Bridge run: Wait 'til next year

Runners board the last of the shuttle buses on Calhoun Street after 8 AM. (Tom Spain/postandcourier.com)

The Cooper River Bridge Run fell far below expectations this year as the signature athletic event in Charleston and the Lowcountry. They can’t all be winners, and many participants agreed that the latest entry ranked as perhaps the low point in the event’s 35-year history.

In his Monday post-mortem, reporter David Quick detailed the various difficulties experienced in the run-up to the 10K race, including problems ferrying runners across the Ravenel bridge to Mount Pleasant for the start, difficulties with the wheelchair race that preceded the main event, and greater numbers of runners receiving medical treatment.

And, as Mr. Quick noted, there was inadequate communication between race organizers and participants.

Race director Julian Smith agreed: “A lot of times we didn’t know what was going on ourselves.”

The result was a delay of nearly an hour in the start time, and the attendant problems with 40,000 people jammed into a limited area while figuratively champing at the bit.

On our letters page today, Mr. Smith and Ken Ayoub, chairman of the Bridge Run Board of Directors, acknowledge the “unprecedented” shortcomings in this year’s event, offer limited explanations as to the cause and promise to do better next time around.

“As a testament to our continued efforts for perfection, we will be taking the necessary steps to help ensure this will never happen again,” they wrote.

As they observed, delays in the race meant delays in re-opening the bridge and roads along the race route to normal traffic.

And Saturday wasn’t the only day that there were race-related traffic problems.

This year’s bridge run debacle overshadowed recurrent difficulties on the day before the race in the city of Charleston, as race participants headed to the Gaillard Auditorium to pick up their race packets.

While traffic related to the pickup didn’t reach the point of gridlock experienced in 2009, the peninsula saw major congestion in an area that already has plenty of traffic on any Friday afternoon.

Some of the packet-pickup problems could be relieved by using another location. North Charleston, for example, has offered the use of its convention center to accommodate runners.

Similarly, race organizers are considering adding shuttle buses to North Charleston on race day to expedite the movement to the starting line.

Given the long successful history of the Cooper River Bridge Run, participants should be willing to accept this year’s problem-laden event as an anomaly and, as race organizers work to repair the damage, start looking forward to next year’s big event.