Co-founder, longtime runner reflect on 40 years of Cooper River Bridge Run

Updated: Mar. 31, 2017 at 2:17 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A co-founder of the Cooper River Bridge Run and a man who has never missed a bridge run reflected on its 40-year run Friday.

The bridge run was launched in April of 1978 and featured just a few hundred runners.

Race co-founder Dr. Marcus Newberry says the idea for the race came from a friend.

"Norman had run the bridge on that narrow little sidewalk and he had this dream of one day he'd love to see a race across the bridge," Newberry said. He said we ought to run over the only mountain in town."

It took legislation drafted by then state senator Dewey Wise to get approval to put on the bridge run.

The first one was on a Sunday across the Silas Pearman Bridge.

Bob Schlau ran that first race and recalls two big problems.

"I remember the First Scots Church was letting out and it was sort of a zoo on Meeting Street because everybody was trying get out of church," Schlau said.

Schlau says the other problem was there were no water stations along the race route.

"Overheating, dehydration, I think that was the biggest lesson they learned the first year," Schlau said.

The next year the bridge run was moved to the Grace Memorial Bridge.

Soon, the field grew from the hundreds to the thousands.

The race alternated over the two bridges over the year, but ultimately it was moved to the Ravenel Bridge because the two other bridges were taken down.

Schlau, who's participated in every single bridge run is amazed at the growth.

"One of things I enjoy every year is when I get to the top of the bridge I used to be up front. I would turn and look back down and see the sea of people and colors starting up the bridge, taking over Coleman Boulevard," Schlau said.

For Newberry, one thing in particular stands out: the number of people who have helped make the bridge run happen.

"It takes a lot of people to put on something like this. Even back in those days, it was a network of people that we had to get all the right guesses," Newberry said.

Schlau is one of four runners who have never missed a bridge run.

He came close to missing one of the early races because his plane got into Charleston a few hours before the run.

"All that time you're not thinking about a 40-year streak in the fifth or sixth year and I got up and I was registered, oh well, what the heck, I will do it," Schlau said.

Newberry is not surprised the bridge run has stuck around for 40 years.

"Did I envision it lasting this long? I did and thought a race over the bridge in Charleston in the spring will have staying power," Newberry said.

Schlau plans to keep on running the bridge for many more years.

"As long as I can I will. I know at some point it will probably have to come to an end, but it won't be by my choice, it will be something else that will stop me," Schlau said.

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