CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Tens of thousands of people will come together the first weekend in April to conquer the 2016 Cooper River Bridge Run.
Marc Embler would know. He was there for the inaugural Cooper River Bridge Run in 1978, when runners crossed over the Pearman Bridge from Mount Pleasant to White Point Gardens on the Battery. Embler later took home the win in 1981, completing the 10k in 30:54.
"The first Bridge Run, I think they were expecting two or three hundred people and one thousand showed up," Marc Embler said Friday, standing near the pedestrian entrance to the Ravenel bridge."They ran out of water and it was really hot."
It wasn't until the morning of the race that Embler decided to run.
"It wasn't a race I was pointing to," Embler said, adding that since he'd been training he decided to go last minute.
He's now the only local Charleston male to win the Bridge Run overall. His chapter in Bridge Run history is documented in Charleston's Cooper River Bridge Run: A Complete History in Words and Photos, by Cedric Jaggers.
Embler, who is Dean of the Center for Academic Excellence at Charleston Southern University, estimates he's participated in the Bridge Run 34 times. He won the American Male Grand Masters title in 2013, for ages 50 and over, and has set multiple running records across the state. Yet, Embler said each year, the only race he's asked about running is the Bridge Run.
Embler said there's no question he'll be there when the starting gun goes off April 2.
"There's energy, there's helicopters, the media, and then the mass of people," Embler said. "That's unlike any other race I've ever run."
More than 34 thousand people have already signed up for the race. Organizers expect that number to keep going up as the big race gets closer. Despite the crowds and adrenaline, Embler said his fondest Bridge Run memories center around family.
"There was one race my father, mother and three siblings ran," Embler said. "I think that's the way with a lot of people. It brings families together."
That tradition continues with his wife Ruth Marie, also an avid runner and racer, who sometimes coaches her husband.
"It's an amazing feat to run one mile, let along six miles," Anne Marie Embler said. "Congratulations to anybody who gets on the starting line at Cooper River Bridge."
But for Embler, the best moments are at the finish line.
"I always enjoy at the finish, just stopping and watching other people come in," Embler said. "It's fun to listen to the winners talk about their trophies...but probably the best stories are those trying to beat their best time or their father or their mother. Those are the best stories to me."