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The beginning of a beautiful relationship

Posted: April 8, 2014 9:20 a.m.
Updated: April 9, 2014 5:00 a.m.

This past weekend, I participated in the first organized race event of my life and what a special race I chose. The annual Cooper River Bridge Run is in its 37th year of life and saw approximately 40,000 people cover 6 miles of pavement and asphalt to cross its finish line this Saturday.

When I say I’ve never been in a race, that’s not an exaggeration. I’ve never done a 5k, much less a 10k. However, this year, two of my long time friends who live in Charleston said they were doing it and casually asked me if I’d like to join. These two girls, Elena and Barbara, are serious runners. They do four to five races a year and train weekly by running 6 miles at a time several days throughout the week. They’ve completed a half marathon together and are considering training for a full marathon.

I said yes! I want to do this race with you guys. I am in no way a runner. I don’t run very much at all. I walk pretty much daily, usually 2 to 3 miles, and during that walk I will coerce myself to jog about a third of it. I can comfortably (slow) jog a mile and then I have to walk again. But what I realized Saturday is that that fact about me is not set in stone. It’s something I can change for the better.

We had four girls total on our team doing the run, but we ended up being split into separate corrals. Elena and I were placed in D corral which is very near the front of the race while our friends were several letters behind us. I wouldn’t have typically chosen to be that close to the front of the race, but it just sort of happened that we were. However, being at the front meant we were among runners, tried and true and trained and ready to go. Nothing helps me run better than to be in the midst of other runners. So there I was in the midst of 40,000 runners and I knew I had to just push through the (pretty constant) pain and run as much and as hard as I could.

For those people out there who’ve not yet experienced the bridge run, it has to be one of the most fun, entertaining and encouraging events in the world. Spectators line the sidewalks leading up to the bridge cheering all the participants. There is live music dispersed throughout the race, which is incredibly uplifting and exciting. Many participants wear themed costumes, Elena and I saw a group of male runners wearing pink ballet tutus and another group dressed as the Jamaican bobsled team, complete with unitards and dreadlock caps. A group of Citadel cadets ran past us at one point, chanting school cheers, carrying various banners and flags and stepping in perfect unison. Parents ran with their elementary school age children, and though I didn’t personally see it, I heard that many parents even jogged with strollers over the bridge. It was really an awe-inspiring experience. I felt very much a part of the moment and very connected to all the other participants.

The hardest part of the race for me was coming off the bridge onto Meeting Street. There was a dramatic shift in temperature and the cool breeze that had buoyed us along while we were above the water was suddenly non-existent. Drenched in sweat, wheezing and barely able to keep up a trot, I looked over at Elena who was breathing easily through her nose and hadn’t even broken a sweat. The heat didn’t seem to faze her a bit. I knew I had to suck it up and just pull through.

We finished the race in 1 hour and 43 minutes. Thousands of people finished before us … thousands of people finished after us. I was happy with the time, pleasantly surprised even, especially for not having trained for it at all. Sore, tired and completely ecstatic with my performance, I thought to myself, “This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”

I’ve told all my friends the same thing when they asked: the Cooper River Bridge Run was one of the best experiences of my life. It was more than fun and more than exhilarating. It was an emotional and spiritual experience. I felt somewhat transformed by the end of it, as though I had a clearer, brighter and better perspective on life.

I would recommend participating in a 5k/10k to anyone and everyone and the Community Medical Clinic’s seventh annual Clinic Classic challenge is right around the corner. April 26 to be precise, for anyone looking for a great place to start or continue their love affair with races. I know I’ll be there, and I hope to see you too!

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