The Cooper River Bridge Run is an outstanding 10K (6 mile race) in Charleston, SC. It is the 3rd largest 10K in the U.S. with Boulder, CO being the second and our beloved Peachtree Road Race being the largest in the U.S. Cooper River brings out about 35,000 runners with hopes of getting over the 2.5 mile bridge. The race begins in Mt. Pleasant, moves along up and over the bridge and finishes nice and flat in downtown Charleston.
If the Cooper River Bridge run is in your future plans, keep reading for my guide to the Cooper River and Charleston!
I’ll begin by saying, in my personal opinion the Cooper River is so much more fun then the Peachtree Road Race. The expo is also a hundred times better and all of the free goodies you can score from the expo and finish festival is worth every penny spent to attend the race. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Peachtree Road Race and have a great time and will continue to run it as long as I can!
Fun Fact: I had a PR at the Cooper River this year, finishing with a time of 1:06:44, knocking a minute and 10 seconds off of my best time!
Here is my guide to the Cooper River Bridge Run! Enjoy!
Registering for the Cooper River: My advice is to register early, especially if you know for sure you are going to run it. The earlier you register, the better corral placement for those over an hour. Cooper River designates corrals A and B for those who can run under an hour. When registering, be sure to select your estimated finish time and if you are under an hour, you do have to verify it. Registration usually opens in June for the year ahead. Early bird registration is only $35 dollars! For registering, you are guaranteed a t-shirt, a nice swag bag, and a finishers medal.
Finding a Hotel: Let’s be real here. All hotels in and around Charleston, know about the Cooper River Bridge Run, therefore, the rates sky rocket and you are left searching for a room that is less then 300 dollars a night. My advise is to try to find a room in Mt. Pleasant or North Charleston. Many of the hotels in downtown Charleston are over 400 dollars a night so unless you have that kind of money, look for places with a 20 minute drive. Trust me it’s not a bad drive at all to drive in to downtown Charleston for sight seeing and dinner. I always use Expedia to book my hotel rooms. You can sign up for a free account and get reward points for booking through them. I have never had a problem booking through Expedia. It has always been fast and easy to reserve a room and I always book and pay at hotel. Therefore you can cancel right up until a few days before your stay just in case something comes up.
Expo: Do NOT pass up on the opportunity to go to the expo. This is not your normal pick up shirt and bib kind of expo, it is so much more then that. The majority of all vendors at the expo are handing out free swag! This year I got free socks, tons of free drinks and food and a free sampling of KT tape! There’s also lots of free samples of adult drinks but if flavored water is more your speed, they have that too! My personal favorite is called Body Armor, which is a coconut water electrolyte drink. I was super excited to see them at the expo and finish festival. I love their drinks and they are great for leg cramps. I drink one after I finish running to ensure I won’t have any leg cramps during the night! Works like magic! The expo is from 8 am-8 PM the Thursday and Friday before the race. To avoid long lines, go in the morning hours. Also make sure to take a picture at the free photo areas they have set up!
Buses/ Race Morning: Everyone has to ride a bus to the start line. There are four different pickup locations throughout Charleston. There is a downtown pickup location, North Charleston location, and two Mt. Pleasant locations. Buses start running at 5 AM and end at 7 AM and most importantly you have to have your bib on to board the bus. We got on the bus at Mt. Pleasant Towne Center which was .4 miles from our hotel. You can’t get much more convenient then that. It’s highly recommended to get to the buses by 6 to avoid long lines. We got there and parked at 5:30 and was able to get on the bus right away. We were at the start line by 6 AM, which they recommend you be in your corral by 7. It does get pretty congested around 7 am with everyone moving in different directions but as long as you are in the start line area by 7, you should be good to go. I was in corral D and was able to walk right up to the front of the line before 7:30. Race BEGINS at 8 AM. There are army/ national guards at each corral that are checking to make sure you are in the correct corral that is on your bib. If you have a friend in a different corral, you can move back but you cannot move forward. For example, I was in corral D, I could move to corral E or F but wouldn’t be able to move up to corral C or B.
Course: The corrals move pretty fast once they send the elites off. Once you start in Mt. Pleasant, you are on a very flat road for the first mile. After the first mile, you turn a curve and see that beautiful bridge with the beautiful hill that accompanies you for the next mile. You feel like you are running straight up and it was actually a weird feeling this year because it was so foggy. I couldn’t see a thing, couldn’t see out so I felt like I was running straight in to a fog funnel cloud. Once you get to the top, you are directly under the support cables and this is often a great spot for selfies if it’s pretty weather. I did not stop for selfies this year but if it’s your first bridge run, you may want to take a quick second to snap a picture! At the top of the bridge, you are around mile 3 and get to go down from here until you reach downtown Charleston and then it’s all flat to the finish line.
Finish Festival: As you cross the finish line, they make you keep moving so there is not a bottleneck at the finish area. You receive your medal once you make your way down the road towards the square. Once you get your medal, make your way to Marion Square for the finish festival. Be sure to grab a bag and load up on all the free food and drinks at different tents lined up along the square. This year they were handing out Body Armor drinks, powerade, chips, fruit and tons more. The best part is, they tell you to take as many of each item as you want.
Seeing Charleston: There is so much to see and do in Charleston. After you pick up your packet, head downtown and check out the many shops and restaurants Charleston has to offer. There are plenty of parking decks and spaces that are as low as $10 a day to park at. Grab a bite to eat at the famous, Hyman’s seafood. It was definitely the best food I have had in a long time. Make sure to try their hushpuppies, they were out of this world. I have linked their website below along with a few other places to visit. If you have never been to the Charleston City Market, it is worth a visit. There was a lot of neat items that people have made there. Pick up some of Byrd’s famous cookies and Charleston Plantation Tea while you are there! Also check out Rainbow row while in the area and be sure to snag a picture in front of the iconic homes. There is so much more to explore that I will hopefully get to see next year!
I will have this post under my travel section of my website so be sure to check it out if you plan to run Cooper River 2020.