I saw the Blues Brothers in Mt. Pleasant yesterday. There were three of them instead of two,  and one of them had red curly hair beneath his black hat. Still, there was no mistaking who they were as they hustled over to join a band performing “Soul Man.” I was in the Shem Creek area heading to THE BRIDGE with 33,014 other walkers and runners and didn’t have time to listen to their music. Luckily, there was lots of music, loud and soulful, all along the way.

From before dawn to way after dusk, yesterday was a perfect day. My hubby and I pulled out of the driveway at 4:35 a.m. and headed to Charleston for the 33th Annual Cooper River Bridge Run. It was probably my 25th or 26th year to “get over it,” and the experience was just as unique and special as any and all of the others.

We were on Hwy 601 within ten minutes of leaving our house, and I LOVED the ride. It was dark, yes, but there was something special about the way the headlights lit the way before us as we rode down the long, narrow, snake-like road. The lights shone on several startled deer hovering near the side of the highway, but fortunately all of them stayed put.  In all the years we’ve known each other, I don’t ever recall hurtling down back roads, safe and protected within the confines of a car, so early in the morning.

Arriving at Mt. Pleasant around seven, we saw thousands of people. How long had they been there???? Otis dropped me off about half a mile from the start, and I busied myself people watching, walking about, and shivering. A pretty young woman, Lisa Wilson, recognized me as one of her former teachers at HGTC and lamented the fact that she’d left her running shoes at home. She was sporting a pair of flip flops and socks as she waited for a friend to bring her shoes. Hope things worked out for her.

I finally crossed the start line about 8:15 a.m., 15 minutes after the official start, and off we went. About two miles later I arrived at the foot of the bridge, and like every single year that I’ve crossed this bridge (and the old one), I felt a surge of excitement. It’s so beautiful…and so daunting. Although I had charged my iPod, I had so much fun listening to the energetic conversations and footfalls around me that I didn’t even turn it on. The experience was a feast for the eyes and ears both.  The temperature, though chilly, was ideal for the event, and I found myself doing as much jogging as walking. I felt amazingly strong, despite having slept only a fitful, tossing and turning five hours.

Coming off the bridge, we were met with more music and hundreds of well-wishers. “You can do it!” we heard over and over and over again. Other encouraging words were,”You’re almost there,” and “You’re looking good.” I saw dozens of participants reach out and touch hands with the cheering sections. Loved it! I missed seeing the little lady who used to play the harmonica; she was/is a traditional part of the yearly event.

Down Meeting and King Streets we went.  I felt SO STRONG and couldn’t figure out why. Usually by the time I’m at Mile 5, I’m beginning to think the race officials have measured incorrectly because I’m so “give out.” This year I thought, “It can’t be almost over because I still have a little energy to spare.” Alas, we turned a corner, and I saw the FINISH banner…even took a picture of it.

I walked into Marion Square and collected bananas, apples, and an orange for Otis. He’s into them lately. Then I ate a bagel and put another on my thumb. I left the park and headed to the church where I was to meet my brother Mike. On the way, I spied a man giving away Vitamin Water (love that stuff), and when I asked him for an extra for my husband, he said, “Here, take one for your daughter and Aunt Matilda too.” By this time, I’m so laden with goodies that walking without dropping everything has become a balancing act. I made it to the steps of the church and was just getting settled down to eat an apple when I learned that my brother had DESERTED ME. Yep, ‘tis true. He and Lisa were already on their way out of the city.

Not one to “kick a can” too long, I walked a few blocks to where people were loading the busses that would take them back to Mt. Pleasant. When finally seated, I offered a banana and a bottle of Vitamin Water to my seat mate; she chose the pomegranate flavor.  We made small talk about our bridge experiences, and she then told me about the Avon Walk for Life that she recently participated in. Over the course of two days, she walked 39 miles. Wow! She also contributed nearly 2,000 dollars towards cancer research. I’m thinking of joining her in this event. How can I not when my own mother died of cancer?

Back in Mt. Pleasant, I walked to Wendy’s where Otis was waiting for me.  Because the bridge was closed to traffic at 7:00, he had opted to stay in Mt. Pleasant and read his book.  We joined the exodus leaving the area and had some interesting experiences along the way, including a first for us: walking out of a restaurant for shoddy service. We arrived home 12 hours after leaving, tired but content.  The rest of the day was superb too, quieter and more low-key.

P.S. Just have to add this: There’s a reason why race officials prohibit the use of strollers and babies for this race. Why don’t young parents get this?

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