mother and sister and then enjoy a weekend of visiting their favorite spots on Edisto Island and Folly Beach.
"It’s a good excuse to get together," she said. "We pretty much sign up as soon as it opens up."
For the past several years, Edward and Tasha Fonteneaux have traveled from their home in Fayetteville, N.C., for the race. Saturday's run took on new meaning as Edward Fonteneaux, the couple's 16-year-old son and members of the family's boxing gym in North Carolina ran to raise awareness of acute myeloid leukemia.
Their 13-year-old son Treveon is recovering from leukemia after receiving a bone marrow transplant from his older brother. He couldn't make it to the race but viewed the event on TV from his grandparents' home in North Charleston.
"He’s proud," Tasha Fonteneaux said at the finish line. "He was like, 'I’m gonna sit down and watch and see if I can see dad.'"