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Cheserek wins 44th Annual Cooper River Bridge Run

Event is third-largest 10K in the nation
Published: Sep. 25, 2021 at 4:52 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 25, 2021 at 11:54 PM EDT
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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - A 27-year-old Kenyan man was the first to finish the 44th Annual Cooper River Bridge Run.

Edward Cheserek completed the race with a time of 28:25, a pace of 4:34 per mile. Cheserek, who now lives in the United States, is a 17-time NCAA champion at the University of Oregon.

He was a runner-up at the 2021 Great North Run and his all-time personal best in a 10K is 27:23.

Edward Cheserek, shown here holding up the trophy for his victory in the men's NCAA Cross...
Edward Cheserek, shown here holding up the trophy for his victory in the men's NCAA Cross Country National Championships, on Nov. 21, 2015, in Louisville, Ky, was the first Male Elite runner to complete the 44th Cooper River Bridge Run Saturday.(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

The leaderboard listed the top Female Elite runner as Nell Rojas from Boulder, Colorado with a time of 31:52, and a pace of 5.07 per mile.

The Bridge Run began at 8 a.m. Saturday with a smaller-than-normal crowd of runners. The 15th annual Wheelchair Division race began just before 7:30 a.m. with nine participants.

The Arthur Ravenel Bridge closed at 7 a.m. Saturday, an hour before the official start of the race.

The bridge, along with the rest of the race route shut down at 7 a.m. The route and support streets will remain closed until the final participant clears the area. Many downtown roads that shut down earlier Saturday morning are expected to reopen by 2 p.m.

The Ravenel Bridge will reopen after police and media are cleared off the bridge and any debris from the race is removed.

This year’s event is the first in-person Bridge Run held since April 6, 2019. The event planned for 2020 was changed to a virtual run because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers imposed a lower-than-usual cap on the total number of runners and walkers for this year’s 10K event, limiting the total to 25,000 from its usual 40,000. That means more than a third fewer people will “Get Over It” in this year’s event, a reference to the iconic 2.5 mile Arthur Ravenel Bridge that serves as part of the course.

All of the individual registrations for the 25,000 in-person spots sold out.

Watch live coverage of the 44th Annual Cooper River beginning at 8 a.m. on the air, online and in the Live 5 News app.

15th Annual Cooper River Bridge Run Wheelchair Division winners announced

Hermin Garic, left, and Aerelle Jones, right, took first place in the 15th Annual Cooper River...
Hermin Garic, left, and Aerelle Jones, right, took first place in the 15th Annual Cooper River Bridge Run Wheelchair Division race.(Cooper River Bridge Run)

As of just before 8:30 a.m., Hermin Garic, 31, was listed in first place in the men’s 15th Annual Wheelchair Division. The leaderboard showed his time at 22:57, nearly two minutes better than his 2019 2nd place finish at 24:48.

Garic, who lives in Utica, New York, sustained a spinal cord injury during a Bosnian war event at the age of 4. He started wheelchair racing as a teen and became a top contender in every event he has entered over his 15-year career.

He hopes to compete in the 2024 Paris Paralympic games.

The leaderboard showed Aerelle Jones, 22, as the top finished in the female division, with a finish time of 35:45, only one minute behind her first-place finish in 2019′s Bridge Run of 34:45.

Jones was born with Klippel-feil syndrome causing fusion of several vertebrae of the neck, impairing her mobility. She has been wheelchair racing for nine years and currently works at a daycare with preschoolers.

SPECIAL SECTION: Cooper River Bridge Run

Organizers recommend against spectators at finish line

Ongoing concerns about safety amid the pandemic prompted organizers of this year’s event to urge spectators not to gather near the finish line.

People who take part in the event were told they would be required to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or to provide proof of a negative test conducted within 72 hours of the time they picked up their race packet.

But Bridge Run organizers say there will be food, entertainment, vendors, and souvenirs at the post-event festival at Marion Square.

The event will run until 12 p.m. on race day.

44 years of the Bridge Run

The Cooper River Bridge Run is the third-largest 10K race in the United States. It is normally held on the first Saturday in April unless that Saturday falls on Easter weekend.

Dr. Marcus Newberry founded the Cooper River Bridge Run in 1978. The 10K’s course takes runners down Coleman Boulevard through Mount Pleasant, over the Arthur Ravenel Bridge and into downtown Charleston.

Participants include world-class athletes as well as running enthusiasts, walkers and their friends and family members. The run has an annual grant program to promote health and wellness, supporting a dozen charities through fundraising and promotion.

In the race’s very first running on April 2, 1978, 766 finishers crossed the former Silas Pearman Bridge. It was one of the hottest temperatures on record at 82 degrees at the 10 a.m. start time. That was the only year the Bridge Run was held on a Sunday.

By 1980, the course had shifted to the former Grace Memorial Bridge where it would remain until 1995 when it returned to the Pearman Bridge.

Only once in the race’s history did it end in a tie. That happened on March 29, 1980, and the record time is 31:26.

Both of those bridges were replaced in 2006 by the Ravenel Bridge. The all-time record number of registrations occurred that same year when 45,663 signed up. Of those, 33,742 finished the race that year.

The event received the Governor’s Cup Award in 2019 for its impact on Tourism and Travel. It has a direct economic impact of $30 million.

The average age of participants in the annual event is 32.9, but people of all ages have taken part over more than four decades.

A virtual run replaced the traditional race in 2020 because of the pandemic. The 2021 event, which was originally planned for its late March or early April timeframe, was postponed to September, also because of the pandemic.

James Koskei of Kenya holds the current record for the all-time top performance in the men’s open category with a finish time of 27:40 in 2000. Elana Mayer, from South Africa, holds the women’s open category best time at 31:19, set in 1997.

For wheelchair finishers, the records are 24:30, set by Tyler Byers in 2007 and 37:10, set by Ilana Dupont in 2013.

Silas Kipruto and Monicah Ngige were the winners of 2019′s event, with finish times through the 6.2-mile course of 27:58 and 31:37 respectively.

Kipruto, then 34, has been in the top five finishes numerous times in some of the world’s most competitive races. Kipruto finished with a time of 27:58, securing the $10,000 top prize.

Monicah Nigige, then 25, was the top female Elite finisher, winning her third Cooper River Bridge Run in the past four years.

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