On March 28, the 38th annual Cooper River Bridge Run 10k is going down. Every year, locals and tourists alike come together for the largest race in South Carolina, and one of the best parties of the year. This year, we had the opportunity to sit down with Mary Massalon, a local runner and 12-year veteran of the Cooper River Bridge Run, to discuss the race, and give us some insider tips on how to do it the right way.
Mary, you've been running long distances for more than 10 years now and have experienced a number of races. What differentiates the Bridge Run from the others?
My first Bridge Run was in 2004, and I've only missed one in the past 12 years. It's one of my absolute favorite annual races. With a cap at 40,000 participants, it's definitely one of the biggest races I've ever run. It's impeccably organized and brings in a ton of visitors from all across the globe. No other event quite compares to race weekend in Charleston!
What is the vibe like on Race day? Give us the inside scoop on what to expect before, during, and after.
The city is buzzing with anticipation and activity. Downtown, people start lining up around 4:30 or 5 a.m. to start getting on buses to the start line. The line starts in front of Gaillard Auditorium and spans nearly five blocks to King Street. Once you finally get on a shuttle (make sure you have your race number on), you take a short ride over the Cooper River to the starting line. They play pump-up jams and everybody is in a great and excited mood.
Once you start running, I'd expect heavy density until about the top of the bridge—it starts to thin-out once you hit the first diamond. All the while, you'll get to see fun, comical costumes run by, and it is definitely a great place to do some fantastic people watching. Onlookers post up all along the race course both in Mt. Pleasant as well as downtown to cheer you on. There are also bands playing live music scattered along the race course.
I'd have to say my favorites are the African drummers at the bottom of the bridge downtown. You run all across town and down King Street, which is always fun, and finally cross the finish line at Marion Square. Next stop..._ _free food. There are tons of volunteers handing out delicious blueberry bagels, coffee cake muffins, and if you can stomach it, Jim N' Nicks BBQ. Marion Square is packed with runners and their families hanging out on the grass and listening to the live music rocking out on stage. Overall the Bridge Run has one of the most fun vibes of any race I've ever run.
What advice would you give to a first-time bridge runner?
To a first-time bridge runner, I'd say enjoy the whole journey. It is such an exciting race to be a part of. You feel so connected and excited with the other 39,999 other runners who are there alongside you, not to mention the incredible view of the peninsula while running over the bridge. It is a truly great bonding experience with the city. Also, if you are on the competitive side, don't sweat your time. For the first half of the race, it's hard to run really fast through that many people in just two lanes of traffic. Just enjoy it and once you've got the lay of the land, maybe try for the PR next year.
The bridge run has been the highlight of the spring season in Charleston for almost 40 years, and it only gets better as time goes on. If you've been thinking of visiting Charleston for a spring getaway, or you're a local who somehow hasn't participated in the race, don't waste a minute in signing up to run. Online registration for the Cooper River Bridge Run is available now.