Did you know that while runners gear up for the annual Cooper River Bridge Run, athletes from across the country take part in the Wheelchair Division race sponsored by Roper St. Francis Healthcare? We had the opportunity to attend this year’s event to cheer on the participants and meet the integral volunteers (many of whom are Roper St. Francis Healthcare Rehabilitation Services teammates).
What we tried
We woke up bright and early and headed out to the finish line downtown. We were greeted by the volunteers who dedicated their Saturday to help racers cross the finish line with everything they needed, from medical attention to hydration. A lean, passionate group of volunteers support these elite wheelchair racers, including Physical Therapist and Neurologic Clinical Specialist Kyle Cooper. “These athletes have put in the hard work to compete,” says Kyle. “We’re just there to help facilitate their ability.”
The wheelchair race began at 7:25 a.m. — 35 minutes prior to the main run — so we got to hang out and chat with the spectators who came from near and far to support the athletes while we waited for them to approach the finish line.
We could hear the cheering well before the racers came into view. Speeding to the finish line first was Jose Pulido — finishing in 30:56 — swiftly followed by eight others.
What not to miss
One of our favorite parts of the race was seeing the athletes support one another after crossing the finish line. Once they were checked on by the volunteer medical team, we watched them congregate with each other, give congratulations, and chat about how the race went.
What we’re still talking about
Seeing these athletes in action is something we won’t forget. Learning about all it takes for them to travel here, get prepared and set up, and complete the race was unforgettable.
“I get more insight every time I work with athletes in this capacity,” said Cooper, who’s volunteered with this race since starting at Roper Hospital 12 years ago. “I see what they’re capable of and learn more about what we, as therapists, can do to better our patients’ lives.”
How you can experience this
The date of the 2024 Bridge Run is set for Saturday, April 6 — so keep an eye out for a volunteer sign-up when it’s released. In the meantime, check out Roper St. Francis’ secrets to Bridge Run success.
Things to know before you go:
While the event is free to attend, plan to budget for parking and plan your route ahead of time. Downtown road closures begin the night before the race, so utilizing the street closure map is essential.*