By Dean Stephens
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- '"Runners take your mark."
It's a call that's been heard at the starting line of the Cooper River Bridge Run since 1978. The inaugural race attracted less than a thousand runners.
Thirty-four years later, the CRRB is considered one of the top 10K races in the world.
"It is a destination race. People love to come to Charleston. We have wonderful weather, and we put on a world class race," Julian Smith said.
Smith has played a major role in the rise of popularity of the race. He has been race director since 1994.
"It has been fascinating. Every year has been different. Twenty years ago, we had a $100,000 budget. This year we have a $3 million budget," Smith said.
In the 18 years that Smith has run the race, the CRRB has grown exponentially -- from 6,000 runners and walkers in 1994 to an expected 44,000 for this year's race.
"It has been neat to watch, because I'm a goal oriented person and unrelenting on achieving those goals," said Smith. "I knew I was passionate from the start, and every year I try to do something different."
Innovation has been a big part in the development of the race. In 1997, the CRBR became the first race in the country to use computer chip timing devices. The chips are attached to the runner's shoe.
"We've used a disposable chip for the past three years. I started raising cane a few years ago that we needed new technology, and that's when we came up with the disposable chip. The old chips were collected at the finish line. The new chips cost us $80,000 while the first chip cost the race a quarter of a million dollars," Smith said.
The job of race director of one of the largest 10k races in the world is a full-time job. Work on the 2013 race begins almost immediately after the last runner crosses the finish line of the 2012 race.
And that 2013 race could set another record as Smith says there is the possibility the field for 2013 will include 50,000 runners and walkers.