The Cooper River Bridge Run is the third largest 10K in the U.S. that’s been run so far this year and is the only competition in South Carolina sanctioned by U.S. Track and Field as an elite event. It’s a great race and a lot of fun. I’ve done it twice and have absolutely no intention of doing it again — although I think I might if I were a bit younger.
The problem with running as one gets well into their 50s (or at least the problem with my running) is that one no longer springs like a gazelle but stands there nearly frozen, mute and dumb, like the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz,” waiting on that magical can of oil called youth to come and grease up the joints. And for some reason, the scarecrow doesn’t show up.
Now, of course, there are plenty of people in their 50s and 60s who can run circles around almost anyone. I personally don’t have that gift (or dedication), so now I swim and in my own mind don’t have any problems. None. I started late, so therefore have no frame of reference and am as good as I’ve ever been.
So life’s a mind game. We all know that. And for the last two years I’ve done the 2.4-mile swim under the Ravenel Bridge, which is way more difficult than doing a 10K. (Mind game — remember that if a beer can can do it in two hours, a person such as myself should be able to do it in one. And, no, the swim is actually way easier than a 10K run.)
Yet I’m still interested in 10Ks — from a distance, that is. And I couldn’t help noticing that there has been some talk lately as to why the Cooper River Bridge Run numbers were down this year. A very busy weekend with other distractions, competition from the Flowertown Festival, cost of the race package and so forth. Maybe even the weather had something to do with it at the last-minute with below-average temperatures.
I believe there are two fundamental reasons why race numbers may wane downward on occasion:
1) It’s not as exciting to run over a bridge that’s now available for that very pursuit 24/7/365.
2) Some runners may get exasperated with the foregone conclusion that a professional from not only off but way off is going to win every year, as has been the case since 1992.
We can’t do anything about the first, but on the second, we should welcome all competitors but do away with any and all prize money and earmark 100 percent of the same for charity. This race has evolved away from the spirit of unfettered sport and regional entertainment, and I can’t imagine how disincentivizing professionals could negatively impact overall registration numbers.
But maybe I’m wrong — on any number of levels. I’d be interested in knowing what the elite local runners and race organizers have to say about the above and their personal observations as to why participation was a bit lower this year.
Speaking of sport, it’s Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day all over again as wives married to golfers don black, hang the crepe and wear veils as this year’s Masters gets underway — well, right now — if you happen to be reading this at breakfast. Between the excitement of spring, the beauty and treachery of Augusta National, and the awesome powers of history and tradition — there’s just nothing quite like it or with as much cachet in all of American sport. (Although admittedly a Game 7 ALCS finale at Fenway Park between the Red Sox and the Yankees comes close.)
The big question is what Tiger Woods is doing back at The Masters without a warm-up tournament after getting chased out of the Phoenix Open a few weeks ago with a case of the chipping yips. If it’s true that once you’ve had ‘em (the yips), you’ve got ‘em, I would think that Augusta National and its brutal greens would hardly be the place to try and prove otherwise after a layoff.
He’s really going to have his work cut out for him. Woods, 39, who has fallen out of the top 100 in world rankings, and who has had four left knee surgeries and a lower back procedure on March 31 of last year, is still carrying a lot of baggage from his personal unravelling over five years ago.
He’s in a delicate place physically and psychologically, and will have done very well even to make the cut. But his name is Tiger Woods, just the name of which casts a certain aura and a huge shadow, and which recalls a time on limitless possibilities.
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.