Getting Over It

Today was such a marvelous day in South Carolina that I just have to share a few tidbits, especially since there were a few lessons thrown in for good measure.

I’m skipping the part about insomnia, something I’m always plagued with the night before a big event like the Cooper River Bridge Run. You’d think I was expected to be a front runner or something! So I got up at 4:30 a.m. and headed off to Charleston to “get over it.”  The race was to begin at 8:00, and since I was in the K-group, I figured it’d be 8:30 before I crossed the Start line. Boy, was I wrong.

Because of a problem with the bridge (never found out what), it was almost 10:00 before I finally headed towards the bridge and Charleston. While waiting, I entertained myself by watching some zany people. I also chatted with some cool ones. My favorite new stranger/walker/friend is a woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a year ago. After six rounds of chemo, she was pronounced cancer-free. Today she was doing the Bridge to celebrate life and health. Before we parted company, she extracted a promise that I’d make an appointment for a physical next week

Walking and jogging, I crossed Shem Creek and headed toward the bridge. One advantage of being at the back of the pack is that the people there don’t take themselves so seriously. They laugh and tell funny stories and encourage one another. They also take time to stop and take pictures. My favorite family shot was of a couple cradling a baby between them. The baby was wearing super size sunglasses, and the father had some weird hair going on. I think it was a wig.  I smiled as I thought of how neat that picture would be to the family as the child grows.

I spied several men wearing red dresses, and two of them were walking near me. Feeling brave, I told them that they won the prize for originality, creativity, and pure guts. “Thanks,” they said. Then one of them told me that he had considered wearing his blue ensemble and then opted for the red. “Good choice,” I said. “It makes a bolder statement.”

As I passed other walkers and joggers, I overheard snippets of conversations, some of which were quite interesting. About three miles into the event and almost halfway over the bridge, I heard a man say, “Sometimes I think it’s just pure luck.” His walking buddy replied, “Yeah, but perseverance is important too. Just sticking to something and not quitting can make a big difference.” I wondered if they were psychologists, career counselors, professional employees, or regular guys who were trying to figure things out. Whatever their status, their philosophy applies to just about every area of life.

And the music! Oh my gosh, it was fantastic. That’s an understatement. The bands and the sounds they made were awesome beyond words. Some were so good that race participants took a break to dance along the way! At a street corner in downtown Charleston, we were greeted by an Elvis looking crooner with a great voice. The band performing at the park was ultra talented and entertaining. So were the men and women who danced on stage. Their costumes were original and “fun,” and their joie de vivre was contagious.

And the food. It was great too. I sampled an apple, some ice cream, and a bagel. Oranges, bananas, yogurt, and water were available too. The vanilla and chocolate ice cream tasted so cold and creamy as I stood listening to the band on stage and watching the dancers. I looked up at the clear blue Carolina sky,  glimpsed the American flag, and then caught sight of a father dancing with his daughter on his shoulders. What a morning!

To no avail, I tried to get together with Lauren and Kelly. I didn’t see Ben, Lisa, or Lynn either. Still, it had been a fun morning, and reluctantly I left to walk towards the busses that took race participants back to Mt. Pleasant. On the bus, I sat next to someone who had completed the Chicago Marathon, and I enjoyed listening to her story.

Tonight as I remember all of the upbeat sights and sounds, there’s only one downer. Not only after we got into the city, a man missed his footing somehow and fell to the sidewalk. I heard a couple of people scream, and startled, I turned just as he hit the pavement, blood gushing from his forehead. I hope he’s okay tonight.

And I hope the 44,000 folks who “got over it” had a swell time. And I hope you’ll join us in 2013.


Cooper River Bridge Run

Cynthia Marsh Cook, I hope you’re reading this and that you’re seriously considering “getting over it” with me next year. For the first time in 30 years, I did the Cooper River Bridge Run/Walk with no kith or kin to swap war stories with in the park. It was still an awesomely amazing morning, but it would have been even more memorable with someone to share the event with.

The first time I participated in the Cooper River Bridge Run, the race began at Patriot’s Point, and I could see every single person who was running with me. In those days, I was running and not walking, and the entrants were much fewer in number than Saturday. There were probably several hundred of us, but we were contained in one relatively small area. Today the sea of people stretches so far that you can’t see a beginning or an end. Another change is that I’ve slowed down quite a bit.

As the years rolled by, the crowd grew larger, and there were times that we could feel the old bridge shake as hundreds of footfalls hit the pavement. I loved that old bridge! The beauty and majesty of it were awesome. It had what I often refer to as the “coolness factor.” But back to the story. Every year, the numbers swelled, and at some point in the early 1990’s, I realized that it was easy to get separated from one’s companion(s). One minute your party would be there, and the next they’d be far ahead, not to be seen again until the end.

Eventually, the Grace Bridge was demolished, leaving the Pearman Bridge, and in the summer 2005 the Arthur Ravenel Bridge was dedicated and opened. It’s the one we now traverse, and I have to admit that it too has a definite coolness factor too. It doesn’t shake, it’s much wider, and the diamond twin towers are awesome. The only advantage the first bridge had was the wonderful sensation of soaring when you flew down the span. Of course, you had to work like the dickens to get to the top of them, but once the ascent had been laboriously made, well, the fast, fun descent was so amazing that I can’t find adequate words to describe it.

Initial numbers of a few hundred grew to a few thousand, and Saturday there were nearly 30,000 people “getting over it.” From my vantage point, I could see neither beginning nor end. People were so densely packed around me that I could scarcely see to the side of the road, much less the start line. For the first time, we lined up in “waves” according to our projected finish time, and I was in Wave J, the next to the last one. Did that bother me? Not at all. I felt happy to be able to walk 6.2 miles, especially with my bum left knee. About the densely packed crowd, there were people of all ages, from babies being pushed by their parents to quite a few senior citizens. Truly, I spied hundreds who were older than yours truly, an encouraging observation.

Speaking of doing the distance, I used to always finish in less than an hour. Always. Then one year (I think it was 1982), I crossed the finish line to see my disappointing time of 1:01:01. It was devastating . I haven’t seen Saturday’s time yet, but I think it was probably 1:30 or more. Do I care? Not at all. About a decade ago, I began to think of the annual event as just that: an event. It’s a day to get together with thousands of other like-minded individuals who are into fitness and fun and the celebration of life.

Saturday was the first time ever that I’ve been on the bridge without a single family member being somewhere in the pack. The Chick-fil-A cows were there, a sight that always brings a smile to my face. There was even one on the Bridge itself, and I saw several people scoot over to give him a hug. People in zany costumes were there…loved that too. I think my favorite s were the men dressed in red dresses, one of whom had a beard. And this year there were more bands along the way; I especially loved the Bluesy Duo on King Street.

Still, there was no kith or kin to swap war stories with in the park. My friend Lynn and her sister Pam were there somewhere in the crowd, but we missed each other in the mass of humanity. I munched on a bagel and an apple before catching a bus that took participants back to Mt. Pleasant, and while I enjoyed the happy banter of all the people around me, I missed my peeps (I hope my daughter Elizabeth will forgive me for using that expression).  Maybe they’ll join me next year. Cynthia Marsh Cook, I hope you’re reading this and that you’re seriously considering “getting over it” with me in 2012.