It took me months to decide. Could I really participate in Charleston’s Cooper River Bridge Run?
This 10K run, a major event held annually in Charleston, draws thousands of runners every year from Charleston and beyond. Even before I moved to Charleston I wondered if I’d ever run (and be able to run) this significant race. When the April fourth Bridge Run approached this year, I faced a decision. Would I make this run a reality for me?
Three Months Prior
I began early to train for this run, hoping my progress would tell me whether or not I could compete. I set a goal to run 6.2 miles by early March, about one month before the race. I did not make that goal. I had trained at 4, 4.5, and 5 miles, but had not reached 10K yet. I began to think that I probably would not run this race, and a part of me felt disappointed, in myself mostly.
One Week Before
Time was getting close. I needed to make a decision soon in order to register. So one morning I sat down on my beloved back porch and tried to discern about the wisdom of doing this race. I asked myself these questions:
What is really holding me back? Fear, mostly.
Do I want fear to limit myself? Do I always want to remain in my comfort zone? No. I want to push myself a bit. I want to stretch to a new level. Yes, I want to set a goal that would push and stretch me, but would do so safely.
Do I have the ability to perform at this level? I’d done a few 10K races in the past but not with this steep elevation. I decided to go to the gym and test out my ability on the treadmill.
With the treadmill set at a significant slope, I ran 6.2 miles. At one point, I had to slow down and cool off, but I did complete the distance. My decision was made. I’m going to run the Bridge Run. I came home, registered, and began to chronicle the thoughts, feelings, fears, and events of the week before the race.
March 28, Six Days Before
It was a hot Monday afternoon when I completed five outdoor miles on my run. My pulse kept elevating, probably due to the heat, and my legs felt tired. It was a hard run, but I held on to the hope that I could complete the upcoming race. I won’t know if I can do it, I thought, until I do it.
March 30-31, Two – Three Days Before
It was the Wednesday before the race when I became sick, fighting some kind of virus. I became concerned because I knew I could not do this difficult run with less than 100% physical energy and well-being. By Thursday evening I was feeling much better. But I also felt alternately scared and excited. I was ready to stop thinking about this race and do it!
April 1, The Day Before
That afternoon I went to the Expo to pick up my bib and other materials. Accompanied by my husband Rick, I enjoyed looking at the various booths selling all things running: shoes, clothes, treats. Excitement was the mood of the day.
The weather, however, proved to be a concern. All week forecasts had shown the likelihood of rain Saturday morning, but on Friday evening a tornado watch was posted in Charleston. No race would be held in threatening weather, and I watched the weather updates closely. The watch passed late in the evening but rain would be present for the race, making decisions about how to dress for the race more complicated. The evening was filled with anxiety. Would I even sleep? I did, but not much.
April 2, Race Day
On race day I got up at 4:15 a.m., checked the weather, dressed for the race, ate breakfast and headed out the door to North Charleston, where I caught the shuttle that would take me to the starting line. This would be a busy race, with nearly 36,000 people participating.
Runners waited in their “corral” or “wave” for the start of the race. Assigned to a later wave and surrounded by other sleep-deprived runners, I slowly advanced to the start line. At the “go,” we took off, looking ahead for the anticipated Ravenel Bridge.
The 4.1% slope up the bridge is nearly one mile long, and the longer I ran, the more tired my legs felt. Nevertheless, I was determined to keep running and I did, though slowly. What a relief to reach the top and head back down, but at that point I was only half-way finished. I had another three miles to go. One foot in front of the other. Every step a closer arrival to the goal. And that’s how I finished the 39th Annual Cooper River Bridge Run!
Now it was time to sit down and enjoy a bagel and banana. And that’s exactly what I did.
What Did I Learn?
Bring my own water next year. Hydration was an issue and part of my struggle out on the course.
Strengthen those quads! The quadriceps want to be your best friend on that bridge!
Feel good about my accomplishment. Running encourages me to challenge myself beyond what I think I can do. Perhaps there is something about the human spirit that wants to soar, transcend itself, and running does this for me.
Enjoy your next goals. I enjoy setting goals and immersing myself in a meaningful project. Choosing this race helped me move past my fear, something that has never been easy for me. I can let this memory help me apply this lesson to other parts of my life, reminding me that a fulfilling life sometimes involves risk-taking.
Will I Run this Race in the Future?
I hope so! This race will always be a challenge that’s waiting for me, calling me to stretch just a little more…and a little more.